Kansainvälinen ilmastopolitiikka on noin 20-vuotiaan historiansa jälkeen uudenlaisessa murrosvaiheessa. Kaikki päästöjensä ja taloutensa puolesta merkittävät maat ovat asettaneet itselleen ilmastotavoitteet ja osallistuvat kasvihuonekaasupäästöjen vähentämiseen, joskin vaihtelevalla panostuksella. Yhteenlasketut päästövähennykset eivät nykyisellään riitä saavuttamaan turvarajaksi määriteltyä kahden asteen lämpenemistavoitetta. Uutta ilmastosopimusta sekä päästövähennysten kiristämistä koskevat neuvottelut käydään finanssikriisien, Euroopan taantuman, Aasian talouskasvun sekä laajojen energia- ja geopoliittisten muutosten vaikutuspiirissä. Miten EU voi säilyttää asemansa globaalissa ilmastopolitiikassa? Mitkä ovat tarvittavat askelmerkit Varsovassa, jotta vuoden 2015 suurkokous onnistuisi?
Institute Programme Director and chair Juha Jokela opened the seminar by presenting the speakers Diarmuid Torney, post-doctoral fellow, the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Institute Research Fellow Antto Vihma and Jukka Uosukainen, Special Envoy for Climate Change at the Ministry of the Environment. Jokela then gave the floor to Dr. Torney.
Torney gave an outline of his presentation discussing EU’s role not only in UN climate talks but also in the global governance of climate change more broadly, as well as proposals on how to strengthen the capacity of the EU to engage with its partners in this area. To illustrate the current state of affairs, Torney analysed the relative emissions profiles of key players in climate negotiations, such as EU-27, USA, China, India and Brazil. Torney highlighted the fact that there has been a gradual and steady decline of relative emissions contributed by the EU and the very rapid increase of China’s emissions from 1990’s onwards, making focus on EU’s role less and less important as an emitter with respect to solving the climate challenge. Furthermore, EU is no longer the only ”game in town” when it comes to responding to the problem with climate change laws: In the 1990’s EU was arguably a pioneer but since then, both developed and developing countries have seen a notable increase in such regulation, especially from mid-2000’s onward. Thus, with respect to causes and potential solutions, a growing multiplicity of actors and a declining centrality of the EU in the course of a few decades can be observed.
According to Torney, however, this observation doesn’t have to lead to the conclusion where EU steps down from an active role in the negotiations. Instead, Torney argued that EU remains a policy and technology innovator capable of driving ambition in the global negotiations by setting its own targets, pushing others to go further and collaborating with stakeholders and partners in other jurisdictions. Nevertheless, changing patterns of power and contribution as well as governance mean that Europe needs to work harder to develop both global and national climate governance and regulation. Torney stated that strengthening the capacity to engage with and reach out to key players, partner countries and major stakeholders is of vital importance for EU’s climate policy. This capacity is becoming particularly important as the landscape of global climate politics becomes more fragmented and more and more countries become relevant actors, each with their unique set of interests.
Torney then suggested that EU might have an important new tool for climate diplomacy, the European External Action Service (EEAS) established by the Lisbon treaty. According to Torney, EEAS offers an opportunity to build a new type of European diplomacy with a greater emphasis on new areas for diplomacy such as climate, food, access to water resources, issues that current foreign ministers may not be able to focus on extensively. However, to date, there has been a limited involvement of EEAS on climate change issues. In Brussels, the Commission has been reluctant to give EEAS a stronger role in sectoral policy areas which have traditionally been part of its responsibilities. Member states have nevertheless demonstrated interest in a greater role in climate diplomacy for EEAS e.g. at the Foreign Affairs Council by European ministers for foreign affairs. This said, Torney stated that the current capacity of the EEAS for climate diplomacy is rather weak. The current organisational structure of the EEAS doesn’t allow for much focus on climate and it is quite conservatively structured based on a traditional foreign affairs ministry template.
