Environmental Politics in Japan, Germany, and the United States

By Miranda A. Schreurs | Go to book overview

6
Global climate change: the road to
UNCED

There is perhaps no environmental issue that is more important than climate change. It is also among the most complex environmental issues policy makers ever have been asked to confront. The scale of the problem, both in terms of its potential causes and ecological and economic consequences, is enormous. Uncertainties about climate change, however, have opened the door for intense domestic and international political debates. Japan, Germany, the EU, and the US as the leading industrial players in the world, have been at the center of the first decade of these debates. They have each taken a distinctly different position on climate change with the US on one end of the spectrum, Germany and the EU on the other, and Japan taking a position in between.

The goal of this and the next chapter is to examine how domestic politics influenced their negotiating positions. The chapters do not attempt to retell the full and extremely complex history of the international climate change negotiations. Instead, the chapters focus on understanding national politics in these countries as they influenced and were affected by the international negotiations.

This chapter deals with the period through the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and the formation of the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) in 1992. The UNCED, also known as the Earth Summit, was one of the largest gatherings of heads of state in history. They met to address the threats of climate change and biodiversity loss and the need to promote sustainable development. The FCCC was the legal instrument drawn up to address climate change. It is the second major international agreement to address a global-scale environmental problem based on the principle of precautionary action. In other words, it was a convention drawn up to win national commitments to action to solve a problem before its full scale or impacts were known.

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