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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.
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Chapter 6. Gradually “Back on Track” (2010–2012): EU Influence on the Resumed Post-2012 Global Climate Negotiations

← 250 | 251 →CHAPTER 6

Gradually “Back on Track” (2010–2012)

EU Influence on the Resumed Post-2012 Global Climate Negotiations

The aftermath of one of the most high-level and media-covered global summits in history resembled a hangover of sorts for many: not only had “Hopenhagen” not delivered on what it had been mandated to bring about, it had also led to a great deal of distrust among major parties – both between industrialized players themselves and between actors from the developed and the developing world – undermining parties’ and peoples’ confidence in the multilateral process. It would take some time to adjust to this new situation, re-build trust and re-ignite the far from finished global negotiations. Also within the EU, the “Copenhagen disaster”, as the Swedish Environment Minister had called it, sparked debates about changes to its foreign climate policy. In both cases, however, the controversies had limited effects on actual positions, actors’ behaviour and final outcomes. For that reason, and since the period 2010 to 2012 was more about “saving” the multilateral negotiation process by transitioning toward a novel negotiation phase than about any substantial developments of the climate regime regarding the two issues of targets and inclusiveness, this chapter highlights the major developments in the EU and in the global climate negotiations after the Copenhagen Accord. They resulted in the incorporation of that Accord into the UN process via the “Cancun Agreements” at COP 16/MOP 6, the adoption of the “Durban Package” on a new negotiation process at COP 17/MOP 7 and the endorsement of a general work plan for this process at COP 18/MOP 8 in Doha (“Doha Gateway”).

The Context: Major Developments in Global Politics and Climate Science

Where the Copenhagen summit had complicated relations between players in global climate politics, the overall context in which actors operated throughout the years 2010 to 2012 had not significantly altered as compared to the period 2007 to 2009, with the exception of an observable decrease in the sense of urgency regarding climate change. In terms of ← 251 | 252 →external events, ever since 2008, global, EU and national leaders had been attempting to attenuate the shocks of the economic and financial crises, which would hit the Eurozone particularly hard, diverting attention from climate change and impacting on the finance discussions in global climate talks (Reuters 2011a). What is more, following a devastating earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011, Japan witnessed a major accident at its Fukushima nuclear power plant, resulting in nuclear meltdowns and releases of radioactive material contaminating the surroundings of the site (Goldenberg/Elder 2011). Among the political repercussions of this disaster was a reconsideration of nuclear power in Japan, which would influence the country’s position in global climate talks (Meltzer 2011: 6). Other countries equally re-assessed their energy mixes. While Germany enacted the accelerated phasing out of its nuclear power plants, for instance, France decided, after a reflection period, that it fully trusted the technology. finally, compared to the proliferation of fora witnessed in the mid-2000s, this period was characterized by a higher degree of institutional stability as well as a comparatively lower degree of involvement of the higher political echelons. The issue of climate change itself was hotly debated following the reactions to the “Climategate” scandal, evoked in the introduction to this book. Sceptics used the aftermath of the Copenhagen summit to attack scientists whose research had been cited in the IPCC’s FAR, apparently containing mistakes. Though it played no major role in the negotiations, high degrees of media coverage of this scandal in early 2010 led to negative publicity for climate change. Altogether the post-COP 15 cooldown of relations between key players, the related public perceptions that the Copenhagen summit had failed, the economic crisis management as well as the discreditation of climate science contributed to a shift in the attention of policy-makers, the media and the general public away from the issue of climate change for most of the period discussed here. And this despite the fact that the World Energy Outlook 2011 of the International Energy Agency noted that the possibilities to decisively act against a temperature increase of more than 2°C were becoming slimmer in the absence of swift and comprehensive actions (IEA 2011).

Key Actors in the Global Climate Regime and their Positions

Just like the overall context, the main positions of key actors in the UN climate regime remained rather stable from 2010 to 2012.

In the Umbrella Group, previous positions and trends were reinforced, notably in the United States. In July 2010, the Obama administration’s ambition of passing climate legislation through Congress was disappointed when the “Clean Energy and Security Act” introduced in 2009 was ← 252 | 253 →not pursued by the Democratic majority in the Senate (Daly 2010). The Republican landslide win in the mid-term elections, in which they gained 63 extra seats in the House and six in the Senate, would then imply a very narrow marge for manoeuvre on internal and external climate policies for the US government prior to (and also after) the presidential elections of 2012. As substantive changes of its position on the issues of targets and responsibilities thus became de facto impossible, the US would adjust its strategy in the course of 2010 and 2011, privileging the search for global solutions outside the realm of the UN, more particularly via opening up a new strand of talks under the Copenhagen Accord in 2010 (Phillips 2010; Bowering 2011; Interview US representative 2). When this was resisted through the Cancun Agreements, the US indicated, for the further procedure, that it was only willing to agree to a comprehensive package (ICTSD 2010), and would resist “cherry pick[ing] some issues and not find[ing] the balance” the talks needed (Watts 2010; de la Vina/Ang 2010). The situation in Japan was initially equally similar to the pre-­Copenhagen period. As of 2010, the government was “committed to continue its ambitious emission reduction efforts beyond 2012”, but unwilling to subscribe to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, which it considered as “neither fair nor effective” (MOFA 2010). In 2011, following the nuclear disaster and subsequent debate about nuclear power, the commitment came under pressure, since “without an expansion of nuclear power (…) Japan’s Copenhagen Accord pledge to reduce its emission by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 [would be] difficult to achieve” (Meltzer 2011: 6). Accordingly, the strategy after 2011 was to keep a low profile short of backtracking, while continuing to oppose a second Kyoto Protocol commitment period.1 In similar vein, Canada, Australia and Russia reinforced previous positions, voicing concerns against a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, and stalling in domestic mitigation efforts. While Canada openly pondered the withdrawal from the Protocol in 2010 and would – in late 2011 – de facto leave the treaty, the Australian government had to temporarily shelve the idea of starting an EU-style cap-and-trade system in 2010 (Reuters 2011b; Young 2010). 2011 became then a year of newly intensified efforts at adopting climate measures in Canberra when a carbon tax transitioning into an emissions trading system was put into place (Johnston/Hudson 2011).2

