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Discussion: Assessment of UNFCCC Negotiations Against Design, Process and Tactical Factors

As concluded earlier in this book, the negotiations leading to the UNFCCC needed to balance the aim of creating an environmentally effective treaty on the one hand, and acquiring as much support from countries as reasonably possible on the other hand, given the global nature of the climate change issue. However, as explained in Chap. 2, a global climate treaty faces compliance problems since there is no overarching authority to enforce compliance with internationally agreed goals or commitments. Therefore, the challenge of negotiations is to establish an international climate coalition which creates sufficient surpluses, in order to make it more attractive for countries to become/remain part of the coalition than to stay outside/to leave it. Consequently, a global climate treaty must balance between strictness and international country participation.

This section discusses how this balancing took place during negotiations leading to the UNFCCC of 1992 and its entry-into-force in 1994. For that, it is first analysed to what extent the UNFCCC—with 197 ratifying Parties, but without legally binding commitments—can be considered reasonably effective with a view to contributing to its own goal of stabilising greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. It must be noted though that an analysis on the effectiveness of the UNFCCC must be interpreted with care because the UNFCCC was the first global climate change policy treaty of its kind under the auspices of the UN when scientific evidence of the relation between anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and global warming was still limited. By the time of adopting the UNFCCC in 1992, the IPCC had just completed its First Assessment Report (Houghton et al. 1990). Only in 1995, in its Second Assessment Report, IPCC for the first time stated that “there is a discernible human influence on the climate systems” (IPCC 1995). This conclusion offered policy makers a more specific input on human-induced climate change during climate regime negotiations in the second half of the 1990s.

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