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OECD Industrialised Countries

A second category of countries consisted of members of the OECD. This group of industrialised countries did not speak with a common voice either as they strongly differed with respect to their readiness to commit to greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. The European Community,[1] for example, at the Second World Climate Conference (Geneva, November 1990), proposed that industrialised countries stabilise their CO2 emissions at 1990 levels by the year 2000 (Bodansky 2001). This proposal, which the European Community subsequently submitted to the INC negotiation process, was met with huge resistance from particularly the USA, which strongly opposed any binding quantitative target to be achieved within the short or medium term. Other countries, such as Japan, Canada, New Zealand and Australia were not as outspokenly restrictive as the USA, but did not support the European Community proposal for a quantitative target, either.

The USA was a strong opponent to binding commitments in the early 1990s and even threatened to stay away from the UNCED meeting if other countries (especially the European Community and the G-77&China) would pursue such commitments (Shah 2012). Domestic interests played an important role in this respect (see Chap. 2). The US economy strongly relied (and relies) on fossil fuels and, being a large producer of oil and coal, the USA had (has) a comparative advantage in fossil fuel-intensive products. Moreover, the powerful fossil fuel based US business lobby was able to affect government decisions and positions on climate change policy (Shah 2012).

Also individual European Community Member States and their business communities expressed concerns about the impact of a global climate treaty with binding commitments on their competitiveness. In that sense, EU Member States did not differ from other industrialised countries in the OECD, where a growing awareness among the population of environmental issues went together with economic concerns (Shah 2012), especially if a global treaty would not involve commitments for developing countries.

  • [1] By the time of the UNFCCC negotiations during the early 1990s, the European Community wasthe officially name for the group of European countries which is currently called the EuropeanUnion or EU.
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