Show Less
Open access

European Union Foreign Policy and the Global Climate Regime


Simon Schunz

Ever since the first international negotiations on climate change in the early 1990s, the European Union has aspired to play a leading role in global climate politics.
This book engages in a longitudinal analysis of the EU’s participation in and impact on the United Nations climate regime.
It provides not only comprehensive insights into the evolution of EU foreign climate policy, but also a thought-provoking audit of the potential and limits of the EU’s influence in a major domain of global affairs.
Show Summary Details
Open access

Chapter 1. Analytical Framework: Studying the European Union’s Influence on the Global Climate Regime

← 26 | 27 →CHAPTER 1

Analytical Framework

Studying the European Union’s influence on the Global Climate Regime

This chapter develops the analytical framework that guides the study. Three components of this framework are successively introduced: (i) the key concepts of influence attempts and influence; (ii) theoretical considerations derived from EU foreign policy studies and regime theory; (iii) the influence analysis methodology applied to the case study.

Building the Key Concepts: influence Attempts and influence

The central objective of this study is to investigate the EU’s impact on global climate politics. To do so, a concept has to be designed that is capable of linking an actor-centric perspective, focussed on the EU, to the analysis of global politics. By referring to EU activities in the global climate regime as foreign policy, i.e. an area of politics directed at the external environment with the objective of influencing that environment, influence was identified as suitable to serve as this hinge. The concept captures the relationship between a purposive actor and its surrounding at the global level, at which this actor potentially causes change.

Employing a sufficiently specified concept of influence has several advantages for the type of study envisaged. first, as “all politics is the exercise of influence” (Dahl/Stinebrickner 2003: 34), manifold definitions and conceptualizations exist. This makes it not only possible but even necessary to build the concept of influence in a manner “appropriate to the substance of the phenomenon” that is studied (Goertz 2006: 16). Second, several influence analysis methods have already been applied to complex decision-making arrangements at the global level and can serve as sources ofinspiration for designing an analytical framework capable of determining EU impact (Betsill/Correll 2008; Arts/Verschuren 1999). finally, influence can be regarded as a “continuous concept” (Goertz 2006: 34): it allows for assessments about the EU’s performance in global affairs in terms of gradations. The Union could, for instance, have abundant, substantial, little or no influence on specific decisions taken in the ← 27 | 28 →global climate regime. Assessing the EU’s performance in terms of gradations makes it possible to specify its impact and effectiveness much more precisely than through a concept like leadership (Gupta/Grubb 2000). The latter allows, in essence, only for general, binary yes-no assessments: either the EU is a leader or not. At the same time, while the attribution of a leadership role demands the fulfilment of high normative criteria, an actor can be influential in global policy-making without necessarily (i) having to be a leader and (ii) having to be benign (Sjöstedt 1999: 228).

When it comes to defining and analysing influence, leading public policy analysts like Dahl and Stinebrickner lament the “absence of standard terminology” (2003: 12). Their own definition then also incorporates elements of various conceptualizations advanced by other scholars (e.g. Braam 1975; Nagel 1975). To them, influence is “a relation among human actors such that wants, desires, preferences, or intentions of one (…) actor (…) affect the actions, or predispositions to act of one or more actors in a direction consistent with (…) the wants, preferences or intentions of the influence-wielder” (Dahl/Stinebrickner 2003: 17). The definition highlights the existence of an influence-wielder and one or more influenced, which stand in some form of relationship to each other, while specifying the changes that the influenced is or are undergoing. Coming close to the definition of relational power as “getting another actor to do what it would otherwise not do” (Dahl 1957), this depiction of influence stresses a key challenge for any study of influence, which consists in distinguishing it from the closely related concept of power. Cox and Jacobson (1973: 3) made this distinction in the most convincing manner, defining influence as “the modification of one actor’s behaviour by that of another” for the purpose of reaching the latter actor’s aims, specifying that “[p]ower means capability (…). Power may be converted into influence, but it is not necessarily so converted at all or to its full extent”.

This distinction between power and influence becomes central when the concept of influence is applied in and to foreign policy analyses. Foreign policy has regularly been defined with reference to influence in international relations (Hudson/Vore 1995: 215), as the “attempts by governments to influence or manage events outside the state’s boundaries” (Manners/Whitman 2000: 2), as “those actions which, expressed in the form of explicitly stated goals, commitments and/or directives, and pursued by governmental representatives (…), are directed toward objectives, conditions and actors (…) which they want to affect and which lie beyond their territorial legitimacy” (Carlsnaes 2002: 333, emphasis added), or, in the formula that is also adopted here, as an “area of politics which is directed at the external environment with the objective of influencing that environment and the behaviour of other actors within it, in order to pursue interests, values and goals” (Keukeleire/MacNaughtan 2008: 19). ← 28 | 29 →Consequently, classical foreign policy analysis distinguishes between “foreign policy making”, the study of how the objectives of foreign policy are formulated internally, and “foreign policy implementation”, which refers in essence to how decisions taken internally by foreign policy actors are expressed in concrete actions aimed at influencing others when these “actors confront their environment and (…) the environment confronts them” (Brighi/Hill 2008: 118; Webber/Smith 2002: 79–104). Against this backdrop of widely used definitions and understandings of influence in public policy and foreign policy analysis, 1 it becomes possible to undertake the crucial step of building the concept in a manner “appropriate to the substance of the phenomenon” that is studied here, i.e. the EU’s influence as a foreign policy actor on the global climate regime. In this process, a distinction is made between two closely related concepts that are successively employed in the study: influence attempts and influence.

