Research Handbook on Climate Governance
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Research Handbook on Climate Governance

Edited by Karin Bäckstrand and Eva Lövbrand

The 2009 United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen is often represented as a watershed in global climate politics, when the diplomatic efforts to negotiate a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol failed and was replaced by a fragmented and decentralized climate governance order. In the post-Copenhagen landscape the top-down universal approach to climate governance has gradually given way to a more complex, hybrid and dispersed political landscape involving multiple actors, arenas and sites. The Handbook contains contributions from more than 50 internationally leading scholars and explores the latest trends and theoretical developments of the climate governance scholarship.
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Chapter 18: China

Phillip Stalley


As the leading emitter of greenhouse gases, China is arguably the most important player in international climate change negotiations. Emphasizing its status as a developing country, China has traditionally demonstrated an aversion to legally binding emission limits. Arguing in favor of the common but differentiated responsibility principle (CBDR), which holds that developed countries bear the principal obligation for combating climate change, China has consistently avoided commitments while urging developed countries to increase the ambition of its own reduction pledges and financial assistance. However, over time China has made some key compromises, and particularly since the Copenhagen talks in 2009, China’s position has softened. Both China’s considerable investment in green technology and its expanding web of domestic climate change initiatives contribute to this change. Pressure from the international community, and especially from the developing world, have also added to the evolution of China’s climate change diplomacy. This chapter assesses the evolution of China’s position in climate change negotiations and highlights the key factors influencing its approach to international climate change politics.

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