Torney then moved on to discuss the question of what EEAS and foreign ministries in general could bring to European climate diplomacy. First, this would signal strengthened political commitment of the EU to climate change action once climate issues become mainstreamed beyond the Directorate-General for Climate Action by the Commission or ministries of environment in member countries. Second, this would allow for the EU to develop a deeper understanding of preferences and domestic drivers and constraints of climate action in partner countries. A key added value by EEAS and foreign services is that they have people on the ground in partner countries, as opposed to ministries of environment in many cases, which would help EU to engage with and seek to understand the positions its counterparts. Third, EEAS could help to reach out to a broader range of stakeholders in partner countries, whereas ministries of environment mostly even if not exclusively interact with their colleagues. Fourth and finally, involving EEAS in the field of climate change would place European climate diplomacy in a broader strategic context. This would mean taking climate change issues in account more systematically e.g. in bilateral relations with China or the EU.
Torney wanted to underscore that he didn’t propose transfer the responsibility to negotiate in the UN climate talks to EEAS or foreign ministries but rather stressed that this should remain the responsibility of the Directorate-General for Climate Action by the Commission and ministries of environment with technical expertise and a long experience of negotiating. The proposal above would, however, help EU develop better understanding of the positions of key actors and counterparties and allow for more effective climate diplomacy which would then feed in to the negotiations.
Torney then gave three proposals on how climate change could be mainstreamed as an issue in the work of the EEAS. First, in order to signal a stronger commitment and high-level attention to climate change issues and to ensure buy-in from political and senior management level, a declaration from High Representative or EEAS Corporate Board could be issued, identifying climate change as a priority for the EEAS. Second, climate diplomacy could be written into the mandates of EU Heads of Delegation around the world: typically, there is only a lower level official responsible for climate change issues in the delegations at the present moment. Third, European climate diplomacy could benefit from greater political and strategic guidance from the Foreign Affairs Council and the European Council where climate change should be an on-going agenda in the former and a reinvigorated topic at the onset of the important negotiation deadline, the Paris climate conference in 2015.
Torney concluded his presentation by asserting that from a European perspective, it is necessary to build momentum towards the Paris conference in 2015. There will be intensive negotiations during the next two years at a time when global climate governance has become more complex and fragmented and when the euro crisis had shifted European focus elsewhere for some years. Torney affirmed that the EU can still play a crucial role in leading the process, driving ambition and developing policies and technologies, but it needs to become more effective at strengthening its capacity of reaching out to partners. This would also help avoiding certain mistakes done before the Copenhagen climate conference. The greater involvement of EEAS, according to Torney, would offer an opportunity to strengthen EU’s climate diplomacy capacity in the run-up to the Paris summit and beyond.
A member of the audience noted that in many countries, such as Finland, foreign ministries are already participating in the negotiating process with ministries of environment and the European Commission, and asked about the conditional offers of mitigation such as what EU has used as a negotiating tactic. Torney replied that he had mainly suggested a strengthened role for foreign services and himself thought that EU had been badly burn in the Copenhagen process with conditional offers, but this could work better if EU succeeds to set a deadline prior to the Paris conference when countries’ pledges are publicly available and the offers of each party can be assessed. Vihma replied that it is yet unsure of what this ex ante process prior to conferences would mean: information sharing or actual negotiating. To a question on the role of the European Parliament, Torney said that he hoped that climate change would be in the agenda of the next elections but saw this difficult due to a rise in euroskepticism. An audience member reminded that it is important to differentiate between politics in national parliaments and the UN, and another reminded on the tensions in the EEAS. Torney replied that one of the EEAS was originally designed to make connections between different areas of foreign policy and still has potential. Uosukainen reminded that EU has had a long tradition and experience in the negotiations, but information should be shared with EU negotiators in other fields such as trade. In a question related to finance, Torney reminded that 20% of development aid is earmarked for climate change related work in the multiannual financial framework so with respect to climate diplomacy things seem to be going in the right direction.