To enhance the analytical sharpness of the concept of influence, and to take account of the notion of foreign policy implementation as a set of actions undertaken with the intention of impacting an external context, it is first necessary to introduce the concept of influence attempts. These can be defined as acts by an actor exerted with the purpose of bringing about change in the behaviour, preferences or beliefs of other actors in order to attain its aims.2 influence attempts are analytically distinct from, but conceptually complement influence. An actor’s influence is, in fact, the product of its successful exercise of an influence attempt.

Once defined as such, this concept can be dissected into various “constitutive dimensions”, which implies that the “preliminary idea (…) formed” through the definition is expanded via the identification of necessary and sufficient conditions and/or causal mechanisms that need to be fulfilled to analytically ascertain the presence of an influence attempt (Goertz 2006: 6). Two core components can be detected:

1.INTERACTION: influence attempts require some form of direct or indirect relation between a potential influence-wielder and one or more influence targets (Dahl/Stinebrickner 2003; Cox/Jacobson 1973).

2.PURPOSIVE BEHAVIOUR: The influence-wielder acts because it “wants to affect” the influence target (Carlsnaes 2002: 333).

Both components must be regarded as necessary conditions. Together, they are sufficient to determine that a foreign policy act qualifies as influence attempt.

← 29 | 30 →Various techniques of influencing have been identified in the IR and foreign policy literature. In International Relations, a set of six “acts of influencing” has regularly been evoked (Holsti 1995: 125–126): persuasion, offering rewards, granting rewards, threatening punishment, inflicting punishment and using force. In a foreign policy analysis context, influence attempts come above all in the form of foreign policy acts/tools. Analysts quite regularly evoke two types of foreign policy tools: diplomatic and economic instruments (Brighi/Hill 2008: 131–132; Webber/Smith 2002: 87–90). As such classifications tend to remain abstract, operationalization attempts like the World Event Interaction Coding Scheme (WEIS) have led to catalogues of foreign policy acts “as an aid to productive analysis” of foreign policy (Wilkenfeld et al. 1980: 117, 19). The WEIS catalogue identifies 22 verbs such as “to promise”, “to grant” or “to reward” in order to pinpoint concretely what a foreign policy actor does when trying to exert influence. These classifications are integrated into a broader overview when it comes to specifying EU influence attempts in a subsequent section (see Table 2).

Based on its delimitation from the concept of influence attempt, influence is re-defined in this study as the modification of one or several actors’ behaviour, preferences or beliefs by acts of another actor exerted for the purpose of reaching the latter actor’s aims.3 Four core components of the concept are identified, two of which overlap with the constitutive dimensions of influence attempts.

1.INTERACTION: influence attempts require some form of direct or indirection relation between a potential influence-wielder and one or more influence targets.

2.PURPOSIVE BEHAVIOUR: The influence-wielder acts because it “wants to affect” the influence target.

3.TEMPORAL SEQUENCE: Actions by the influence-wielder precede any type of behavioural or mind change in the influenced (Braam 1975; Cox/Jacobson 1973).

4.GOAL ATTAINMENT: The behavioural or mind change in the influenced must go “in a direction consistent with (…) the wants, preferences or intentions of the influence-wielder” (Dahl/Stinebrickner 2003: 17). In other words, the influence-wielder’s purposive behaviour is successful: its goal is attained. On this point, it has to be borne in mind that influence is a continuous concept. Partial goal attainment or shared influence-wielding with others do not rule out influence.

← 30 | 31 →With this, the “positive pole” of influence is determined (Goertz 2006). Considering also its negative pole (when is what we observe no longer influence), a fifth dimension comes into play:

5.ABSENCE OF AUTO-CAUSATION: Logically, observed behavioural or mind changes qualify only as influence if they can be – at least in part – attributed to the activity of the influence-wielder, and not exclusively to some other reason that may be inherent4 to the influence target (Braam 1975; Huberts 1994).

All five components are necessary conditions. Together, they are sufficient to determine influence via conditional causal analysis.