When it comes to the G-77/China, the overall positions and cleavages on the key issues discussed here had remained stable, with a few notable ← 253 | 254 →exceptions, however, concerning strategies rather than positions. On the one hand, the big emerging countries, China and India, recognized a need to collaborate more intensely around the issue of climate and energy politics, bilaterally and in concert with Brazil and South Africa as part of the BASIC group (Hallding et al. 2011). For China, which had taken much of the blame for the failure of the Copenhagen summit (Zhang 2010), but also for India, this would soon be regarded as a vital strategic interest (Michaelowa/Michaelowa 2011: 22). This loose coalition converged around a certain number of “broad principles, but [could] not settle the finer details needed to translate these into concrete contributions for the international negotiating process” (Hallding et al. 2011: 92). BASIC was thus not a “tight negotiating bloc”: South Africa (as designated host of COP 17/MOP 7) and Brazil (as host of the Rio+20 summit in 2012), for instance, frequently showed a less aggressive negotiation stance vis-à-vis industrialized parties than China or India (Hallding et al. 2011: 92–95). On the other hand, AOSIS and the LDCs seemed to increasingly observe instances of desolidarization of the big emerging countries, which prompted them to look for other ways to find solutions to the climate crisis, like teaming up with the more progressive Annex I parties in a newly created forum, the Cartagena Group/Dialogue, which brought together countries from the G-77 (notably AOSIS and LDCs), the Umbrella Group (Australia, New Zealand) and the EU as well as the European Commission in the post-Copenhagen summit era. What continued to unite the entire G-77/China, however, was its joint support for the UN system. Initially, this meant efforts to support the idea that the Copenhagen Accord should become part of the UN negotiation framework (Phillips 2010). After attaining this minimum common objective at Cancun, the G-77/China would find less common ground, given that – for the BASIC countries – fighting off own legally binding measures was essential, while the LDCs and AOSIS desired fast and profound mitigation advances. This cleavage would show especially at the Durban summit and thereafter.

In between these two negotiating blocs, the European Union found itself – alongside a few other players like Norway or Mexico, the host of COP 16/MOP 6 – in a delicate position. In 2010, it took some time to digest what many of its climate negotiators had initially perceived as their marginalization at COP 15, paired to a failure of the global negotiations. Gradually, a set of changes were implemented, affecting its actor capacity, negotiation positions and strategy.

EU actor capacity primarily depends on the existence of legal competences for climate change activities, of decision-making and coordination procedures as well as of external representation arrangements. Major changes after the Copenhagen summit resulted primarily from the modified legal-institutional framework for European external action (on climate change) and were directly related to the entry into force of the ← 254 | 255 →Lisbon Treaty on 1 December 2009. Treaty modifications regarding the issue of climate change represented mainly an institutionalization of previous practices, with Article 191 TFEU stating that “Union policy on the environment shall contribute to (…) the following objectives: (…) promoting measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems, and in particular combating climate change”, which remained a shared competence (Lieb/Maurer 2009: 89). Major Lisbon Treaty provisions regarding foreign policy were related to the creation of the post of a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy 3 (HR) (Art. 18 TEU) and of the European External Action Service (EEAS) (Art. 27 TEU). These institutions and the granting of legal personality to the EU (Art. 47 TEU) were accompanied by an introduction of new rules on who was to do what in the conduct of EU foreign policy, with repercussions for the functioning of its external representation. In general terms, while the “Commission shall ensure the Union’s external representation” outside the CFSP, the HR was primarily responsible for CFSP (Articles 17.1 and 18.2 TEU). Nonetheless, in a programmatic speech at the launch event of the EEAS, the first HR – the UK’s Catherine Ashton – expressed her desire that climate change would also become one of the priorities for the EU diplomats’ future work (Rettmann 2010). This ambiguity about role definitions in EU foreign climate policy could also be found back in the treaty provisions on the conduct of international negotiations leading to agreements: Article 218.3 TFEU stipulated that the “Commission, or the [HR] where the agreement envisaged relates exclusively or principally to the [CFSP], shall submit recommendations to the Council, which shall adopt a decision (…) and, depending on the subject of the agreement envisaged, nominate the Union negotiator or the head of the Union’s negotiating team”. The provision sparked a conflict between the Commission, demanding the right to negotiate on behalf of the EU, and the Council about questions of representation in global environmental fora. It was initially settled to the advantage of the latter.

De facto, the EU’s coordination and representation arrangements therefore underwent only minor modifications. Although efforts were made, notably by the Foreign Ministers of the 27 and in Coreper 1 meetings, to enable a more coherent EU appearance in global climate talks, this was not a major concern for the Environment Ministers. Despite the fact that strategic debates were regularly on the agenda of the WPIEI-CC in 2010, and in spite of exchanges between the EEAS and the Commission about a “renewed and strengthened climate diplomacy” (EEAS/Commission ← 255 | 256 →2011) – leading to minimalistic “Council conclusions on EU Climate Diplomacy” in July 20114 –, a diffuse desire to act more coherently was not translated into any significantly altered outreach. Rather, only a minimum degree of integrated representation was agreed to for the Cancun, Durban and Doha summits, where the Commission played a prominent role alongside the Council Presidencies (2010 Belgium, 2011 Poland, 2012 Cyprus). The Commission’s standing had been boosted by its decision to create, in 2010, the post of a Commissioner for “Climate Action”, supported by a small DG.5 For the rest, the status quo – a system relying on lead negotiators and issue leaders – largely prevailed for all negotiations under the UN umbrella. Outside the UN, the Lisbon Treaty had led to several ambiguities about the EU’s representation, necessitating pragmatic inter-institutional deals. At G-20 summits, for instance, Commission President Barroso would speak for the EU on climate change, whereas the President of the European Council would be responsible for other topics (Pop 2010).

When it comes to the key contours of the Union’s negotiation position, no major changes were observed for the period 2010 to 2012 with regard to its positions on the issues of targets and differentiation. Despite a May 2010 Commission communication that argued for stepping up the Union’s reduction pledge from 20 to 30% (European Commission 2010) and repeated attempts by, e.g., the Environment Ministers of France, Germany and the UK to convince their colleagues of the necessity to move in that direction (Willis 2010a), no sufficient momentum could be generated in the midst of strong resistance notably from the new member states. The conclusions of the June 2010 Environment Council therefore also welcomed Commission efforts, but intended to buy time by “stress[ing] that the abovementioned communication covers a wide range of issues which need to be discussed in-depth in order to prepare the EU for the medium- and longer-term climate change challenges (…) in the international climate negotiations” (Council 2010a: 9). A few days later, the European Council stated that it would “revert to climate change in the autumn, in advance of the Cancun conference” (European Council 2010). This and other key issues remained unsettled in the negotiation directives adopted by the Environment Council and endorsed by the European Council in October 2010 for the Cancun summit. Following similar inconclusive summits in 2011 (Council 2011a), this situation persisted well into 2012 (Agence Europe 2012a).

