Chapter 3: International Diplomacy and Relations
The purpose of this section is to identify the opportunities presented by international diplomacy and relations to further climate change objectives in regard to the European Union, transatlantic relations, the Arctic and the UN system.
The Role of the European Union
The EU is well placed to respond to the four pre-conditions to tackling climate change: an effective multilateral system; a coherent approach to foreign policy-making; integration with trade and economic policy; and integration with development assistance. The EU, as the pioneer of the carbon-constrained economy, has the potential to lead the world in the transformation from a high-carbon to a low-carbon global economy. In order to do this, strong political leadership and strategic engagement is required across the full range of EU decision-making.
Leadership has been demonstrated, with the Council of the EU calling for developed countries to reduce emissions in the order of 15 to 30 per cent by 2020, and the EU Environment Council and the European Parliament advocating further reductions of 60 to 80 per cent by 2050. The EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) was launched in 2005 and the EU has taken an active role in the post-Montreal dialogue on long-term action. Climate change has been identified as a key challenge and area for integration in the EU’s renewed sustainable development strategy, energy policy and its action plan on climate change in the context of development cooperation. Yet, these efforts need to be strengthened to deliver measurable benefits. A recent report by the Dutch Scientific Council for Government Policy points to weaknesses in European policies to address climate change, noting that current policy “has not proved effective, either in the EU or globally.” The international coordination of emission reductions efforts is problematic, exacerbated by different countries with widely diverging interests. The integration of climate change into foreign policy goals, opportunities for which are discussed below, might help to overcome some of these weaknesses.
Opportunities for Integration
The EU budget
The priorities of an entity can be determined by how it spends its money. Political and policy commitments have to be matched by financial backing if they are to be taken seriously. If EU leaders were given a blank sheet of paper and asked to construct the European budget from scratch, they would prioritize spending according to today’s not yesterday’s problems. Clearly, history and politics make this type of wholesale change impossible, but there is still scope for the budget review to tackle climate change as one of the most urgent threats we face. The mid-term budget review was agreed at the December 2005 Council and is scheduled again for 2008–2009. The integration of climate change could be achieved through the mid-term review by refocusing internal policies, such as the agriculture and rural development budget; structural funds; and research and development (R&D) funding; as well as external policies such as the EU external relations policy; development assistance; and a trade agenda that includes climate and energy security objectives. It is important that internal as well as external policies are tackled because the EU can only act as a leader on climate change internationally if it is also effectively achieving its climate change goals internally.
Trade, development and human rights are all included as part of the EU’s external policy. Climate change is not. According to Van Schaik and Egenhofer: “The transfer [of climate change decision-making] from the ‘environment track’ to the ‘foreign affairs track’ could offer an opportunity to provide a more strategic perspective to the way the EU negotiates and to incorporate related external policies and foreign policy aspects.” This strategic perspective is important. The transformation to a low-carbon economy within a generation requires changes that are not merely technical (such as switching to a different type of technology), but fundamental. It will require climate change becoming an integral part of a broader energy debate; substantial changes in investment patterns so that climate change is properly accounted for; and rapid acceleration of clean energy markets. These are geopolitical and strategic decisions, not environmental ones.
Integrating climate change into EU decision-making on external relations policy could be carried out in critical ways. The first is an institutional response, which would move climate change to the agenda of the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC), which deals with issues such as European security and defense policy, foreign policy, trade and development cooperation, from the Environment Council where it currently sits. But that, in itself, will not be enough to ensure full integration of climate change into decision-making. A second, more political response would be for Ministers to decide to incorporate climate change into specific external relations policies. One obvious candidate is the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) which is designed to improve coherence in the approach to foreign policy issues across the EU, enable the EU to speak with “one voice” on world affairs, as well as promote international cooperation and development of the rule of law. So far, common strategies have been produced under the CFSP for regional affairs (e.g., the Middle East), but to a lesser degree for global issues, let alone climate change. The third area to explore is the development of strategic partnerships, particularly between the EU and the emerging economies, in a way that could assist with the delivery of EU climate objectives. A useful approach, which has recently been initiated, would be to use the EU Summits with key countries, such as India and China, to build up longer-term strategic partnerships on climate change, backed up by the EU’s diplomatic network.
There is scope for greater consideration of climate change in EU trade and economics policy. At present, the EU Lisbon Agenda is focused around jobs and growth. Climate change objectives are “tacked on” and broader sustainable development goals sidelined in the EU Sustainable Development Strategy. But it is the jobs and growth agenda that will transform our economy over the next generation from a high- to a low-carbon economy. Stronger consideration of climate change challenges in the context of the Lisbon Agenda is recommended. Similarly there is scope for the EU’s trade policy to do more to promote low-carbon technologies and trade in sustainable goods and services (further detail is included in Section 6 on trade and investment).