While conditional causal analysis (Mackie 1974) tells us that certain conditions lead to the identified outcomes, it is unable to specify how and, above all, why precisely this happens (Mahoney 2003). Going a step further to – tentatively – explain why an actor has had influence amounts thus to accounting for an already established causal relationship. To “fully explain particular outcomes” (Mahoney 2003: 1), it has been suggested to resort to a different form of causal analysis by employing “causal mechanisms”, i.e. “frequently occurring and easily recognizable causal patterns” in social reality (Elster 1998: 45). To do so, two causal mechanisms are integrated at the level of the constitutive dimensions of influence (and influence attempts) by specifying the first necessary condition (“interaction”). Since “influence is possible only when communication occurs” (Knocke 1990: 3), the relations between an influence-wielder and the influenced can take essentially two forms of communicative action: they can follow either a bargaining or an arguing logic of social interaction (Risse 2004). Arguing as a form of communication can be defined as “non-manipulative reason-giving” (Keohane 2001: 10). It is based on speech acts that can be described with verbs like to claim, to ask, to inform and to justify (Holzinger 2004).5 Arguing typically aims at and involves a reasoned consensus among actors, who change their beliefs or preferences in the direction of what they perceive as the best argument (Kleine/Risse 2005: 9).6 Bargaining as communicative action, by ← 31 | 32 →contrast, depicts negotiations between two or more parties that are characterized by strategic interaction and the exchange of promises, concessions and threats (Holzinger 2004). It is targeted at positions and behavioural changes and typically results in a compromise in which actors’ preferences and beliefs remain unaltered (Saretzki 1996). To further distinguish arguing from bargaining, Risse proposes to focus on the outcome of a negotiation process: a consensus based on arguing has been reached when the result is surprising, transcends the level of the lowest common denominator, and actors indicate similar reasons for it (2004: 302). Whenever these conditions do not hold, the result must be regarded as a compromise achieved via bargaining.7 Each of the two interaction modes corresponds to a specific set of foreign policy tools, as further elaborated on below specifically for the EU case. Both influence and influence attempts can be argumentation- or bargaining-based.

As influence is a truly multi-dimensional concept, several additional clarifications need to be made to fully operationalize it. first, while it may be true that influence attempts can be isolated, incidental actions, both the intentions behind these acts and the effects they produce (the actual influence) need not be restricted to short-term behavioural changes. influence attempts can also be exerted with a long-term strategy and have sustainable effects (e.g. when another actor’s beliefs are permanently altered). Second, influence can affect agenda-setting or outcomes of political processes. Third, one can distinguish between different objects of influence, which can be one/more actor(s) or structures, understood as the formal and informal frameworks ofinteraction for actors in a given context (Giddens 1984). Such structures can become the ultimate aims of influence attempts via the intermittent display of “the modification of one or several actors’ behaviour, preferences or beliefs”. The operationalization of influence and influence attempts is summarized in Table 1, which serves as a typology for the study.

Another important clarification with regard to influence can be made by referring to the notion of “continuous concept” introduced above (Goertz 2006: 34). The degree of influence can be established on the ← 32 | 33 →basis of an assessment that sets into relation (i) the significance of the influence-wielder’s input vis-à-vis the final outcome of a negotiation process and (ii) the importance of the output of this negotiation process. As in the case of determining influence, establishing its degree requires interpretation in context. Several assumptions can nonetheless be made. For one, an actor’s influence can be considered as highest when it attains its goals to the largest possible extent (extent of goal attainment). Focusing on the outcome, this actor’s influence is highest ifit attains its aims and the agreement has a high level of durability (e.g. through the creation of a durable structure) and/or of legal bindingness (e.g. an international treaty) (durability of the outcome). A tentative classification of degrees of influence could thus be to refer to influence as very high (high extent of goal attainment, high degree of durability), high (certain degree of goal attainment, some degree of durability), low (low to medium goal attainment and durability) or inexistent (no goal attainment) (for a more complex formula: Arts/Verschuren 1999: 419–420). Such classification represents a heuristic device to enable cross-case, cross-time comparisons.

Table 1: Toward a Typology of influence


Setting the Theoretical Scene: Insights from EU Foreign Policy Analysis and Regime Theory

To specify the context in which the concepts of influence and influence attempts are applied in this study, this section embeds them into (pre-)theoretical considerations on (i) the EU, derived from EU foreign policy analysis, and (ii) on global climate policy, derived essentially from regime theory. Theories serve two key purposes here: first, enabling the transition from description to explanation by aiding in the selection of key explanatory variables of EU influence; second, helping to reduce the scope of the study via the selection of core units of analysis in the chosen case.

← 33 | 34 →influence and influence Attempts Seen Through the Lens of EU Foreign Policy Analysis

Two closely linked debates from the literature on EU foreign policy analysis are of interest for the purposes of this study. A look into the debate on whether and under what conditions the EU can be a global actor helps to settle the important question of what EU foreign policy is, while yielding insights into the internal preconditions for EU external activity and impact. A second debate on the EU’s capacities as a global actor helps to pre-specify its tools for exerting influence.

Bearing the definition of EU foreign policy as area of politics that aims at influencing its external environment in mind, and since the EU is a composite actor involving supranational institutions and member states, it is equally important to be clear about what European Union foreign policy exactly entails. It is here considered as the sum of foreign policies conducted by genuine EU actors (the European Commission, the Council Presidency, the High Representative – HR) or EU member states if they act explicitly on behalf of the EU or in line with its values and interests. If the Union can thus possess a foreign policy in its own right, it does not always appear as the same type of actor to its interlocutors. In some arenas it is represented by the Commission, in other contexts by the Presidency of the Council (or, since the Lisbon Treaty, the HR or the President of the European Council), and in still other fora the representation may change over time or depending on the issue.