Where the EU did not manage to advance its positions on these items, also because the substance on the key issues was not expected to ← 256 | 257 →be central to global negotiations during these years, it did continue to consider its internal climate policies as well as its positions on regime development per se, i.e. the questions where and how to proceed with global talks. Internally, a March 2011 Commission communication entitled “A Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050” set the agenda for discussions about how to meet the long-term target of reducing domestic emissions by 80 to 95% by 2050 (European Commission 2011), but decisions were blocked essentially by Poland in 2011 and 2012 (Council 2011b). On the shape of future global negotiations, the Environment Ministers clarified, before COP 16, “the need to anchor all countries’ pledges in Cancun, whether made pursuant to the Copenhagen Accord or otherwise, in the context of the (…) UNFCCC” (Council 2010b: 4). This position represented a re-affirmation of EU commitment to the UN process. When the integration of the Copenhagen Accord into the UN climate regime had been achieved, 2011 saw greater EU efforts to concentrate again on the means of advancing the global negotiation process so as to determine the future of the Kyoto Protocol and close the gap of collective commitments. To address those issues, the Environment Council’s October 2011 negotiation mandate for the Durban summit suggested the adoption of “a roadmap, including a timeline with a final date and process taking into account the 2013–2015 review” of the IPCC for the talks under the Convention (Council 2011a: 2–3). Only if this could be agreed, it confirmed “its openness to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol as part of a transition to a wider legally-binding framework” (Council 2011a: 2–3).

The Negotiation Process and the EU’s Influence Attempts

Following the Copenhagen summit, the year 2010 “was a time of recovery and soul-searching” for global climate politics (La Vina/Ang 2010: 1). As a first act of good will, parties that had made informal pledges at Copenhagen notified, in line with the Accord, the UNFCCC secretariat of their voluntary reduction targets and/or actions. By 31 January 2010, ten Annex I and 20 non-Annex I parties had formally communicated their commitment/action pledges to the secretariat (UNFCCC 2010a). Despite the apparent commitment to honour the Accord, many parties had, however – due to the uncertain legal status of the document and continued distrust – attached conditions to their pledges. The EU had pledged a 20% reduction by 2020 (from 1990 levels) and reiterated its conditional offer of moving to 30%. The US recalled its pre-Copenhagen pledge and made it contingent on the domestic legislative process. Japan had offered 25% reductions by 2020 “premised on the establishment of a fair and effective international framework in which all major economies participate” (UNFCCC 2010a: Japan). China had pledged voluntary and autonomous domestic mitigation ← 257 | 258 →actions: it “will endeavor to lower its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 40–45% by 2020 compared to the 2005 level, increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 15% by 2020” (UNFCCC 2010a: China). India “will endeavour to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 20–25% by 2020 in comparison to the 2005 level” (UNFCCC 2010a: India). Existing pledges fell way short of the 25–40% range for industrialized countries to meet the 2°C target stipulated in the Accord (Ecofys 2010; Curtin 2010: 6).

The COP 15/MOP 5 decisions to continue negotiations under both the AWG-LCA and AWG-KP tracks meant that parties reconvened in the UN regime to try and find common ground. The first post-Copenhagen meeting of the AWG-LCA 9/AWG-KP 11 between 9 and 11 April 2010 in Bonn took place in a charged atmosphere, and resulted mainly in a common understanding about continuing the process in the UN, while leaving the aim of the negotiations for 2010 undefined. Where some parties, including the EU, expressed hope for Cancun to achieve what Copenhagen had not, namely a legally binding outcome with stronger emission reduction efforts, others were looking for far more modest results (ENB 2010a: 12). In the AWG-LCA, the Chair was given the mandate to prepare a new negotiation text for the June session, while the AWG-KP continued its debates on QELROs (ENB 2010a). At this session, the EU, while arguing for using the Copenhagen Accord outcome as guidance for the UN process, kept a rather low profile aimed at trust-building (ENB 2010a: 12). Already at the next session of the two bodies (AWG-LCA 10/AWG-KP 12, 31 May–11 June, Bonn), text-based negotiations were pursued. The AWG-LCA Chair’s negotiation text was gradually updated, but remained controversial, with the G-77/China criticizing it as unbalanced in favour of Annex I countries’ interests for seeing stronger mitigation commitment by developing countries (ENB 2010b: 22). To overcome this imbalance, parties like AOSIS, but also the EU, attempted to join discussions under the two AWGs, but without success (ENB 2010b: 23). In the AWG-KP, no major advances on QELROs were reported (ENB 2010b). Two more meetings would follow prior to the Cancun summit. AWG-LCA 11/AWG-KP 13 (2–6 August 2010, Bonn) would witness debates on a novel AWG-LCA draft text on how to fill the gap between the end of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and a new agreement in the AWG-KP (ENB 2010c). Given the slow pace of the progress in these talks, key UN and EU negotiators began to lower expectations for the Cancun COP. The EU’s lead negotiators, for instance, referred to the talks as a “fragile process” with an unclear finality, re-iterating however the Union’s hope for a balanced set of decisions and a legally binding outcome later on (EU 2010). finally, at AWG-LCA 12/AWG-KP 14 in Tianjin (4–9 October 2010), talks on the draft negotiation texts continued ← 258 | 259 →in both AWGs, but options on crunch issues could not be narrowed down, leaving the bulk of the work to the Cancun summit. Negotiators expected this summit to achieve little, but hopefully “enough to send a signal” that the multilateral process was still alive (ENB 2010d: 15).

Outside the UN regime, discussions among key players were held on bilateral and multilateral bases throughout 2010. During the first months after the Copenhagen COP, these were mostly dedicated to keeping the channels of communication around climate change open. Minilateral meetings with potential interest for the topics under investigation here were those of the G-20 and the Major Economies Forum, the latter of which convened four times in 2010, without tangible outcomes (MEF 2012). New initiatives were started, such as the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, which met for the first time in May 2010 and brought together ministers and climate negotiators from 45 countries in Bonn (BMU 2010). Yet, little momentum was generated by these high-level talks. This was arguably different for the newly created Cartagena Group/Dialogue for Progressive Action, which involved around 30 parties from all negotiation coalitions interested in making advances toward a legally binding global climate agreement (Bowering 2011).6 Founded in the wake of the Copenhagen COP, it held discussions on key issues negotiated in the UN in an effort to identify solutions that could suit both Annex I and non-Annex I parties. Key EU players invested heavily into this Group, which operated out of the limelight during most of 2010, but would be instrumental for the Cancun top and thereafter.

