Pete Souza
World News /25 Jul 2015
07.25.15

On the Politics of Climate Change

Climate change is seen as the biggest global threat over the past decade and the issue remains on the agenda of President Obama and the international community. The United States assists more than 120 nations in dealing with issues relating to climate change. In 2001, the U.S was expected to not only sign but ratify the Kyoto protocol. Unfortunately, this did not happen. Later, when President Obama assumed office, the world saw further disagreement between the top two emitters, which resulted in the Copenhagen failure. America publicly opposed the Kyoto protocol which was the only legally binding instrument at an international level. The climate negotiations were initiated due to the divide between developed and developing countries.

As the dominant power since the end of the Second World War, it was expected that the U.S. would continue negotiations as a prerequisite for the U.S. to change the discourse of climate talks. The US is now the most active nation addressing these issues and has assumed the role of international leadership in negotiations. Therefore, it is crucial for the developing or emerging economies to understand the U.S.’s climate politics.

In 2013 the U.S. proposed the First Climate Action Plan with a call to lead international efforts and negotiations. By 2013, the world began to acknowledge the U.S. as a leader at the international level. The world perception of the U.S. was questioned right after the Copenhagen Summit debacle.

The first move was the formation of a Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate before the Copenhagen Summit. U.S. used this forum to boost its standing as the principal leader on issues relating to climate change negotiations.

Since the Kyoto Protocol was an utter failure for the US, the forum proved to be a fertile lobbying ground, where U.S. bilaterally signed climate pacts with countries making the UNFCC Framework institution an irrelevant multilateral platform.

The outcome today is that U.S. now has bilateral pacts with the top emitters in the world. The second move capped the above mentioned approach with “Providing Energy Access through Clean Energy” (PEACE). Through this notion the US aligned every bilateral pact with a new partnership agreement known as Partnership to Advance Clean Energy. This approach is playing a crucial role in building bridges among the U.S., China and India as the U.S. interest lies in persuading India and China to support the Paris Agreement.

The ideas like PEACE (Providing Energy Access through Clean Energy) and PACE (Providing Energy access through Clean Energy) may sound philanthropic but they aren’t. For instance, the partnership with India under PACE comes with a double edged sword. Just like in any business module, the U.S., through its bilateral negotiations, marketed its own interest. The noble cause of providing advanced clean energy involves two types of institutions: one has the responsibility to research (PACE-R) on the Indian market and the other to deploy the technology funded by U.S. agencies (PACE-D).

It is important to highlight that a similar bilateral trajectory can be applied to China, Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia as they represent principal markets for the new clean/green energy revolution. The upcoming clean/green based economy of the U.S. is largely based on manufacturing and exporting. Any noble gesture of the U.S. in the area of climate change towards developing or emerging nations should be reviewed from the perspective of a low carbon future and the technology related to it, which presently rests primarily with the U.S and other developed nations.

Therefore, any negotiating party with respect to climate change must pursue a strategy with respect to the new emerging global/clean economy. Linked to it is another major development in the arena of strategies relating to climate politics. It is noteworthy that two dominant poles of the present international order, the U.S. and China, recently concluded the Strategic & Economic Dialogue. The joint concerns of the Chinese and Americans, like national security and strategic track, were extensively discussed. The details of the dialogue consisted of twenty-seven common tracks on climate related issues and thirteen on cooperation on environmental protection. The new development came after the breakthrough in the U.S. – China Climate Agreement. This is one of the references where one can note the changed narrative of climate change politics if seen from interstate level interaction. The parties at the negotiation table need to recapitulate their respective policies and positions. They shouldn’t be distracted by short term aid but rather should have a generation based approach. They need to question their own place in the new emerging order, based on economic gains and structured upon a clean/green economic revolution.

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