The EU and its Member States spent US $55.7 billion in 2005 on development assistance. At the EU Council in December 2004, Member States agreed on an Action Plan on Climate Change in the Context of Development Cooperation. However, progress on implementing the Action Plan has been slow. For example, the strategic partnership for the EU and Africa agreed to by the European Council in December 2005 refers to climate change, but it does not explicitly set out how climate change will be incorporated into development assistance. An assessment of progress of the December 2004 EU Action Plan on climate change and development cooperation will be carried out in 2007. Where progress has been made within Member States—e.g., the development of screening tools for climate proofing development assistance—the lessons learned need to be disseminated throughout the EU. (Further detail is included in Section 7 on development cooperation.)
Denmark has a close relationship with the United States—strategically and geographically. On the former, the two countries are NATO Members. President Bush and Prime Minister Rasmussen have a close working relationship (for example, Denmark supported the United States in Iraq). Geographically, the United States, Canada and Greenland (being part of the Danish Kingdom) are neighbors. The United States has strategic links with Greenland through the NATO bases located there, which were particularly valuable during the Cold War. More recently, U.S. interests in Greenland have been economic as a result of oil, gas and mineral reserves located across a land three times the size of Texas. Greenland could therefore potentially play an important role in future U.S. energy security. This all goes to show that, over time, Denmark’s role in the transatlantic relationship may become increasingly important.
Despite all this, under the existing world order, the leverage that individual EU Member States have with the United States is limited and it is necessary for EU nations to act collectively to increase their influence. In seeking to enhance multilateral processes the EU has a difficult choice—either to aim for an ambitious international regime in which the United States may not wish to participate, or to engage with the U.S. constituencies willing to listen and in areas where common, but maybe less ambitious ground is most likely to be found. If the EU opts for the latter, it is important for the EU to correctly identify the common ground and provide support for its allies on climate change if it is to stay true to its universal values and improve levels of engagement.
Opportunities for Integration
Joint approaches towards investment and development assistance
Rapidly developing countries, such as China, are investing heavily in resource-rich countries, often without full regard to their governance structures, levels of transparency or human rights record. This has the potential to undermine the development and environmental goals of Western nations in these third nations. It is essential that Western nations investing in emerging economies use their diplomatic levers to encourage these rapidly emerging economies to take climate change and development objectives into account in their interactions with third countries. For example, joint action could be taken by the United States, Canada and the EU to work with emerging economies in promoting common standards for investment activities across the globe so that climate change is properly taken into account. Western nations could also incorporate these standards into their export credit guarantee policies. This re-framing of climate change as a development and investment issue is likely to result in a more engaged audience among various U.S. constituencies than approaching climate change as an isolated global environmental threat.
The Transatlantic Economic Initiative
The Transatlantic Economic Initiative is a strategy to enhance transatlantic economic integration and promote growth, spur innovation and create jobs. It covers many of the areas critical for tackling climate change, namely regulatory cooperation, investment, energy security, innovation, trade, procurement and services. At present, measures to tackle climate change are not integrated into the initiative and there is scope for thinking more intelligently about how the development of robust innovation policies might drive the technology revolution needed for a low-carbon economy. As above, concepts of innovation and technological revolution play well with the U.S. audience.
The Arctic is, in many ways, on the front line of impacts of climate change. It is where some of the most significant physical impacts on climate change are being measured (e.g., retreating ice). This, in turn, has profound impacts on indigenous communities and wildlife. Some indigenous peoples have begun to take legal action against energy companies, claiming that they have been harmed by climate change. In addition, increased transportation and resource exploitation opportunities are being opened up, creating what has been dubbed a new “Great Game.” All of these graphically add to the powerful iconic status that the Arctic has in popular imagination.
On the one hand, the political and legal situation of the Arctic is unlike Antarctica, in that only the Arctic countries claim sovereign rights there. In addition, the actual boundaries of the Arctic are not as clear as Antarctica. On the other hand, the Arctic is similar to Antarctica in that there are competing territorial claims by the Arctic nations to parts of the Arctic, such as the Northwest Passage and Hans Island. These entitlements relate to access to resources as well as national security concerns about transit passage, which are discussed in greater detail in Section 5.
The increased competition over natural resources in the Arctic, including oil and gas, and the associated increase in transport and infrastructure, have the makings of a vicious cycle vis-à-vis climate change. Climate change is making oil and gas exploitation possible, yet this activity will contribute to more climate change. Finding a way out of this cycle will be difficult, as each Arctic country will be tempted to pursue their short-term economic interests. A bargain that encompasses wider interests will likely need to be struck in order to curtail these activities—a bargain based on longer-term economic and social cooperation, as well as environmental sustainability.