Where none of these meetings had brought any decisive leaps forward, the expectations for COP 16/MOP 6 in Cancun, Mexico (29 November–11 December 2010), were understandably low (La Vina/Ang 2010). Nonetheless, the Mexican COP presidency was determined to make the summit a success, adopting a more open communication style than its Danish predecessors, and striving for convergence on minimum outcomes (ENB 2010e). During the first ten days of the talks, this approach did not yield any major advances. In the COP and AWG-LCA, discussions focused on issues such as mitigation and MRV, with the familiar controversies between developed and developing countries, but also on topics related to the operationalization of the institutions created in the Copenhagen Accord, notably regarding finance (e.g. Green Climate ← 259 | 260 →Fund) (ENB 2011e). In the MOP and AWG-KP, parties continued to search for solutions to adopt emission reduction targets under a second Kyoto Protocol commitment period. From the start of the summit, Japan and Russia, followed by Canada, made it clear that their governments opposed such a second period (Sterk et al. 2011a: 6). It was thus up to the EU to build bridges toward the developing countries, both by signalling openness toward a second commitment period and via coalition-­building with AOSIS, facilitated through previous exchanges in the Cartagena Group (The Guardian 2010). Against the backdrop of rather controversial discussions, observers on the morning of the final day were still unsure whether modest advances would be made or if the summit would end “in a procrastinating failure” (The Guardian 2010). The dynamics of the meeting would become more positive when the Mexican presidency tabled proposals for COP and MOP decisions summarizing the progress and identifying ways forward for both the AWG-LCA and the AWG-KP in the evening of 10 December (Sterk et al. 2011a). Without going into the details of the procedures (for a summary of the discussions, see ENB 2010e), the final plenary demonstrated that these texts could be accepted by all parties, Bolivia excepted. Despite Bolivian resistance, the Mexican presidency gavelled the “Cancun Agreements” through, arguing that one party could not prevent the consensus expressed by all others (ENB 2010e: 28–29). In the end, delegates delivered thus an outcome that essentially anchored previous agreements under the Copenhagen Accord in the UN regime.

In 2011, a comparatively limited number of three preparatory sessions for COP 17/MOP 7 was held within the UN climate regime. The AWG-LCA 14/AWG-KP 16 meeting between 3 and 8 April 2011 in Bangkok focused mainly on discussing a work programme for 2011, notably in the AWG-LCA (ENB 2011a). Debates implicated primarily the G-77/China, whose members had diverging views on whether the implementation of the Cancun Agreements represented a sufficient agenda for future debates – a position supported by China and India, but also the US – or if new paths had to be taken to ensure progress toward the “agreed outcome” stipulated by the Bali Roadmap, which was desired by AOSIS (ENB 2011a: 16). In the end, a work plan could be agreed to. It covered the implementation of Cancun decisions as well as issues related to the Bali Roadmap (above all shared vision including temperature limits, legal nature of the outcome). In the AWG-KP, inevitable debates opposed developing countries, who desired to obtain clear pledges by Annex I parties for the QELROs to be adopted under a second commitment period, to developed countries, who were primarily interested in debating the modalities of reduction targets (ENB 2011b: 16). The EU clearly emphasized its preparedness to engage in such a second period “if the conditions are right”, i.e. if partners from the developing and developed world would engage in activities satisfying ← 260 | 261 →the Union’s long-standing negotiation position (Ten Kate/Airlie 2011). Canada, Russia and Japan (and the US, as non-party to the KP), in the meantime, reiterated that they did not intend to participate in a novel commitment period, while no longer actively opposing discussions on it (ENB 2011b: 16). The subsequent meeting, AWG-LCA 14.2/AWG-KP 16.2 in Bonn (6–17 June 2011), continued the discussions held at Bangkok, especially in the AWG-KP (ENB 2011b). Work in the AWG-LCA was dominated by technical issues regarding implementing elements of the Cancun Agreements, most notably the Technology Mechanism, Adaptation Committee and Green Climate Fund, with limited advances. Little progress was also booked in the parallel debates on advancing talks about developed and developing country mitigation and the legal outcome (ENB 2011b: 24). finally, AWG-LCA 14.3/AWG-KP 16.3, held in Panama City between 1 and 7 October 2011, while advancing on some technical issues related to the implementation of the Cancun Agreements, exacerbated cleavages between key players (Friedman 2011). In the AWG-LCA, debates progressed on the operationalization of new institutions such as the Technology Mechanism, and parties reached an understanding of how to match efforts to limit emissions by developing countries with support from developed countries through the creation of a central “registry” (ENB 2011c: 13). At the same time, discussions about the Green Climate Fund and other components for an overall deal based on the Cancun Agreements as well as debates on a new mandate for negotiations toward a legally binding deal remained controversial (ENB 2011c: 13). Where many industrialized countries, headed by the US, but also China and India, opposed the idea of adopting such a mandate, the EU and AOSIS argued in favour of starting a new negotiation process (ENB 2011c: 14). To ensure good relations with the developing countries, the EU also re-iterated its positions on fast start and long-term finance (ENB 2011c: 13; Friedman 2011). In the AWG-KP, its offer to accept a second commitment period was re-stated, and closely linked to the condition that parties would agree to a mandate for talks on a legally-binding instrument under the Convention in Durban (ENB 2011c: 14). Prior to COP 17, no real advances on major points related to emission reduction targets and actions had thus been booked, but a loose EU-developing country coalition had begun to form.

In extra-UN global climate politics, the year 2011 would witness renewed efforts of bodies like the Major Economies Forum, which brought together leaders in April and September (MEF 2012), or the Petersberg Climate Dialogue attended by Ministers and high-level officials from 35 countries (Berlin, 2–4 July 2011, BMU 2011). Both fora had little impact on the UN talks, however. This was arguably different for the Cartagena Group, which provided fertile grounds for debates among ­progressive parties also in 2011 (Bowering 2011).