Scholars have repeatedly attempted to specify the EU’s capacity to act in its own right on the global scene (Carlsnaes 2007: 549). The concept of “actorness”, as elaborated by Caporaso/Jupille (1998; drawing on Sjöstedt 1977) can be regarded as the most sophisticated of these attempts (Ginsberg 2001: 45–46). It conceives of the EU’s capacity to act globally in terms of four categories (Caporaso/Jupille 1998): recognition (the EU’s acceptance by others), authority (the EU’s legal competence to act externally), autonomy (the EU’s institutional distinctiveness/independence from its members) and cohesion (the degree to which the EU is able to formulate internally consistent policy preferences). Recognition excepted, all categories point to significant internal conditions the EU has to fulfil to be capable of exerting influence. Parting from an interdisciplinary (legal/political science) critique of “actorness”, Schunz et al. (2012) developed an analytical framework that employs the more comprehensive concept of “actor capacity” to discuss the legal and foreign policy components of the EU’s capacity to act externally. For them, EU actor capacity depends essentially on (i) the existence of legal competence to act in ← 34 | 35 →EU primary law,8 (ii) the de jure and de facto external representation arrangements (who speaks on behalf of the EU?; to what extent does it act independently from the member states?) as well as (iii) efficient internal decision-making and coordination processes9 among member states and between these and the EU institutions. Moreover, actor capacity relies on the existence of (iv) relevant treaty objectives and common policy goals. finally, the availability of (v) foreign policy tools, which form the basis for EU influence attempts, is an often neglected, significant component of the Union’s capacity to act.

When it comes to these EU foreign policy tools, a small group of authors has attempted to come up with a classification (Smith 2003: 52–68; White 2001: 53–57; Ginsberg 2001: 49–50). The arguably most detailed elaboration stems from Karen Smith, who identifies both economic and diplomatic instruments (2003: 52–68). In the economic sphere, she distinguishes between positive (carrots) and negative (sticks) measures (Smith 2003: 60; Ginsberg 2001: 50). The EU can exert influence positively by, inter alia, concluding trade, cooperation or association agreements, reducing tariffs or providing aid. In negative terms, the EU can impose embargos or boycotts, delay or suspend agreements, increase tariffs, reduce aid etc. Smith refers to these latter tools also as “coercion” (2003: 22). In the diplomatic sphere, she identifies a range of EU instruments like issuing démarches or declarations, visiting other countries, imposing diplomatic sanctions, offering EU membership etc. (Smith 2003: 61). Smith’s catalogue provides a useful starting point for specifying EU influence attempts, and can also be applied to EU foreign climate policy. Table 2 gives an overview of possible EU influence attempts, linking conceptual considerations on influence attempts made earlier to the concrete EU foreign policy literature. The table essentially distinguishes between influencing through the causal mechanisms of arguing (persuasion) and bargaining. While it is highly unlikely that the EU will resort to coercive means in a global environmental policy context, coercion is listed as a third possible causal mechanism. Taking these categories into account, Smith’s catalogue needs to be adapted in two respects. first, her discussion of negative economic measures omits that such instruments cannot only be employed coercively, i.e. actually used to the detriment of the EU’s interlocutors (thus “inflicting punishment” in Holsti’s terms (1995)), but can ← 35 | 36 →also have the status of threats (“threatening punishment”, Holsti 1995). In the latter case, if sanctions are only invoked as a possibility, this activity falls under the broader category of bargaining. Second, diplomatic tools cannot only be used in a bargaining context, but also as means of persuasion. For data collection and analysis purposes, use is above all made of the second to last column (EU foreign policy instruments) of Table 2. How this can be done in a climate policy context is illustrated in the last column.

The EU’s capacity to act and its capacities as a global actor constitute potentially important preconditions for its exercise of influence in global affairs, which are duly analysed in this study.

Table 2: How the EU Can Exert influence – EU Foreign Policy Acts

← 36 | 37 →image

← 37 | 38 →EU influence and influence Attempts in the Global Climate Regime Context

From the perspective of the global level of analysis, regime theory can help to single out, first, possible explanatory factors of EU influence and, second, the study’s key units of analysis regarding major constitutive features of the global climate regime.

Regime theory has long been applied to the analysis of international cooperation, notably in the field of global environmental politics, in which several regimes – such as the UN climate regime – co-exist (Young 1994). Three main strands of regime theory can be distinguished (see Hasenclever et al. 1996 for an overview): (i) a neo-realist power strand that draws either on hegemonic stability theory or emphasizes the relational power (capacities) of various actors as important explanatory factor for the creation of regimes (Krasner 1991; Keohane 1984); (ii) a constructivist knowledge/ideas strand that focuses on the role that ideas, identities or communicative action play in the formation and maintenance of regimes (Kratochwil 1989; Müller 1994); and (iii) a – mainstream – neo-liberal institutionalist interest strand, which operates on the assumption that regimes allow states – as rational agents seeking gains – to materialize common interests (Keohane 1989; Young 1989a). While the majority of institutionalist scholars holds that regimes are negotiated by fully rational state actors behaving strategically on the basis of fixed preferences, and that regimes are formed and persist when and as long as they “increase the welfare of their creators” (Keohane 1984: 80), Young (1989b; 1993) has contested this rigid view of states as pure utility maximizers and of bargaining as only distributive. He argues that rationality is always bounded, which makes it necessary for states to transcend pure self-interest and cooperate with the aim of expanding the overall collective benefits of all negotiating parties (Young 1994: 126–127). His approach has therefore been interpreted as a basis for building bridges to constructivist approaches (Risse 2002: 614).