Jokela gave the floor for Mr. Uosukainen who discussed the key questions at the upcoming Warsaw conference from the perspective of Finland. Uosukainen stressed that he wanted to express his personal views, not those of Finland, EU or Ministry of the Environment. Uosukainen said he had followed the negotiations in the fields of development, technology, capacity building and finance, and that he wanted to remind what atmosphere the negotiations are held in. Uosukainen said that when analysing development in a larger context, countries haven’t yet been able to find a way to combine both the needs of human needs and environmental sustainability even if some countries have biological reserves that work as offsets. As countries reach for a higher standard of living the ecological footprint inevitably grows. This is why developmental policies has been taken – and have to be taken – into account in climate politics.
Uosukainen agreed that the largest economies will be the ones that play a decisive role as G20 these countries are responsible for approximately 80 percent of all emissions; even if UN decision-making is based a consensus and vote per country principle with non-existent voting, it is clear that the big countries are in focus and their statements are being listened. Uosukainen recognised the fact that there have been attempts to bypass the process in smaller circles, as well as hopes by some countries that this would result in success, but these attempts have so far failed to project any novel policies that would be obeyed in the climate governance process more generally. This is why Uosukainen saw that the focus and power should remain on the UN process which each country participates in.
Uosukainen then presented how the emissions by country are developing per capita. These emissions are declining in developed countries thanks to decarbonisation of the economy, but both many developed and developing countries economic growth still causes a rise in emissions. Russia’s growth is still very much tied to unsustainable economy, Brazil is, according to Uosukainen, an interesting unique example and has been able to change the course for a greener economy by addressing deforestation. What is certain is that emissions must peak and radically diminish in the course of the century as called for by the IPCC, but this setting is a very difficult starting point for negotiations as everyone wants to strive for economic growth. Even if traditional developed countries do show leadership in emissions reductions, they are blamed and a path towards steep emissions reductions is hard for developing countries to accept as it may be seen as a ceiling for development. This is why even if there is an agreement to keep global warming within 2 degrees, no clear way to share responsibility has so far been agreed upon: this will have to be measured as a sum of capability and responsibility. In this respect, China and India need to work together. Uosukainen affirmed that it should be noted that EU isn’t necessarily portrayed as a leader: developing countries would expect EU to reduce 40% of its emissions rather than the current pledge 20%. In one scenario, EU could perform even additional 10% to 20% reductions as cooperation work in developing countries.
What is expected in Warsaw is a clear negotiating roadmap for the two years ahead and what countries are going to do next: the EU is expected to give a pledge of further emission cuts next year. The parties of the Kyoto Protocol, which are mainly symbolical, will be expected to raise their goals stemming from the conference in Doha. Finances have to be agreed upon, and finally, officials will prepare pledges for politicians and those will be taken to the negotiating text and then to Paris. EU is looking for a global, legally binding treaty but the question is how to get everyone along for the ride and how to survive in the pressure of strict US policies and the demands of developing countries. What would greatly help the negotiating process is starting to bridge the emissions gap even before the new treaty enters into force in 2020. Uosukainen stated that EU won’t accept the way the burden was shared according to the 1992 framework convention based on the traditional division to developed and developing countries. For example, many developing countries now surpass the living standards of the weakest EU partners. Moreover, the US has clearly said that it will march out of the negotiations should this division be observed.
Uosukainen reminded that negotiations should be built on what has already been achieved in 20 years, such as the Green Climate Fund, a committee for finance, Technology Centre as well as Adaptation Center. This way, policies have been delegated to executive levels. For EU it is important to work for a shared global mission, hopefully not only keep the global warming within the agreed goal of two degrees C° but also deciding on emissions reductions. Some like the US sees that instead of common emissions reduction targets there will be a spectrum of different pledges, a novelty in international law different from the traditional way to agree on targets. However, there will at least have to be common rules for accounting and implementing according to the EU. For Europeans, business has to be included, and the countries that have been able to succeed should take part in assistance activities. For EU, it is crucial that progress is made in moving towards a treaty, and so to attain this goal, it is crucial that for developing countries are signaled that the 100 billion dollar financing package will be furthered towards 2020. Small island states, key partners for Europe, will focus on loss and damage as they are already facing grave concerns. What is hoped is that clear numbers would be presented prior to the Paris conference so that they could be discussed in good faith. This is difficult as developing countries fear that these pledges will be used as a means for political pressure even if those pledges are so far not exact. EU wants that the whole of these pledges would be assessed against the goal of two degrees and, in case of failure, these pledges would be reviewed: this could result in a virtuous circle before Paris. Other initiatives must be taken into account, such as those in transport, industry and cities. Everything has to be summed up. Some countries have however said that no emissions reductions numbers would be delivered to the even Paris conference. For EU, this would mean an empty conference and it will definitely not do.
