After the Copenhagen summit last December, global public perception became much more cynical about the prospect of staging a concerted global effort in dramatically reducing emissions and combating the ill effects of climate change. Nevertheless, before one comments upon what transatlantic cooperation must do in order to effectively address climate change as a global governance issue, it is more prudent to take a quick glimpse of the milestones and pitfalls of the Copenhagen summit.
There were several achievements of the summit that are indeed note-worthy. Firstly, it has ultimately redrawn the contours of the global governance debate on climate change primarily among state actors. There is little apparent consensus on climate science as well a need for collaborative action. Furthermore, the summit created discourse and awareness among policy-makers within a macro-global context on the perils of a dramatically-changing climate. Also, there appears to be an agreement that ‘green growth' is the way to move forward, such that developed and developing nations have heralded their own low-carbon economic strategies.
Needless to say, the summit has once again reminded us of the classic wisdom of political realism in global politics. Specifically, countries - though recognizing how gravely important it is to curb the perils of climate change - committed to somehow cooperate at the global level yet maintaining their own sovereignty by evading any form of legal sanctions. As a good policy response is indicated by a clear declaration of specific targets, the summit has fallen short in explicitly avowing 50% emissions reduction by 2050.
This gloomy picture reveals to us strikingly fundamental necessities that must be accounted for both by the EU and the US. In principle, a prudent and effective transatlantic policy on climate change requires an internal and radical transformation on how the EU and the US construct their normative identities as global powers. Hence, this calls for a radical move for both the EU and the US to look into their identity, interests and actions as global powers. Taking these into account, I propose several key recommendations.
Identity: EU Should Revive its Normative Power
Firstly, the EU and the US must recognize that climate change - like any other critical issue of global governance - is not only an exclusive and restricted feature of Western identity. Contemporary realities of global politics reveal that the balance of power has changed and emerging powers such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa are also needed in addressing global issues.
This is a problem of Western identity construction, in that issues of global governance are inclusive of what is called the ‘white man's burden'. As climate change impacts everyone on the planet, the EU and the US - with their massive material resources - must start cooperating with emerging powers. Furthermore, the EU must act as one cohesive and determined actor by resolving internal differences before it starts to assert its ‘normative power' on environmental issues.
These internal divisions within the EU are composed of those who want a unilateral move to a 30% cut (climate activists, British and Dutch government advisers) and those who aim for a carbon tax on imports from States with low emissions standards (France and the steel industry). The two-tier leadership of European Commission and the Council Presidency, and the internal deliberation process during the negotiations were the grounds that relegated the EU to the sidelines as China and the US took over the trajectory of the conference.
Thus, the EU's "normative power" can be resuscitated by resolving these internal differences and consolidating its bargaining power as one, coherent actor. With a cohesive EU together with the US, the Atlantic powers can push more of their agenda in climate diplomacy by aiming at specific targets rather than being pushed aside by developing countries that evade responsibility. As the US preferred to deal head-on with China instead in Copenhagen, a more cohesive EU stance would undoubtedly activate a seemingly once-dead transatlantic position on climate issues and would create stronger bargaining power over China and the rest of the developing world.
Incentives: Empower the Developing World
Secondly, the US and Europe must start devising a market incentive structure for Western multinational corporations operating in developing countries to adopt greener technology. This can be done through a substantial reduction in taxes in their home countries as well as the introduction of uniform and mandatory standards for all European and American firms operating in the developing world.
The savings from these tax breaks should be redirected by these firms to greener technologies and low emissions strategies in the firms' operations in key developing countries. Equally important, Europe and the US need to urgently press national governments, especially those of China, Russia and India, for national legislation that would compel these countries' firms to adopt greener technology and lower carbon emissions.
Developing countries will be incentivized to do so only when the EU and the US vow to pledge reduction in developing countries' debts from international loans and radically increase development assistance. This should go not only toward infrastructure that stimulates decentralized economic growth, but also to the transfer of environmentally-sustainable technology and scientific assistance. The EU and the US - in cooperation with global civil society - must be prepared to provide funds and scientific expertise to China, Russia and India (the world's key polluters for the development of green technologies, the decentralization of economic development and intensive nationwide campaigns on ‘green practices' among the citizenry.
Action: Use "Soft Power" for Tangible Results
Finally, aside from the previously mentioned suggestions, transatlantic cooperation must also use its "soft power" in global civil society and non-governmental organizations in developing countries. Though the Copenhagen summit has truly helped create a sense of global awareness, the EU and the US should still exert more profound, multi-sector, multi-modal and across-the-board information campaigns both within their constituencies as well as the developing world.
These transatlantic led global information campaigns should cover international and national media and also involve discussions across different sectors of the global society. Such campaigns would help nurture an impetus from the grassroots level to push national governments to be more politically determined in crafting environmentally sustainable policies.
The incentive for developing countries towards sustainability and emissions reductions should come both from above (EU, US and multilateral organizations) and below (national constituencies). Indeed, these dual sources of pressure will incentivize national governments of key polluters in the developing world to re-think their policy paradigms and put more determined efforts in balancing economic growth and environmental sustainability.
These massive information campaigns and "soft power" strategies aim toward creating a "consciousness" in these constituencies that would eventually put pressure and provide incentives for national governments to adopt green-oriented policy models.
As the deadlock on climate change lingers on amid European led calls for dramatic emissions reductions versus Chinese calls for their ‘right' to economic development, the most appropriate transatlantic cooperative response would be targeting incentives to motivate developing countries. The above mentioned proposal targets multinational firms in developing countries as well as local firms in developing countries.
The policy model provided here examines the identity of the EU and the US as global powers, outlines some of the fundamental interests of key stakeholders, and identifies some actionable strategies, including incentives for transatlantic cooperation.
Salvador Santino Regilme Jr. is a DAAD fellow and student of the MA program in Democratic Governance and Civil Society at the University of Osnabrueck.
This article is shortlisted for atlantic-community.org's student
competition "Ideas with Impact: Policy Workshop 2010" sponsored by the
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