While some of the potential determinants of EU influence – related to its own actor capacity – have been identified above, theories of regime formation and change can be crucial sources of additional explanatory factors for its influence on a global regime. By definition, EU influence on the climate regime will involve modifications in this regime, which is why insights about regime change can inform the design of the analytical framework for this study.

The tendency in much of the literature has been to rely on singular explanations: either power or ideas or interests have been regarded as the main driving factors behind regimes and their change, where all three may actually play a part (Young 1989b: 353; 1993: 435). Young suggests that regime transformation can result from any or a combination of ← 38 | 39 →changes in the political, economic or social contexts, in the inner dynamics of a regime, or in the issue(s) a regime deals with (1989a: 95–96). The study therefore relies on basic premises of his institutionalist approach with regard to bounded rationality, but enhances these further with insights of the constructivist strand, notably concerning communicative action in processes of regime formation and change. Further, the study also shares assumptions with Krasner’s view that power, understood in material and non-material terms, determines who is involved in inter-state cooperation and by which rules this cooperation functions (Krasner 1991: 340). Purely rational choice and hegemonic stability accounts of regime creation/change are not retained.

Concretely, several potential explanatory factors of regime change and, by extension, of an actor’s influence in an evolving regime context are identified. Exogeneous factors can be very diverse and related to, for instance, alterations in the socio-economic (e.g. a sudden global financial crisis) or political (e.g. an armed conflict in an important strategic theatre) environment that create a demand for or put pressure on a specific regime. Changes in the issue can come in the form of new scientific knowledge about the natural environment that, for instance, increases the urgency with which an environmental problem has to be treated through international cooperation. Factors related to the inner dynamics of a regime concern above all transformed patterns ofinteraction between actors. Following Krasner (1991), power asymmetries can play a role, as changes in the capacities of actors may also alter the way they interact. Further, domestically motivated preference changes that lead to altered strategic behaviour of actors can equally be of importance (Keohane 1989). finally, changing perceptions and beliefs can determine any actor’s activities and change the interaction between actors within a regime (Goldstein/Keohane 1993). By consequence, all these modifications in the internal dynamics of a regime can lead to changes in its set-up.

Bringing the EU-related and regime-related potential explanatory factors together, the causes of EU influence in the case of the global climate regime must thus above all be searched in (i) the context, (ii) the issue(s) under negotiation, and (iii) the internal dynamics of this regime (the ideas, interests, capacities (power) of the – state – actors and how they interact in the regime, including the EU and its actor capacity and activities). In other words, when assessing the EU’s influence on the outcome of a regime process, all these items come into consideration as possible enabling or restraining factors of this influence.

Selecting possible explanatory factors of EU influence in a global regime context is one thing, reducing the scope of the analysis of the specific instance of EU foreign policy in the global climate regime another. In this ← 39 | 40 →respect, Krasner’s (1983: 2) often employed “consensus definition” of a regime can be of use (Hasenclever et al. 1996: 179):

implicit or explicit principles, norms, rules, and decision-making procedures around which actors’ expectations converge in a given area (…). Principles are beliefs of fact, causation, and rectitude. Norms are standards of behavior defined in terms of rights and obligations. Rules are specific prescriptions or proscriptions for action. Decision-making procedures are prevailing practices for making and implementing collective action.

This broad definition is helpful “as a guide for empirical studies” because it identifies various constitutive dimensions of a regime (Hasenclever et al. 1996: 180). Following Aggarwal’s suggestion for a refined terminology, which distinguishes between the rules and decision-making procedures on the one hand and “the principles and norms underlying the development of a regime [which] can be termed a ‘meta-regime’” on the other hand (1985: 18), one can argue that the principles and norms constitute the core of any regime and stand hierarchically above rules and decision-making procedures on implementation. For an analysis of the ever more complex negotiations within the global climate regime, this implies that emphasis can be placed not on the many issues concerning the operationalization of the regime (the rules in Krasner’s definition), but on the essential political discussions on issues related to its key principles and norms. Decisions on these elements will determine the course that regime development will take. Climate politics can thus essentially be regarded as a struggle over the content of what – in line with Aggarwal’s definition – can be referred to as the climate meta-­regime. This climate meta-regime consists, for the time being, of several key principles and a number of norms, i.e. rights and obligations for certain groups of parties. The most significant principles are the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, the precautionary principle and the principle of equity, formally enshrined in Article 3 of the UNFCCC (Betsill 2005; Oberthür/Ott 1999). The equity principle implies that all actors in the regime should be treated equally. It is subject to different interpretations depending on whether it is applied to mitigation, adaptation, decision-making or participation in the regime (Metz 2000). The precautionary principle says, according to the Convention itself, that “where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing such measures” (Art. 3.3 UNFCCC). finally, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities comprises the notion of a common responsibility of all states for the protection of the environment, but takes account of differences in both past and present contributions to environmental degradation and in the capacities to combat environmental problems (Rajamani 2000; Harris 2000: 226–228). The core norm is at the same time the aim ← 40 | 41 →of the entire regime: “The ultimate objective of this Convention and any related legal instruments (…) is to achieve (…) stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” (Art. 2 UNFCCC). It can be considered as a norm – a “standard of behavior” (Krasner 1983: 2) – because it obliges, if not in a legally binding then at least in a moral sense, those who ratify the Convention to work towards “achieving” a stabilization of GHG concentrations in the atmosphere. This requires a specific form of behaviour aimed at reducing emissions.

