Climate Change in World Politics

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By Muhammad Nawaz Khan : –

The book Climate Change in World Politics by Hohan Vogler examines the international politics of climate change, with a focus on the United Nations Framework Convention (UNFCCC). It examines how the international system treats the problem of climate change, analysing the ways in which climate change has been defined by the international community and the interests and alignments of state governments. The work addresses the issue of climate change from an international governmental perspective by amalgamating the ideas of different school of thoughts, such as the concerns of the green activists, naturalists and scientific experts with the social scientists’ and economists’ point of view.

The aim of study is to provide texts which lay out the technical, environmental and political issues relating to the various proposed policies for responding to climate change. The focus is not primarily on the science of climate change, or on the technological detail, although there will be accounts of the state of the art, to aid assessment of the viability of the various options. However, the main focus is the policy conflicts over which strategy to pursue.

The volume adopts a critical approach and attempts to identify flaws in emerging policies, propositions and assertions. In particular, it seeks to illuminate counterintuitive assessments, conclusions and new perspectives. The aim is not simply to map the debates, but to explore their structure, their underlying assumptions and their limitations. The book provides a broad overview of the politics of climate change, drawing on international relations theory and emergent concepts of climate justice. Rather than looking at the process of negotiation on international mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions in isolation, it locates it in the wider and rapidly changing international political system.

Moreover, it attempts to show not only that the global climate policy regime has responded to broader power relationships in the international system, but also that part of the motivation of state participants can be usefully understood through the application of constructivist theory that emphasises the significance of identity construction and the pursuit of prestige.

The author has written a study of the ways in which climate change can be explained by the theory of international relations. This is a much-needed treatment of the relationship between the functional imperative of non-state actors for action on climate control and the political drivers behind the behaviour of dominant states. It is a corrective to those accounts that place the analysis of climate change outside intergovernmental politics, and provides a rich analysis of how the power, prestige and norm-setting activities of states have structured the context within which international climate change policy has been formed. The reader will find here a series of compelling explanations as to why action on climate change has been so difficult to achieve,

despite the almost universal recognition that such action is needed. This is a must-read for those trying to understand how science and politics clash over climate change. The book is full of excellent examples of how politics has framed the climate change debate internationally, and explains why achieving agreement has proven so difficult.

The book is organised as follows. It commences with a discussion of the way in which the climate regime was constructed, followed by an analysis of its key characteristics and changes up until the beginning of 2015. There then follow three chapters that cover agency in international climate politics, starting with national interests and then moving to the related questions of the pursuit of justice and the search for recognition and prestige. Structural change and explanation are covered in Chapter seven. The concluding chapter reflects on the effectiveness of the climate regime and some implications of the political obstacles and opportunities identified in the preceding chapters.

The book attempts to take up the challenge by conducting a political investigation of the ways in which the international community has sought to deal with the complex and difficult problem of climate change. It asks questions about how and why the climate problem has been framed in a particular and fragmentary way, leading to responses that appear to neglect some of the key socioeconomic drivers of the enhanced greenhouse effect. It goes on to consider the motivations and national interests of the state parties to the UNFCCC and the alliances that dominate the politics of that institution. Part of the explanation of why it has proved so difficult to arrive at a comprehensive post-Kyoto climate agreement, is to be found in the incompatibility of perceived national economic interests and the disconnection between national responsibility and vulnerability to effects of alterations in the climate.

There is the indissoluble relationship between the climate regime and the demands for restitution and fairness that motivates developing countries, leading to the issue of what exactly ‘climate justice’ means at the international level and whether it is separable from the pursuit of material national interests. In common with many areas of international life, symbolic politics is an evident dimension of international climate discussions, and it will be amplified when the climate is linked to security issues or discussed at the level of heads of state or government. There is a need to consider who benefits from prestige and recognition seeking activities and what they may mean for the possibilities of agreement. In a nutshell, the book provides a rich contrast between policies that have been developed to help mitigate greenhouse gases emissions and the strategies that have been adapted to pursue the course.

Views expressed are not of The London Post

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