Jokela then gave the floor to Dr. Vihma who discussed the prospects for the global climate deal set to be agreed by 2015 from the perspective of cooperation by a group of countries, referred to as minilateralism by Vihma. Vihma started by assessing the two main goals for the Paris climate conference in 2015: negotiating a treaty entering into force in 2020 and raising the ambition concerning the climate policies predating the same year. The latter goal is, according to Vihma, unattainable without new initiatives. According to Vihma, initiatives taking place outside the UN negotiation process will have a growing role. US and China, for example, had made a tentative agreement on phasing out hydrofluorocarbons which resulted in a declaration by G20 and has been under consideration in a working group under the Montreal protocol.
Vihma argued that ”minilateral” cooperation is already here will become increasingly important; climate change is on the agenda of high level leaders of great powers such as US and China and minilateral cooperation is a reality. On the other hand, as of yet there is no established formula to keep the different forms of governance in sync with the UN negotiating process. Furthermore, there is a lack of compelling benchmarks of regulation outside the UN. Vihma stated that the expectations should be kept low – at least the greatest expectations of a breakthrough should be avoided and more modest victories pursued.
As a background, Vihma presented the classic dilemma of international climate politics: scale – enough countries on board – bindingness – ensuring predictability – and ambition – keeping climate politics in line with the future of the planet. According to Vihma, in the 1992 framework treaty the scale was attained and with the 1997 Kyoto Protocol the bindingness with a pioneering architecture with e.g. carbon market initiatives. In Paris these elements are sought to be combined which, according to Vihma, will be an unprecedented challenge.
Vihma stated that sometimes it’s argued that the negotiations should be transferred to another forum because of the excessive vastness and rigidity of the UN, its problems in the decision-making process such as consensus decisions and the practice of smallest common denominator. For Vihma, this argument is well-known, but an alternative is rarely presented – at least not in an accurate and plausible way.
Vihma explored the question of what the studies of international relations might have to say on this matter. In the mainstream realist perspective, global politics is all about great powers and hegemonies. Realists may have been uninterested in climate change because the issue has been framed in an ”extreme-multilateral” way unsuitable for realist thinking – compared to WTO, there is relatively little special role for great powers in the rather democratic UN climate talks. Institutionalism on the other hand stresses a more effective process, and in its view great powers view the process with distrust and tend to build bilateral treaties and links between issues. Constructivism sees great powers as part of an international community where the interests are seen through legitimacy and norms, and the rights and responsibilities of great powers should be taken into account when designing the governance system. Each research branch can, according to Vihma, support the idea of minilateralism i.e. cooperation between great powers.
Now the question remains what kind of minilateralism would be desirable. Vihma presented two dimensions: the scope of membership and its purpose. The scope could be seen from the perspective of relative emissions – the most important factor – economic process or political power. Vihma listed a number of proposals. Environmental lawyer Daniel Bodansky had proposed a group of 25 countries responsible of 80 percent of emissions while others promote the role of G20, David Victor supported originally 17 and now 13 countries in a group, Todd Stern made a proposal of an E8 conference, Strobe Talbott from Brookings proposed 4 countries and some talk about G2 cooperation between US and China. The purpose is vital: is the grouping about a G8/G20 style open discussion forum ”injecting” initiatives to other processes for them to be implemented or a formal and binding negotiation process?