The exact denotation of both the principles and the rights/obligations is subject to regular (re-)negotiation. Different interpretations of the principles compete, and the determination of the “level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” as well as the necessary actions to achieve this are also constantly contested. Collective decision-making is therefore needed to determine what they mean in a particular context. If the constitutive dimensions of the climate meta-regime represent thus the essence of global climate politics, this implies that impact on the global climate regime by and large passes by influence on the meta-regime. Following this logic, two embedded units of analysis for the case study can be selected:

1.The CBDR principle: it can be seen as a true “belief of rectitude” in the Krasnerian sense, as it incorporates a vision of the historical repartition of responsibility for environmental degradation in the world. The core question that it raises is a deeply political one, namely “who will do what?” in the regime. The principle has to be repeatedly filled with concrete meaning and becomes thus a key object of influence attempts.

2.The core norm (in the sense of obligation) of the regime embodied in the stabilisation objective (Art. 2 UNFCCC): filling this norm with meaning necessitates a definition of the emissions limit needed to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference” with the climate. This central choice of global climate policy is, in turn, deeply linked to a political decision on the nature (binding?/voluntary?) and calculation (per country or per capita emissions?/base year? etc.) of emissions reductions. While the targets and timetables for individual parties to the Convention and its Protocol could be interpreted as rules of a regime (Downie 2005: 66–67), the broader choice on whether obligations are binding or not (and for whom) and the concrete question of the aggregate amplitude they take, based on the individual repartition of the burden among parties, are more than what Krasner calls “pre-/proscriptions”. They have to be considered as the fundamental norms of the climate meta-regime.

← 41 | 42 →Given the centrality and highly political nature of the two items, influence on decisions on the inclusiveness and on the scope of the regime will enable actors to obtain leverage over other parties’ emissions. Such influence is thus crucial for any actor that desires to impact climate regime development. It is therefore assumed that the results of a study of the EU’s influence concerning these two issues allows for statements about its influence on the entire regime.10

Methodological Bases: Analysing and Determining influence

On the basis of these conceptual-theoretical parameters of the study, the final step in the composition of the analytical framework consists in outlining the contours of the methodology applied to analyse and determine EU influence in a global regime context. “Measuring” influence essentially requires determining the causal relationship between an influence-wielder A’s activities and an observed change in the behaviour, beliefs or preferences of actors B, C, D… in complex political contexts. Three “classical approaches” to influence analysis have regularly been identified: positional, reputation and process analysis (Betsill/Correll 2008; Arts/Verschuren 1999: 414). The arguably most developed tool for the assessment of political influence in complex global negotiation contexts combines process and reputation-based methods by effectively triangulating three perspectives (Arts/Verschuren 1999: 416–419): (i) the Ego-perspective, i.e. the self-perception of the influence-wielder E about its impact; (ii) the Alter-perspective, which assesses the view that other players have of E’s performance; and (iii) the Researcher’s analysis, which allows through the study of E’s goal achievement for correcting potential misperceptions (“EAR” method).

The approach to influence analysis employed in this work reverses the logic of the EAR instrument by holding the researcher’s process analysis central and by using the perceptions of the object being studied (EU) and of others (non-EU negotiators, observers) to corroborate findings.11 Process-tracing generally involves the attempt “to identify the intervening causal process – the causal chain and causal mechanism – between an independent variable (or variables) and the outcome of the dependent variable” (Bennett/George 2005: 206–207). In this work, process analysis ← 42 | 43 →can be considered as narration in search for patterns (Gysen et al. 2006). Narratives not only provide a concise account of social events as they unfold, but are also deeply causal in nature because “any explanation resides in its accounting for temporality and sequence” (Somers 1998: 771). Employing such a narrative approach to process analysis allows for a contextualized analysis of a foreign policy actor’s influence attempts and their effects over time by identifying whether the necessary conditions for ascertaining influence are fulfilled. The method yields plausibility rather than probability statements about influence (Huberts 1994: 39; Gysen et al. 2006: 108; Arts/Verschuren 1999: 422). These statements are solidified through a reputation-based variant of influence analysis involving perceptions of EU foreign policy-makers and of non-EU climate negotiators and observers.