Opportunities for Integration
Existing institutions and initiatives
Although there is no unified regime, as exists for Antarctica, a considerable amount of international cooperation on the Arctic exists, as reflected by a number of treaties and institutions, as well as non-governmental initiatives. These are mainly aimed at managing natural resources and creating frameworks for interaction at regional and sub-regional levels. Some of these have carried out activities relating to climate change, such as the 2004 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) that was carried out through the Arctic Council. There has been little follow up to the Assessment’s policy document at the Arctic level, and by and large, climate change does not figure into existing frameworks. However, there might be possibilities for integrating climate change in the Action Plan on Sustainable Development of the Arctic, the work on increased well-being of Arctic peoples, eliminating pollution from industrial activities in the Arctic, and the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
The place of the Arctic in the wider international arena
Politically, the Arctic tends to be marginalized vis-à-vis the wider world. There is no coalition of countries that seek to represent Arctic interests in the way that, for example, AOSIS (Association of Small Island States) exists in the climate negotiations. In part this is because Arctic interests tend not to be among the top priorities of the countries concerned. Nonetheless, the wider world has a strong interest in the Arctic for scientific, political and commercial purposes.
The United Nations System
The universal membership and comprehensive approach of the UN system make it an important instrument in Danish foreign policy. Climate change is an international collective action problem and well-functioning international institutions are an important prerequisite in providing an effective multilateral response. The UN General Assembly has passed annual resolutions since 1999 on the protection of the global climate that emphasize activities under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Yet, global efforts under the Convention and Kyoto Protocol have attained only modest achievements when one considers the major effort required to effectively mitigate and adapt to climate change. The UN system includes a plethora of institutions and bodies, many of which undertake activities that impact on or are affected by the global response to climate change (e.g., UNFCCC, other multilateral environmental agreements [MEAs], United Nations Environment Programme [UNEP], United Nations Development Programme [UNDP], Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO], World Health Organization [WHO], etc.). The complex interlinkages between these groups mean that coordination and integration of climate change activities is difficult, and often climate change is not a factor in planning and decision-making.
Opportunities for Integration
An effective multilateral response to climate change can only be achieved by enhancing the effectiveness of the UN system through improved cooperation, so that these organizations have the capacity to respond effectively to global challenges of importance to present and future generations. Input to the assessment of the UN system should stress that climate change is a cross-cutting issue rather than a discrete topic to be addressed under an environmental discussion. Indeed, it has impacts on all three areas of inquiry of the High-level Panel formed in April 2006 to strengthen UN performance in humanitarian affairs, development and environment.
Climate change could be put more firmly on the agenda of the Environment Management Group, which is meant to facilitate inter-agency coordination on the environment across the UN. It might be useful to put climate change on the agenda of the UN Development Group to encourage the consideration of climate change in efforts to achieve the MDGs in developing countries. Climate change could be encouraged as an agenda item (perhaps on a multi-year basis) of the Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GMEF), building on the 2006 consultations on energy and environment where many ministers emphasized the linkages between energy and climate change. Greater coordination among the various relevant MEAs could be encouraged through support of the Joint Liaison Group coordinating activities of the UNFCCC, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD); and by encouraging this coordination to extend across other conventions and organizations.
UN agencies invariably will be called in to provide assistance for the large-scale humanitarian catastrophes that result from climate-related drought, floods, crop failure, mass migration and extreme weather. Climate change needs to be viewed within the UN system as a fundamental threat to prosperity and security, not just another environmental problem. This is an issue that could be considered by the Security Council (further detail is included in Section 5 on international peace and security).
- ^Council of the European Union, 2005. Climate change medium and longer-term emission reduction strategies, 7242/05, March 11.
- ^Dutch Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR), 2006. Summary – Climate Strategy: Between ambition and realism.
- ^Van Schaik, L. and C. Egenhofer, 2003. Reform of the EU Institutions: Implications for the EU’s performance in climate negotiations, CEPS Policy Brief No. 40/September.
- ^European Commission (EC), 2006. Annual Report 2006 on the European Community’s Development Policy and the Implementation of External Assistance in 2005. p. 4.
- ^At the June 2005 U.S.–EU Summit launched the “Initiative to Enhance Transatlantic Economic Integration and Growth.” This covers regulatory and standards cooperation; open and competitive capital markets; innovation and the development of technology; trade, travel and security; energy efficiency; protection of intellectual property rights; investment; competition policy and enforcement; procurement; and services. See U.S. Department of State. 2006. US–EU Summit Progress Report on the Economic Initiative, accessed August 25, 2006.
This is a chapter from Climate Change and Foreign Policy: An exploration of options for greater integration (e-book).
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