← 261 | 262 →The yearly showdown, COP 17/MOP 7 in Durban, South Africa (28 November–9 December 2011), had to deal with mainly two sets of issues. The first one concerned the operationalization of decisions taken in Cancun regarding the Green Climate Fund, the Technology Mechanism plus several other, technical items (e.g. CDM). On these points, which are of less interest for the analysis here, the COP took several decisions discussed elsewhere (see ENB 2011d; Sterk et al. 2011b). Of greater relevance for this study were debates under both the COP and the MOP on the future of the climate regime and its Kyoto Protocol (for a very comprehensive summary, see ENB 2011d). In a move toward finally linking the debates in the two negotiation tracks, the EU formed a “green coalition” with AOSIS and the LDCs, which had emerged from the Cartagena Group. This coalition demanded the clear “roadmap, including a timeline with a final date and process taking into account the 2013–2015 review” for future negotiations on a “legally binding agreement” under the Convention that had been identified in the EU Environment Council’s October negotiating mandate (Council 2011a: 2–3). Only if such a roadmap was adopted would the Union accept a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol (Sterk et al. 2011b). As it pushed hard for this outcome during the entire duration of the talks, countries that had resisted debates on a legally binding outcome – China, India, but also the US, which had apparently thought that the EU would give in and accept a second commitment period without any concessions from other countries (Sterk et al. 2011b: 31) – had to move into the green coalition’s direction, if they did not want to be seen as deal-breakers. This led to a memorable show-down in the final COP plenary when Commissioner Hedegaard and the Indian and Chinese negotiators quarrelled over language for the decision that the COP was to adopt. While Hedegaard assertively insisted on phrasing that would underscore the legally binding nature of the outcome, the Indian delegate wanted to soften the wording of the decision (ENB 2011d: 30; for a reconstruction of this exchange, see Sterk et al. 2011b: 8). The solution was a compromise formula suggested by the US, namely to speak of a future “agreed outcome with legal force” (Verolme 2012: 4). To gain the support of the emerging economies, another concession was made regarding the year of a possible entry into force of such an “agreed outcome” (2020), whereas finance, particularly the operationalization of the Green Climate Fund, was used as an additional sweetener to win over other G-77 members. The outcome of the debates, the “Durban Package” – with decisions to continue the AWG-LCA and the AWG-KP until 2012, adopt a second Kyoto Protocol commitment period and engage in a new regime reform process under the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) – sent the UN climate regime thus “on the road again”, while leaving the magnitude of targets, the sharing of ← 262 | 263 →responsibilities and the precise legal form of the outcome undecided (Sterk et al. 2011b).

The year 2012 was marked by two preparatory sessions for COP 18/ MOP 8 within the UN climate regime. Initially, it was unclear to many negotiators what the talks under the ADP were going to lead to and how they would relate to the ongoing negotiations under the AWG-LCA, whose mandate the COP had extended for one final year to allow for “identifying a global goal for substantially reducing global emissions by 2050” (UNFCCC 2011a: 1, UNFCCC 2011c: 1). As a result, first ADP negotiations held between 14 and 25 May 2012 in Bonn focussed essentially on clarifying procedures and work plans – issues that provoked disputes and could only be settled on the very last day of the session (ENB 2012a; Herold et al. 2012). The agreement that was reached foresaw two workstreams: one on the negotiations for a post-2020 agreement in 2015 and one on a work plan aimed at enhancing the level of ambition beyond 2015 (ENB 2012a). The parallel AWG-LCA 15 debates proved to be equally difficult, as developing country parties stated that they wanted to finalize discussions in this group only when all issues on the Group’s agenda had been conclusively addressed, which was far from being the case (ENB 2012a). AWG-KP 17, by contrast, dealt with very concrete topics regarding the adoption of a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. It did not however succeed in settling key questions (e.g. on the duration of this period) (Herold et al. 2012: 16–17). During a second, informal negotiation session organised in Bangkok (30 Aug. – 5 Sept.), discussions were pursued in all three groups. In the ADP, parties reflected on the legal form of their future agreement and on the “ambition gap” (ENB 2012b). Moreover, roundtables were organised on the two workstreams. Cleavages emerged between, on the one hand, the EU and some progressive, mostly developing country players interested in employing the ADP as leverage to increase mitigation actions prior to and beyond 2020 and, on the other hand, parties like China who wanted to focus on discussions in the AWG-LCA (ENB 2012b). In the latter group, the emerging and many developing countries then again argued against premature closure of debates as long as issues like developed country reduction targets or finance had not been sufficiently addressed (ENB 2012b). In the AWG-KP 17(bis), finally, major pending issues regarding the second Kyoto Protocol commitment period could still not be solved, prompting parties to give the Chair the authority to identify various options so as to facilitate talks in Doha (ENB 2012b).

Outside the UN regime, several major global summits with potential importance for the climate talks were organized in 2012. While the first half of the year was dominated by the preparation and organization of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD or Rio+20 ← 263 | 264 →summit, 13–22 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro), the actual outcome of this summit was judged as rather limited, with close to no implications for the climate negotiations (Beisheim et al. 2012). Other meetings held in 2012 brought together the Major Economies Forum (Rome, 17 April 2012, New York, 27 September 2012), the Third Petersberg Climate Dialogue (Berlin, 16–17 July 2012, BMU 2012) and the Cartagena Group (Herold et al. 2012: 73). finally, on 21 to 23 October 2012, a pre-COP involving 43 parties was organised in Seoul (Herold et al. 2012: 15). While all these meetings did not go much beyond exchanges of positions in which the importance of the UN process was emphasized, interesting interactions outside the multilateral regime occurred in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). They prominently involved the EU. In 2011 the Union had adopted legislation that would impose, as of 2012, a cap on GHG emissions from flights operating to and from EU airports. This implied the inclusion of some 4,000 EU and non-EU-based aircraft operators into its Emissions Trading System. This move initially provoked hostile reactions from 29 member countries of the ICAO, most notably the US and China (Egenhofer/Alessi 2013). In the exchanges that followed, the Union pursued its position with rather unusual firmness.7 In November 2012, the debate took a new turn when the ICAO Council initiated a discussion on the possibility of globally concerted action on aviation and climate change. In reaction to this debate, the European Commission suggested “stopping the clock” in the application of the legislation so as, in its own words, to “demonstrate goodwill towards the successful conclusion” of the ICAO talks (European Commission 2013). Where the aviation debate opened a second important arena for EU foreign climate policy, the Council conclusions containing the Union’s mandate for COP 18/MOP 8 re-called unequivocally that the UN remained the key global climate forum and that “balanced progress on all elements of the package agreed upon in Durban” was its precondition for agreeing to a second commitment period on the Kyoto Protocol at Doha (Council 2012: point 14). The commonly agreed mandate could not mask certain dissonances within the EU, where Poland and a few other Central and Eastern European countries had not only blocked the attempt to step up the Union’s mitigation ambitions to 30% by 2020, but had also prevented an agreement on the (non-)use of “hot air” under the second period of the Kyoto Protocol.