To allow also for data collection triangulation, a combination of three techniques is employed in this study: document analysis, semi-structured interviews and indirect or direct observation. first, the study relies on 32 qualitative interviews with EU, EU member states, third states and civil society representatives.12 Second, it draws heavily on document analysis of primary sources including UN,13 EU, EU member state and third country official and unofficial negotiation documents (position papers, negotiation syntheses, press releases etc.). Further sources, mainly used to interpret these documents, are news media, NGO, research institute and think tank coverages of the climate negotiations. A major tool for keeping track of these negotiations are the Earth Negotiation Bulletins (ENB), which provide in-depth accounts of the UN climate talks.14 finally, the study benefits from indirect (via webcast) and direct, non-participatory observation of UN climate talks.15

In practical terms, the process analysis follows a five-step approach that is applied to each of the time periods analysed in Chapters 2 (1991–1995), 3 (1995–1997), 4 (1998–2007), 5 (2007–2009) and 6 (2010–2012), with a special emphasis on the periods leading to the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol (1997) and of Copenhagen Accord (2009).16

← 43 | 44 →Step 1 covers an analysis of the global context involving a brief screening for (i) major scientific advances on climate change and (ii) important events in global climate politics outside the UN arena and other, per se unrelated major events that may impact on climate policies.

Step 2 serves to identify the EU’s and other key actors’ negotiation positions and strategies regarding the two issues of emissions reduction targets and responsibilities prior to the analysed time period. Instead of analysing how the EU attempts to influence all actors within the regime, the study focuses on key players from the three main coalitions that have – besides the EU – been identified as significant throughout the history of the climate regime (Betsill 2005: 108; Yamin/Depledge 2004: 30–59): (i) from JUS(S)CAN(N)Z (Japan, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, with Switzerland and Norway joining during the mid-1990s, and Iceland), which became the “Umbrella Group” later, it focuses on the two major emitters US and Japan; (ii) from the more heterogeneous G-77/China bloc, the analysis focuses on China and India and two significant sub-groupings: the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the Alliance of (42) Small Island States (AOSIS); (iii) Russia and other countries in economic transition are also considered.17 The enquiry starts out with examining EU activities vis-à-vis these key actors and countries,18 taking into account fluctuations within and across coalitions.

Step 3 provides for the crucial narrative of the global regime negotiations, with a focus on the EU’s influence attempts. Emphasis is placed on tracing the negotiations conducted in the framework of COPs/MOPs and of preparatory sessions such as meetings of the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA). The analysis transcends the UN framework to look into other global climate fora, where relevant. Following a discussion of the outcome of a given negotiation period, patterns are extracted to allow for a classification of EU influence attempts and for answering the first research question of how the EU tried to influence the climate regime.

With step 4, the study determines whether the EU actually exerted influence on the two issues under examination, thus answering the second research question. This necessitates a closer look at both the outcome and the story of the climate talks for the purpose of identifying turning ← 44 | 45 →points, i.e. points in time at which a relevant number of actors collectively decides to move from one negotiation phase to the next or to take a final decision on an item (Chasek 2001: 44–49; 150). A turning point can be observed when (i) several actors change their behaviour, converging at least to some extent into one direction, and/or (ii) proposals are eliminated from a negotiation process so that only a small number of options is maintained. Typically, such turning points can be observed at transitions between phases during a negotiation process, e.g. when actors move from the initial positioning phase to negotiations on precursor texts (Depledge 2005; Chasek 2001).

Table 3: Establishing EU influence – Constitutive Dimensions

Constitutive dimensions of the concept of influence

TURNING POINT X: condition fulfilled?


Can an interaction between the EU and the other parties on this item be observed?




Did the EU want to change other actors’ behaviour, preferences or beliefs on this item?


Temporal sequence

Did the EU approach the other parties first?




Did other parties change their behaviour, preferences or beliefs in the direction of the EU? Does the outcome of this item under negotiation reflect (at least in part) EU aims?


Absence of auto-causation

Can the change in other actors’ behaviour, preferences or beliefs be attributed (at least in part) to the EU, i.e. was it not the result of auto-causation in the other actors or of another factor that has to be considered more important than the Union’s intervention?


Note: The dichotomy suggested by the YES/NO assessment per criterion is not so clear-cut, but requires interpretation. Its credibility relies on the empirical evidence provided.

At these points, in-depth narrative and conditional causal analyses become possible, allowing for establishing the share of EU influence. For one, it becomes possible to eliminate actors that can logically not have been influential: if their position was not in line with the outcome at a turning point t1 and only changed afterwards, they cannot have been influential; if their position was, however, completely or partially in concordance with the decision taken at a turning point t1, they may have been (at least partially) influential (Huberts 1994: 41–43; 57–59). If the EU remains among those who were potentially influential, it can be determined whether it actually exerted influence or not by checking whether the constitutive dimensions (necessary conditions) of influence are fulfilled (see ← 45 | 46 →Table 3 for a visualization of this analysis). Concretely, this can be done by answering the following questions: has there been an interaction with other(s) in which the EU approached these other(s) first (interaction, temporal sequence)? With its (inter)actions, did the EU want to alter other actors’ behaviour, preferences of beliefs on the analysed subject matter (purposive behaviour)? Has the EU attained its goals (at least partially and more than it would have without its actions) (Huberts 1994), i.e. have others changed behaviour, preferences or beliefs in the direction of the Union and/or does the overall outcome reflect EU aims? Can the change be attributed to the EU, i.e. was it not the result of auto-causation in the other actors or of another factor that has to be considered more important than the Union’s intervention (counterfactual analysis)?

