restricted access 5. Climate Change Mitigation
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The UNSC has exhibited a near-complete lack of interest in the issue of climate change, with the exception of two thematic debates held in recent years. This is an issue that belongs almost exclusively to the informal dimension of institutional arrangements. Consequently, we expect that the delineation between the formal and informal institutional arrangements is sustained by the council’s strong prerogatives. Climate change is widely regarded as a quintessentially nontraditional security issue; thus, the UNSC has not contested the informal institutions’ control of this policy area. Background Climate change mitigation includes the prevention of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that constitute—according to the overwhelming consensus of scientists in the field—the main cause of rising global temperatures and measures by which the adverse consequences of this phenomenon could be eased. Transforming our societies so that they do not further contribute to climate change is already a complex task best tackled by a wide range of actors and institutions. So-called adaptation efforts, which are now under way in some countries and will ready societies to absorb climate change, are an even broader undertaking that requires a planning horizon spanning generations and centuries.1 Leaving adaptation efforts aside, the following analysis considers climate change mitigation as a looming and rather elusive objective of national and international policy.2 More specifically, I will be examining “mitigation policy as diplomacy” in the sense discussed by Joshua Busby.3 The issue of climate change and the need for a worldwide regulatory framework was at the outset not raised by informal great-power groups like the G7/ G8 or by the UNSC. Climate change was largely an expert-driven concern put forward within the context of the United Nations and its environmental Chapter 5 Climate Change Mitigation 158 Chapter 5 conferences, in particular the 1979 Geneva World Climate Conference organized by the World Meteorological Organization. Only thirteen years later, at the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, climate change was given large-scale attention by top-level decision makers. One of the key documents adopted at the summit was the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which aimed to limit GHG emissions and help governments prepare to cope with the effects of climate change. Carbon dioxide (CO2 ) emissions have received by far the most attention in international negotiations on climate change mitigation. This is because carbon dioxide is widely prevalent and has a residence time in the Earth’s atmosphere of between five years and two centuries depending on the circumstances . Other substances that trap solar energy in the atmosphere are methane (CH4 ), ozone (O3 ), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6 ), hydrofluorocarbon-23 (HFC23 ), chlorofluourocarbon-11 (CFC11 ), and perfluoromethane (CF4 ). Whereas most GHGs have a residence time of decades or centuries, perfluoromethane is exceptional in that it can stay in the atmosphere for some 45,000 years. Also, water vapor and clouds are technically GHGs—even though their residence time is only nine days—because they aggravate global warming by trapping other emissions. The dangers and risks associated with significant climate change are not easily summarized, as scientists disagree about the precise implications and time span.4 Rising sea levels, more frequent occurrences of extreme weather conditions, and changing flora and fauna in the most affected parts of the world are some straightforward and widely anticipated effects. Other somewhat more indirect repercussions are more contentious and difficult to predict in the short-to-mid term. But the considerable health concerns for humans associated with climate change are no longer controversial. In 2008 the WHO released a report stating that a warmer and more variable climate “threatens to lead to higher levels of some air pollutants, increase transmission of communicable diseases through unclean water and through contaminated food, to compromise agricultural production in some of the least developed countries, and increase the hazards of extreme weather.”5 Because many realized that the UNFCCC was too weak given new scientific reports suggesting that CO2 and other GHGs needed to be reduced sharply, the Kyoto Protocol adopted in 1997 introduced a stricter set of rules and targets. A total of 192 states signed the Kyoto Protocol, with the notable exception of the United States (along with South Sudan and Andorra). Falling short of its reduction target, Canada became the first country to repudiate the protocol in December 2011. Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established in 1988, began releasing scientific reports Climate Change Mitigation 159 on the state of emissions and the climate, along with...


Subject Headings

  • Summit meetings.
  • Diplomacy.
  • International relations.
  • Security, International.
  • Conflict management -- International cooperation.
  • Terrorism -- Prevention -- International cooperation.
  • Climate change mitigation -- International cooperation.
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