The negotiations of the year 2012 culminated in COP 18/MOP 8, held in Doha, Qatar (26 November – 7 December 2012). Characterized as a “transitional” or “intermediate” COP (ENB 2012c; Marcu 2012), ← 264 | 265 →the aim of this meeting had from the start been two-fold: closing the negotiation tracks opened in Bali and paving the way for the negotiations toward an agreement in 2015. Under the ADP, discussions were pursued under the two workstreams. Workstream 1 focussed on the role of the Convention principles in the further work of the group. Where emerging economies argued that the ADP should be explicitly guided by the CBDR principle, the US was strictly opposed to this (C2ES 2012: 3–4). The EU and others argued for interpreting the Convention principles in an overall evolving global context (ENB 2012c: 16–17). In the end, a soft reference to “the principles of the Convention” was made in the final COP decision (UNFCCC 2013b). In workstream 2, debates concentrated on key issues such as the meaning of some of the concepts under the ADP and on adopting a work plan, which marked also the main result of the talks. In the AWG-LCA, lengthy debates opposed emerging and developed countries (ENB 2012c). Where the former wanted to fully finalize some of the discussions started in Bali (especially on issues such as finance and developed country mitigation), the latter saw advantages in having the ADP as the only future negotiation forum under the UN. By way of compromise, and to enable a closure of this strand in line with what had been agreed at Durban, negotiations on topics such as market mechanisms were effectively shifted into the Subsidiary Bodies. Most importantly, the COP/MOP also witnessed the closure of the AWG-KP, which had to essentially still decide on three issues that had been pending since 2007: the length of the commitment period (eight years as favoured by the EU and the Umbrella Group vs. five years as requested by many developing countries); the magnitude of targets (with the developed countries pledging individual targets and the developing countries demanding greater overall ambition); and the modalities of the use of AAUs. The first two items were quite easily settled in favour of the developed country group, whereas the third issue required a last-minute deal (ENB 2012c). The EU member states (including the initially reluctant Poland) and Australia politically declared not to buy hot air, while Russia, Ukraine and Belarus protested until the end against restrictions on the use of AAUs. Their opposition was judged by the COP Presidency as insufficient to block consensus (ENB 2012c: 27). This paved the way for adopting the “Doha Gateway”.

The Outcomes: the Cancun Agreements, the Durban Package and the Doha Gateway

Between 2010 and 2012, the global climate negotiations produced three outcomes with repercussions for the development of the UN regime and thus, more indirectly than directly, also for the issues of emission reduction targets and differentiation.

← 265 | 266 →The 2010 Cancun Agreements represented a set of decisions taken by the COP and the MOP, which – in essence – formalized the outcomes embodied in the 2009 Copenhagen Accord (Sterk et al. 2011a). On the issues of greatest interest here, emission reduction targets and differentiation, the Agreements under the COP recognized the need for “deep cuts (…) so as to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2°C above pre-industrial levels” and pledged to re-consider this target “on the basis of the best available scientific knowledge, including in relation to a global average temperature rise of 1.5°C” (UNFCCC 2010c: 2). Industrialized countries engaged themselves to attain “quantified economy-wide emission reduction targets” in line with their January 2010 pledges, and the Agreement “urges them” to consider higher targets (UNFCCC 2010c: 7). For developing countries, NAMAs “aimed at achieving a deviation in emissions relative to business-as-usual by 2020” would be included in a registry so as to recognize all NAMAs and match finance, technology and capacity-building support to NAMAs seeking international support (UNFCCC 2010c: 20, 9). These decisions were coupled to a pledge by developed countries of a total of 30 billion USD in fast-start finance to support climate action in developing countries up to 2012 and the intention to raise 100 billion USD by 2020 (UNFCCC 2010c: 15). Besides these key outcomes, the COP decided that a Green Climate Fund, a Technology Mechanism and a novel Adaptation Framework should be put into place (UNFCCC 2010c). The mandate of the AWG-LCA was prolonged by one year (UNFCCC 2010c: 24). Agreements under the MOP were not so substantial, the consensus on a base year (1990) excepted. The final decision simply noted that “further work is needed to convert emission reduction targets into QELROs”, and prolonged the mandate of the AWG-KP indefinitely, stipulating delivery of an outcome “as soon as possible” (UNFCCC 2010b: 2). Although the outcome of the climate negotiations over the year 2010 represented thus an incorporation of decisions taken twelve months earlier in Copenhagen into the UN framework, it was widely celebrated as a success (see, e.g., ENB 2010; Beament 2010; Rajamani 2010b). This prompted some observers to speak of the “Cancun paradox”: processes and outcomes of global climate politics that had been considered insufficient and illegitimate in Copenhagen had suddenly become acceptable, even promising only one year later in Mexico (Audet/Bonin 2010). From a long-term incremental institutionalist perspective, and assuming that this meeting’s purpose was above all to restore faith in the multilateral process, this may indeed be a fair assessment (Bodansky 2011). The state of the climate, however, was not (sufficiently) advanced with these Agreements, which displayed the same shortcomings already discussed for the Copenhagen Accord, ← 266 | 267 →notably the fact that the gap between reduction pledges and prescriptions by the IPCC continued to persist, and that the non-binding “pledge and review” character of the agreement had remained unaltered.

The 2011 Durban Package of decisions that had resulted from the showdown in South Africa did not actually go much beyond the Cancun Agreements regarding the key issues under analysis here. It did, however, kick-start a new negotiation process. Besides a few substantial decisions on the implementation of the Green Climate Fund, the Adaptation and Technology Mechanisms, the main outcome under the COP was the establishment of the “Durban Platform for Enhanced Cooperation” (UNFCCC 2011a). It essentially decided “to launch a process to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties, through a subsidiary body (…) to be known as the” ADP (UNFCCC 2011a: 1). This body was to “complete its work as early as possible but no later than 2015” so that its output could “come into effect and be implemented from 2020” (UNFCCC 2011a: 1). In its deliberations, it was to take account of the fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC, to be fully released in 2014 (UNFCCC 2011a: 2). While neither the approach nor the substance of the decision were truly novel, its new features concerned the dates for the procedure as well as the agreement, especially by China and India, to engage in talks on “an agreed outcome with legal force applicable to all parties”, including developing countries (Verolme 2012: 4). It is noteworthy, in this context, that the Durban documents do not re-iterate the distinction between Annex I and non-Annex I parties, and do not include specific reference to the CBDR principle (Bodansky 2012: 3). Initially, however, the Platform was – similar to what the Bali Roadmap was for the process until 2011/2012 – “little more than an agreement to discuss” some form of legal outcome (Hultman 2011), through which parties have “decided to decide” on this crucial issue (Dupont 2012). As Hultman (2011) notes, “with this declaration, it is possible (but not required) for both developed and emerging economies to take on some kind of emissions reduction target” – whether and how this is going to happen remained unclear even after 2012. The decision by the MOP, based on the work of the AWG-KP, was slightly more concrete: it established “that the second commitment period (…) shall begin on 1 January 2013 and end” either in 2017 or in 2020 (UNFCCC 2011b: 1). Negotiations on this and the concrete QELROs to be adopted were to continue throughout 2012 in the AWG-KP, whose mandate was prolonged until MOP 8 (UNFCCC 2011b: 2). Reactions to the overall outcome of the Durban summit ranged from moderately positive (“milestone” toward final “agreed outcome”) (for a small sample, see Reuters 2011c; Sterk et al. 2011b) to very critical (“nothing new”) (e.g. Carrington 2011; Bruyninckx 2011; Verolme 2012: 3).