Besides establishing influence, the causal narrative also provides input into step 5, which serves to answer the third research question by plausibly explaining the EU’s influence. To strengthen and extend the explanations already inherent in the narrative, two pathways are taken: pattern-matching and explanation-building (Yin 2003). Pattern-matching relies on the two sets of assumptions made in this chapter. On the one hand, two causal mechanisms may be at play in an instance of EU influence-wielding (bargaining or arguing) and the process-trace will show whether the EU’s influence attempts and influence are based on the one or the other. On the other hand, explanatory factors that might account for the EU’s influence on the climate regime (context, issue, regime dynamics, EU actor capacity and activities) can be taken as a basis for identifying the scope conditions under which these causal mechanisms are triggered (and EU influence becomes thus possible). Further explanatory factors may emerge from the empirical analysis and can serve to compose a denser account. By bringing these into the picture, the analysis transitions from the moderately deductive logic of pattern-matching to the inductive logic of explanation-building. While this type of explanation will round off the analysis of each time period, Chapter 7 composes a more general account on the basis of a cross-time comparison enabled by the longitudinal character of the study.


1For a more detailed discussion and critique of common conceptualizations of influence, see Schunz 2010: chap. 2.

2The definition is inspired by Cox/Jacobson (1973: 3). influence-wielders and influence targets can be states, but also non-state entities such as NGOs.

3It has to be noted that influence can also be aimed at avoiding change. In this case, an influence-wielder would try – and ultimately succeed in – altering the behaviour, beliefs or preferences of those who desire change.

4Obviously, a change in an influenced actor can also be the result of a third actor’s influence. influence of the analysed actor would in this case already be excluded through any of the first four conditions.

5It has been remarked that arguing as a mode of communication can also be used strategically for bargaining purposes. Yet, according to Risse (2002: 601), in a real negotiation process, this use of arguing will, once challenged by others, either quickly be unmasked as bargaining in disguise or it will transform into genuine arguing as quest for a reasoned consensus when a true exchange of arguments sets in.

6This is a basic, empirically useful definition of arguing. Far-reaching assumptions on the preconditions for arguing to set in between actors are made in Habermas’ original theory of communicative action (1981). His normative criteria for consensus-oriented activity (“verständigungsorientiertes Handeln”) are extremely demanding, including the necessity for actors to accept each other as equals and to share a common lifeworld (“gemeinsame Lebenswelt”). In the context of this work, no such normative assumptions are made. Rather, emphasis is placed on the application of influence acts that can be interpreted as argumentative action in concrete empirical contexts, and on the ex post identification of the conditions under which influence was exerted.

7Both bargaining and arguing are ideal-types, which can overlap and mix in social reality (Risse 2002: 601; Ulbert et al. 2004). Both are necessary to study reality, especially in a context of regime negotiations about international legal rules, which can hardly be understood by exclusively focussing on the analysis of strategic behaviour (Steffek 2005).

8The EU’s participation in a multilateral forum regularly depends, moreover, on an overture created by international law. Via such a provision, the Union can be granted a legal status (e.g. full member, full participant) in UN bodies, endowing it with speaking and voting rights. This aspect of the legal preconditions for EU external actions is addressed in the analysis, where this is relevant.

9Decision-making refers to the definition of the EU’s negotiation positions, while internal coordination depicts the processes of consultation among EU actors during international negotiations on the basis of such positions.

10It should be noted that the two issues are not clear-cut, but, in practice, often linked to others, such as questions on the precise modalities of emissions reduction and, especially, finance and technology transfer, which may become central to reaching agreement on the core pillars of the regime. While focussing on the two issues helps to limit the scope of the analysis, other issues are, if necessary, touched upon.

11See Schunz (2010: chapt. 4) for a detailed explanation of the method.

12See Annex I for an overview. To guarantee anonymity, interviewees’ names remain confidential. Moreover, each interview was attributed a random number so as to render any identifiable link between a specific interview(ee) and a given observation impossible. The transcriptions of the interviews are on file with the author.

13Archival research was carried out at the UNFCCC secretariat in Bonn between 9 and 11 February 2009.


15The author attended, as party delegate, the UN negotiation sessions in Bonn (8–12 June 2009) and Barcelona (2–6 Nov. 2009) as well as COP 15/MOP 5 in Copenhagen (8–19 Dec. 2009).

16Chapter 2 (Historical Foundations) relies to a larger extent on secondary literature.

17Russia and the Ukraine over time joined the Umbrella Group. At the same time, Switzerland has left this negotiation bloc and formed a coalition with Mexico, South Korea and Liechtenstein, referred to as the Environmental Integrity Group.

18To further strengthen the choice of these actors, it has to be noted that they have all figured among the six greatest emitters of greenhouse gases in absolute terms in recent years. For 2007, China led this ranking with 24% of global GHG emissions, followed by the US (22%), the EU (12%), India (8%), Russia (6%) and Japan (PBL 2008).