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According to Thomas Friedman, we have shifted towards energy climate era. From the sidelines, environment has become a major issue in international politics.

Beginning of the politics of environment.
Environmental movements are started by civil society in advanced countries. The global environmental movement started with the publication of Rachel Carson’s book THE SILENT SPRING. Over a period of time, there is an emergence of two types of environmentalism. 1) Deep ecology.  2) Shallow ecology.

Evolution of the fundamental principles of politics of environment.

Stockholm conference 1972.
The first UN Conference which led to the development of the fundamental principles.
What are the fundamental principles?
1| Environment is a collective responsibility / all have to contribute./ However there will be a differentiated responsibility. The responsibility of North and South wIll be different.  The priority of South will be development. South cannot contribute to the protection of environment without development. Indira Gandhi held that ‘poverty is the biggest pollutant’.
2| It was agreed that North will support the South so that they develop the capacity. / It means the transfer of funds and technology.
India has been at the forefront of the formulation of environmental laws. India had proposed the concept of ‘equity’. /equality with fairness.
Hence at Stockholm conference, it was agreed that North will support the development of the South.

Brundtland commission 1983. (UN commission on environment and development.)
Purpose – Once agreed that development of the South is the solution because poverty is the worst polluter, commission was to suggest the type of development to be pursued by South. Commission came up with the idea of sustainable development.
The idea was published in the report titled ‘OUR COMMON FUTURE’.

Rio Summit 1992. aka 1st Earth Summit.
It was 1st UN summit on environment and development.
Purpose. Since it was agreed that countries will go for sustainable development, summit was to determine the strategies to move on to sustainable development.
Outcomes. Agenda 21. It is a voluminous document, which contains the strategies. What is the main theme guiding the strategies? Community participation and involvement of all stakeholders.
Rio also led to the emergence of Rio principles.
1| Precautionary principle – even when there is a lack of enough scientific evidence, countries will take up the actions for protection of environment. USA has an objection.
2| Polluters pay principle – historical responsibility. USA does not support. Why? At that time no one was aware of the impact of human actions on climate.

In Rio, four conventions emerged. 1) UN Framework convention on Climate Change.  2) Convention on Bio diversity.  3) Convention on desertification.  4) Forest principles.
The most politicized issue is climate change.

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The evolution of climate change negotiations.

It was realized that climate change is happening beyond the natural reasons. Hence it cannot be left on natural adaptation, there is a need for action. Countries adopted UNFCCC. (UN Framework…) Objective – To ensure that global warming remains well below 2degree centigrade and if possible 1.5 degree than pre-industrial level. Nature of treaty – It is not binding, that is why USA accepted it. What is the principle of UNFCCC? CBDR, HR. Common but differentiated responsibility and historical responsibility. How it was implemented? It divides the countries into two groupings – Annexed countries and non-annexed (developing) countries. Developing countries have no responsibility, they can increase their emission to achieve development. Annexed countries are further divided into two groups – Annex I – all industrialized countries – they have to reduce their emissions.  Annex 2 countries – OECD countries. Means well off countries and they will be providing funds and technology. Outcomes. Overall carbon emission declined but not because of the treaty rather sudden halt of industrial activities in East European states. Carbon emission actually increased in USA.

Kyoto Protocol

1997 – Since UNFCCC was not binding, it was decided to create a binding agreement. It imposes the target of the emission reductions on developed countries by 5.2% below 1990 level.
Kyoto protocol to become effective from 2005 and the validity was till 2012.
Since it was binding, USA did not join.

What is the purpose of climate change negotiations since then?
To find the successor agreement for Kyoto protocol.
To bring USA under commitments.

How it will be possible to bring USA? There have been two ways. 1) Either to force BRICS countries to take binding commitments. USA had put the condition.  Why? There cannot be any effective action until and unless major polluters like China and India take the binding commitments.  2) No country takes binding commitments i.e. similar principles for developed and developing countries.
USA does not believe in historical responsibility.
Up till Kyoto protocol, the countries of South have been winning the climate change negotiations. However after Kyoto protocol, they have been loosing and USA has been winning.

Approach of developed countries.