← 267 | 268 →The set of outcomes known as the 2012 Doha Gateway represented a combination of COP and MOP decisions that concluded a number of processes started with the 2007 Bali Roadmap, while paving the way for further regime discussions. Main accomplishments included: (i) the closure of the AWG-LCA, five years after the Bali COP. Some of the questions that this Working Group had been unable to settle (e.g. assessment of progress toward reaching QELROs) were transferred to the two Subsidiary Bodies for further debates (UNFCCC 2013a; see also C2ES 2012); (ii) the conclusion of the work of the AWG-KP with the adoption of an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol on a second commitment period (2013–2020). Besides the EU, Australia, Belarus, Iceland, Ka­zakhstan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Norway, Switzerland and Ukraine adopted targets. Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Russia, by contrast, did not. The individual QELROs of the participating parties added up to about 15% of global GHG emissions (C2ES 2012: 2), and the use of AAUs was restricted. Furthermore, parties decided to “revisit” their mitigation pledges in 2014 (UNFCCC 2012: point 7); (iii) the adoption of a work plan, under the ADP, towards the 2015 COP. The plan foresaw a more stringent operating modus for 2013 and 2014 “with a view to making available a negotiating text before May 2015” (UNFCCC 2013b: point 9). All in all, these “modest outcomes” had been expected all along the year 2012 and qualify therefore at best as a “consolidation” stage in the process toward a legally binding outcome (C2ES 2012: 1; Agence Europe 2012c; Marcu 2012). Despite this widespread assessment, certain key negotiators, including EU Climate Commissioner Hedegaard, viewed the Doha Gateway slightly more positively. According to her, although the outcome of COP 18 was “not fantastic”, it built “the bridge from the old climate regime to the new system. We are now on our way to the 2015 global deal. It was not an easy and comfortable ride (…). But we have managed to cross the bridge” (Hedegaard 2012; Agence Europe 2012c). One of the clearly positive outcomes in her view was the reduction of the number of fora in which negotiations would be held: from three (AWG-LCA, AWG-KP, ADP) to one (ADP) (Hedegaard 2012). While this was certainly a potential improvement in light of the difficulties that notably the European Union experienced with the multiplicity of parallel negotiation tracks throughout the years 2007 to 2012 (see Chapter 5), the Doha decisions also added to the existing complexity already in place. In parallel to the targets adopted under the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, the emission reduction pledges made by industrialized and developing countries through the Cancun Agreements will also run until 2020. Even if they are all fulfilled, “the Copenhagen-Cancun pledges, combined with Kyoto’s second commitment period have left a significant ambition gap” when compared to the 2°C objective enshrined in the Copenhagen Accord (European Commission 2013: 6, drawing on ← 268 | 269 →calculations by UNEP 2012). While their fulfilment will need to be monitored closely, new targets will thus have to be negotiated. These targets will normally include developed and developing countries under a single legal agreement, implying a major modification to the long standing division of responsibilities within the climate regime. Although only time will tell if the re-ignition of the global negotiation process in Durban and Doha delivers what the previous process ending in Copenhagen, with prolongations in Cancun, could not,8 it is undisputable that, in terms of environmental effectiveness, no substantial advances in the global combat against climate change could be observed by 2012.

Determining and Explaining the EU’s Influence during the Period 2010 to 2012

The narrative of the years 2010, 2011 and 2012 demonstrates that the global climate talks were gradually brought “back on track” following the problematic Copenhagen summit and its rather painful aftermath. While they had initially been stalled in much of 2010, the Cancun summit restored confidence and Durban and Doha developed the institutional underpinning for a new round of structured global negotiations.

Throughout this period, and following a rather brief moment of paralysis of its foreign climate policy, the EU largely continued behavioural patterns of the past. An analysis of its influence attempts reveals a short period of hesitation in the first few months of 2010. This hesitation had to do with the way the Union’s climate negotiators perceived their own performance and the outcome of the Copenhagen summit, but also with the changes implemented through the Lisbon Treaty. It showed in the Union’s deliberations on both its position and its foreign policy strategy for the global climate negotiations. Starting from the late spring of 2010, however, the EU gradually re-engaged, albeit in a more pragmatic manner, based on lowered expectations and a lower-key profile than in 2009. In 2011, it soon resumed its pre-Copenhagen strategy, and from then on figured among the most active parties in the global climate talks again, notably regarding issues related to long-term regime development. Its major influence attempts in this context consisted in proposing the discussed “road map, including a timeline with a final date and process taking into account the 2013–2015 review” of the IPCC and in offering a QELRO for the second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol. ← 269 | 270 →These diplomatic attempts based on arguing and bargaining offers insert themselves perfectly into behavioural patterns the EU had displayed prior to 2010 (Geden 2011), and which were discussed at length in Chapter 5. The major novelty was that they were now coupled to partially reinforced efforts at coalition-building and a more assertive diplomatic communication around the need for re-igniting the negotiation process. This slightly adapted foreign policy implementation, as will be demonstrated, also earned it some degree of influence. A significant outlier in its behaviour was arguably its rather tough stance on the inclusion of aviation emissions in the ETS, partially revoked in 2012.

To assess the Union’s influence regarding regime development during this three-year period, it is first necessary to identify possible turning points with respect to the key analytical units of emission reduction targets and responsibilities. The three major turning points in global climate talks between 2010 and 2012 arguably occurred during the final stages of the COPs in Cancun, Durban and Doha. A first turning point at COP 16/MOP 6 consisted in the decision to incorporate the Copenhagen Accord into the UN legal process, which implied that the negotiations on global climate policies would continue under the UN umbrella. Turning point 2 during the last hours of COP 17/MOP 7 in South Africa then brought an agreement on a renewed UN climate negotiation process, initiating a sort of “post-2012 negotiations bis”. Turning point 3 at Doha concerned the adoption of a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, through which the EU formally pledged its long-standing 2020 reduction targets and thus contributed to fully ensuring the collective transition to a new negotiation process. The first two turning points thus essentially touched on the issues of where (in which fora) and how (by what rules) the climate regime is developed, determining the modalities of a debate about emission reduction targets and responsibilities. The final turning point concerned also these modalities, but had repercussions for the magnitude of emissions reduction targets.