According to Vihma, if the goal is to negotiate and bypass the ”big N” or membership count problem in the UN and make side treaties, the negotiating group should be small. Here’s where the problems start, however. There are few good proposals and examples. Vihma asserted that the metaphor of developing GATT into a stronger WTO doesn’t work here, as GATT was based on a small similar-minded group of Western countries working to solve a well-defined problem whereas the UN climate process is a far more complicated issue with very different key actors. Additionally, the basic problems of can’t be avoided – there is a fundamental uncertainty in terms of the costs of climate change and is mitigation, as well as the limits set by domestic politics for both China and the US. This is why for Vihma the idea of a grand breakthrough is neither convincing nor constructive.
According to Vihma, there is an opportunity of ”functional cooperation” with flexible groups, a clearly defined are of cooperation or a certain polluter or sector – an approach named as functionally differentiated minilateralism by Robert Falkner. Vihma reminded that this should not be about a carte blanche for great powers, but institutions, structures, reporting and monitoring is also vital. Vihma claimed that previous initiatives were often not made bona fide – referring to Asia-Pacific Partnership as an example – but according to him, the atmosphere has changed in this respect. Initiatives and support should also come from those who support the core process of the UN – where is the leadership of EU, Vihma asked. Finally Vihma affirmed that it is of crucial importance to assess whether the cooperation beyond the UN negotiations is proposed in a cynical of constructive way and if it is claimed to solve all the problems or only a small but important part of them. What Vihma saw as a great challenge for UN climate talks and the 2015 Paris conference was to make accounting, reporting, assessing and transparency work. According to Vihma, this is necessary for the functioning of additional initiatives. In fact, this goal was even written in the original framework convention of 1992 and progress has to be made. Ideas are needed and there is a chance for moving forward even if in a limited pace.
An audience member wanted to point out that in addition to the great powers even small groups can be influential such as Small Island States and African nations, and that despite the additional initiatives it would be a dangerous thought to completely leave the multilateral treaties concerning emissions out of play with the current state of affairs in the climate. Another member said that 2015 will be a pivotal year not only because of the Paris conference but also because the new UN sustainable development goals will define the development paradigm and this is why the different strands of sustainability should be furthered coherently. A comment was made on how to engage large industries because it is them that ultimately decide the fate of sustainable economy, and another audience member pointed out that public subsidies to fossil fuels far exceed the scale of the climate financing and maybe this money could be rather used for a more environmentally sustainable cause.
Uosukainen replied in the context of HCF emissions that even while unofficial meetings with US, China and India were supportive of curbing these emissions, in the formal processes India stopped the deal, illustrating how the unofficial meetings have a limited role. Furthermore, Uosukainen reminded that the UN negotiations also have the elements of smaller meetings and actually countries also decide on priorities on where and when to attend meetings and whether someone is already representing them: in short, smaller groupings are present in the UN process itself. And even if UN is a shadow play, it is followed by thousands of people, decision-makers and media and this hopefully has some effect. As an answer to audience questions, Uosukainen noted that Friends of the Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform is present at the negotiations and Finland is part of this group and that sectoral reforms may become important: e.g. India already could compete in the sustainability of cement. In reply to Uosukainen, Vihma noted that also air traffic was an example of hardships in multilatelarism and that these debates require strong political will from the EU if success will be attained.
An audience member asked about the argument of saying that nothing matters should China not come along and whether this argument is used in an unconstructive manner also in other parts of the world, and a comment asked about the role and the scope of the UN treaty and how a race to the top in sustainability could be encouraged, seeing REDD+ as a benchmark. One member said that the profits of leadership in cleantech is already being noted by countries and many countries have already started competing to the top and that much more money that what has been proposed for the Green Climate Fund. Another asked what happens if Paris conference fails. Uosukainen replied that the Obama administration is actually very clever in bypassing the limits of the political systems and that perhaps contrary to intuition China is actually trying to make US do more. Uosukainen compared Paris to Doha trade agreements and WTO: failure might not result in a complete dissolution of the process. Vihma said that US may promise but not deliver, whereas China may not promise but may deliver or even exceed expectations with domestic action and that binding accounting may help implementing non-binding targets. Win-win situations and co-benefits should, according to Vihma, have more attention in the media. Jokela then closed the seminar by reminding that for Finland, EU may become a more important means of influencing the negotiations if unofficial talks become more prominent.