Global Warming and Global Politics

By Matthew Paterson | Go to book overview
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Chapter 4

The politics behind the negotiations

We cannot permit the extreme in the environmental movement to shut down the United States. We cannot shut down the lives of many Americans by going extreme on the environment.

(George Bush at UNCED, quoted in the Guardian, 1 June 1992)

Let this be the end of selfishness and hegemonism, the end of callousness, irresponsibility and deceit. Let a just economic order be instituted.

(Fidel Castro at UNCED, quoted in the Guardian, 13 June 1992)


Essentially, the climate negotiations can be seen as involving two great conflicts. One is between the United States and almost everybody else (but predominantly the other industrialised countries), over the commitments to be undertaken on limiting emissions. And the other is the perennial North-South conflict. This chapter examines more systematically what lay behind the different states’ positions, and looks at the general factors which help explain the groupings of countries which influenced the dynamics of the negotiations and the final form of the Climate Convention. 1

As the previous chapter suggested, the two most politically salient parts of the negotiations so far have concerned the commitments of industrialised countries regarding limiting their carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, and questions of financial resources and technology transfer to developing countries. However, differing political factors can be identified which help to explain the struggles over these issues. After outlining the content of the conflicts on these two issues, this chapter describes those factors and what aspects of the outcomes of the negotiations they allow us to explain.

I shall try to illustrate some general analytical points throughout the


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