Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

Emerging Powers in the Climate Negotiations: Shifting Identity Conceptions

Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

Emerging Powers in the Climate Negotiations: Shifting Identity Conceptions

Article excerpt

International negotiations about climate change have raised fundamental questions about how to apportion the responsibility for addressing the problem among states. From the beginning, global agreements have drawn a sharp distinction between the appropriate roles of already- developed and developing states for addressing climate change. Almost immediately, however, some developed states challenged that distinction, arguing that it wrongly exempted wealthier and faster-growing developing states from taking on climate obligations. After more than a decade of pressure, a quartet of those developing states- Brazil, China, India, and South Africa-decided to join forces as the BASIC coalition, negotiating together in cli- mate meetings beginning with the Copenhagen confer- ence of 2009.

This paper analyzes the relevance of this new actor- the BASIC group-in the climate negotiations using an identity lens. While national identities have become an established framework for foreign policy analysis, joint identities of states as members of groups (e.g., negotia- tion alliances) have so far been neglected outside the con- text of the European Union. Negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have previously been studied in terms of negotiation groups and alliances, but such analy- ses have tended to focus on collective interests rather than joint identities. Distinguishing between the national iden- tities of each of these four countries as emerging powers, and their emergent joint identity as the BASIC group, we argue that the tension between these two layers of identity could be productive for the future of the international cli- mate regime. Both layers contain an "emerging power" element, which could help unlock the stalled climate negotiations by creating flexibility and opening up novel negotiation space in the sense that it makes the BASIC group available as a new actor with unique rights, obliga- tions, and normative commitments.

We do not find strong empirical evidence that the joint BASIC identity has changed the national negotiation positions of the group members so far, with the partial exception of South Africa in Copenhagen. We see the 2011 conference in Durban as indicative of one kind of impact the group might have: the BASIC grouping helped facilitate the agreement on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), with more-willing BASIC members nudging a reluctant India to accept the agree- ment. The four countries have continued to meet quar- terly since Durban to coordinate their actions, while China and India are also joining forces with the new Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) group. Thus, the BASIC group continues as a potential framer of these countries' future climate action, even as they keep their options open.

We trace the links between the climate negotiation positions of the BASIC members, the BASIC group, and their evolving identities-both individual and joint-as emerging powers. Their internal debates about whether they are "developed enough" to take on international commitments that they rejected as growth-limiting a few years ago provide significant inputs for the current efforts to create a BASIC joint identity. At this stage, the content, associated norms, and limits of the joint emerging power identity are still unclear and contested. We find two dif- ferent developments in a short time period. In the face of external pressures to take on increasing mitigation responsibilities, the four countries drew together to coor- dinate their positions and to present themselves as the BASIC coalition in 2009-2010. But differences quickly surfaced by 2011, when the group was forced to specify in more detail what it collectively stood for. While mem- bers shared beliefs regarding other groups' responsibili- ties, they were not able to agree on the appropriate norms for themselves as emerging powers.

The coalition's struggle to define and develop a shared BASIC identity continues and is likely to evolve along with the changing rhythm of the climate negotiations. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.