Developed countries maintained dual position.
EU _ Act as a good cop. Why? 1_There is a strong civil society movements in Europe.  2_EU makes highly ambitious commitments to attract developing countries and to create differences among developing countries. Developing countries had been winning because of the solidarity which had to be broken. EU started showing that India and China are spoilers. If India China will agree, US will agree. Thus India and China are giving primacy to their trading interest over environment.

USA acted as a bad cop. USA took the extreme position. The small island states are the most vulnerable and have started creating huge pressure on ‘BASIC countries’. BRICS countries has formed the BASIC group to negotiate.

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Copenhagen Summit 2009

It was a turning point What is the turning point? Since then the countries of North are winning and South are loosing.  Climate change negotiations are moving on the track which is favourable to the countries of North. USA is actually dominating the show.
At Copenhagen, neither developing countries could maintain the solidarity. They came under the influence of EU. Even BASIC countries could not maintain the solidarity. As developing countries started blaming India and China, China tried to project itself as a responsible country. Thus only India appeared to be the spoiler. India was isolated. India came under global pressure. Countries accepted USA’s approach. Since Copenhagen summit became controversial, the agreement took place at Cancun summit 2010.

What is the new framework?

Dilution of Common But Differentiated Responsibility.
1. All countries will take mitigation action.
2. Bottom Up approach. Each country will determine its voluntary contribution. 
3. It was decided to create a climate fund to transfer $ 100 bn to developing countries by 2020. However it is not clear, what will be the source of funds. Developed countries only held that they will be mobilizing the funds. 
4. Since then, there have been various conferences. It appeared as if international community will not be able to arrive at any successor agreement. 

Paris Climate Agreement 2015.

Fortunately countries came to agreement at Paris. The agreement will come into force from 2020. 
Kyoto protocol expired in 2012. Some developed countries had taken voluntary commitments. USA and even Japan preferred to remain out. 
The Paris agreement aims to limit the temperature to 2degree Celsius. $ 100 bn to developing countries. It was decided that they will finalize a work program i.e. rule book to be implemented to achieve the targets of Paris. Conference at Katowice, Poland 2018 was to finalize the work program or a rule book. USA had threatened to come out of the deal. However as per agreement, it cannot come out before 2020. 

Katowise Summit 2018

At Katowice, there has been huge disagreement between various groups. The biggest disagreement has been on transparency in funding and reporting. Developed countries favored voluntary mechanisms whereas developing countries wanted binding commitments. Developed countries have rejected the demands to provide information whenever demanded by developing countries. Finally the final text has managed to incorporate some crucial issues related to climate finance. The text suggests a higher goal from the present $100 bn per year. The text suggests that developed countries should give more resources as a grant rather than as a loan. 

The text plays with the words. It suggests that interested party may provide appropriate information on the efforts taken for averting or minimizing the loss and damage. According to the experts, instead of some serious rules, the new rulebook is riddled with loopholes which allow developed countries to avoid responsibility. 

India’s approach on climate change negotiations.

India’s approach has been offensive. India has always emphasized on the principle of equity. CBDR, HR….

This topic is largely current affairs based. Please read recent articles on the topic from

Test Your Knowledge!

1] Who is the author of the book The Silent Spring?
a) Greta Thunberg
b) Malala Yusufzai
c) Rachel Carson
d) Thomas Friedman

Show Answer

Ans: c) Rachel Carson

2] Stockholm Conference was held in which year?
a) 1972
b) 1973
c) 1974
d) 1975

Show Answer

Ans: a) 1972

3] The idea of Sustainable Development was given by
a) COP15
b) Brundtland Commission
c) Montreal Protocol
d) Vienna Convention

Show Answer

Ans: b) Brundtland Commission

4] Agenda 21 is an outcome of which of the following?
a) Kigali Amendment
b) Rotterdam Convention
c) Basel Convention
d) Rio Summit

Show Answer

Ans: d) Rio Summit 1992

5] Common but differentiated responsibilities is related to which of the followings?
a) Space Debris
b) Nuclear Weapons
c) Climate Change
d) Trade Barriers

Show Answer

Ans: c) Climate Change

6] Paris Agreement came into force in which year?
a) 2019
b) 2020
c) 2021
d) 2022

Show Answer

Ans: b) 2020

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