The Politics of Climate Change Negotiations
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The Politics of Climate Change Negotiations

Strategies and Variables in Prolonged International Negotiations

  • New Horizons in Environmental Politics series

Christian Downie

The Politics of Climate Change Negotiations describes the successes and failures of long international negotiations and most importantly, examines the lessons they hold for the future.
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Chapter 6: Discussion: the behaviour of the US and the EU in the international climate change negotiations

Christian Downie


The first international negotiation I attended was during 2008 in Bonn, sparking my interest in what lay behind the behaviour of states. Why did they sometimes choose to cooperate and at other times choose to obstruct progress? As I showed in Chapter 2, many scholars have explored such questions and developed theories to explain state behaviour. For example, the two-level intergovernmental perspective, developed by Robert Putnam, relaxed the assumption of the unitary state to emphasize the role that state and non-state actors operating within national processes have on government decisions. In contrast, the transnational perspective focussed on the cross-boundary activities of these actors, whereas the international regime perspective highlighted the pathways by which regimes can affect the behaviour of states. However, as I began to look across the years and decades of the international climate negotiations I was puzzled by the variations in state behaviour, like those of the US and the EU. As I have discussed in the preceding chapters, during the Kyoto phase of the negotiations the positions of both these parties, and the type of agreement that they were prepared to sign, changed. In 1995 the US and EU agreed to the Berlin Mandate, which stipulated no binding emissions targets and timetables for developed countries, no new commitments for developing countries and no flexibility mechanisms. Then in 1997, the US and the EU agreed to the Kyoto Protocol, which included binding emissions targets and timetables for developed countries and flexibility mechanisms.

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