To establish EU influence at these turning points, the constitutive dimensions of influence can once again be tested. This delivers a straightforward picture for the first turning point: the EU had desired the incorporation of the Copenhagen Accord into the UN climate regime talks and had argued – after a short period of reflection and not as vocally as before – for such a step to be taken at COP 16 (purposive behaviour, interaction). This objective was ultimately attained in Cancun, but not necessarily due to the EU and its actions: it was neither the first, nor the only actor to argue in favour of it. Already at or immediately after COP 15, countries from the BASIC group, AOSIS and the LDCs had expressed their desire in embedding the Accord into UNFCCC structures, and had fiercely defended the UN as the key negotiation arena for global ← 270 | 271 →climate policies, which is why EU leverage over this decision cannot be established (test on goal attainment, temporal sequence: not fulfilled). In counterfactual analysis, it would indeed be difficult to argue that in the absence of EU advocacy for this objective, the same result would not have been accomplished, given the strong pressure from the G-77/China (test on absence of auto-causation: negative). For these reasons, no significant EU influence can be discerned over the major outcome of COP 16/MOP 6. This was also the widely held impression by commentators of the 2010 talks, who highlighted the skilled chairmanship of the Mexican presidency and factors such as the passivity of the US, but, while acknowledging the constructive role played by the EU, did not single out the Union as responsible for the outcome (ENB 2010; Audet/Bonin 2010; Rajamani 2010b; Willis 2010b).

The assessment is quite different for the second turning point. On the decision incorporated in the “Durban Package”, namely to start a new negotiation process to reach a global agreement by 2015, the EU arguably did exert influence. first, the Union designed, as of the second half of 2011 and in the hope of setting the agenda on this issue, a clear position on the need for a renewed “roadmap”, and reached out to partners on this basis (purposive behaviour, temporal sequence, interaction). While some parties (e.g. AOSIS) did not have to be convinced, others – like the BASIC countries and the US – needed to be, which was attained via coalition-building between the EU, AOSIS and the LDCs at COP 17 (goal attainment). Even if the final wording of the deal brokered at that summit may not fully correspond to what the EU had desired, notably as concerns the rather loose phrase “an agreed outcome with legal force” and the year of entry into force of a future agreement (2020), EU influence can be affirmed also from a counterfactual perspective. It is rather probable that had the Union not existed or not adopted this strong stance on the necessity of a new process, no other actor would have done so, or, if it had, would have been able to push this through without the EU’s strong support. As observed in the narrative, other industrialized players were rather passive and disengaged at COP 17/MOP 7, while China and India had to be convinced – and they were (test on absence of auto-causation: positive).9 It can thus be argued that the EU did exert at least partial influence, together with its coalition partners, over this outcome. Reputation analysis drawing on commentators’ views and the self-perception of key EU negotiators largely confirms this observation. Commissioner Hedegaard and her staff praised the EU’s role at Durban, claiming that “Europe has ← 271 | 272 →brought about a new phase in global climate policy” (Hedegaard 2011; Delbeke 2011). This was echoed by other observers, even if they rightly insisted on placing the Durban outcome and the Union’s performance into context: “the role played by the EU can only be considered a success if compared to the abject disappointment of the 2009 COP-15” (Dupont 2012; Vidal/Harvey 2011; ECFR 2012; Verolme 2012; ENB 2011d). If the EU did exert influence over the Durban outcome and thus “re-established itself as a key player in the climate negotiations” (Sterk et al. 2011b: 31; Bäckstrand/Elgström 2013), this influence concerned the future negotiation process rather than the substance of emissions reductions and responsibilities, even if the Chinese and Indian willingness to consider an “agreed outcome with legal force” as well as the absence of a reference to differentiated responsibilities may have repercussions for the distribution of responsibilities in the climate regime. If one moves away from considering solely the very limited EU leverage over the substance of the climate regime during this period, the analysis once again suggests a non-negligible Union influence on keeping regime development negotiations within the UN context. This impact on the institutional framework of global climate talks can even be characterized as high and rather enduring, as the Durban Package obliges parties to at least continue to discuss in the UN regime, and ideally to find solutions by 2015.

It is also in this vein that one has to interpret the EU’s influence at COP 18/MOP 8. Since 2010, the EU had clearly displayed its willingness to contribute to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, even if not all major industrialized countries would join into such a novel commitment (purposive behaviour, temporal sequence). This position was aimed at demonstrating goodwill to both the emerging and developing countries, with the objective of obtaining their green light for a reinvigorated negotiation process in which these players would consider binding commitments for themselves (interaction). While the EU’s stance at Doha was thus not new, and while it failed to rally some of the major industrialized players like Japan, Russia and Canada behind its position, it managed at COP 18/MOP 8 to forge the ultimate decision on the new commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol. This allowed the EU to attain its goals regarding not only some of the key modalities and especially the overall duration of this period (coinciding with the internal timing of its climate policies for 2020), but also in respect of the interlinked transition to a new negotiation process. Without the EU as a strong advocate for this adoption, a second commitment period would not have been very probable, as not only EU negotiators themselves (Hedegaard 2012; Delbeke 2012), but also other commentators have highlighted (Marcu 2012; ENB 2012c) (absence of auto-causation). If the EU did exert influence over this outcome, this has above all significance for the ← 272 | 273 →continuity of the UN regime, as it enabled a transition to a negotiation process in which the responsibilities between parties might be more equally distributed. Almost as a by-product, the EU also gained some leverage over emission reduction targets of the other countries that made commitments, which is not insignificant given the fact that these latter can be regarded as being of a more binding legal nature than the pledges made in the Cancun Agreements. The EU’s influence should not be overstated, however. Its limits can be observed in the fact that (i) major developed countries did not follow its example, (ii) the EU did not really influence the magnitude of other parties’ targets, as its own offer had also remained unaltered since 2007, and (iii) even if the EU obtained the start of new talks towards a legally binding outcome and with targets for all parties, it remained unclear what the final result of the ADP would precisely be, as noted above. In this context, the Union’s incapacity to continue to form fruitful coalitions with developing countries at Doha could have negative repercussions in the medium term (Marcu 2012: 1).

To account for the influence the Union exerted during the period 2010 to 2012, both enabling and constraining factors are briefly considered. When it comes to constraining factors, it is evident that the external context that had not played to the Union’s advantage already before and at Copenhagen would not do so during the three years that followed either. However, internal factors further complicated matters during this period: in the first half of 2010, the EU was in a state of turmoil over the process and outcome of COP 15, with an unclear position on how to proceed. Ever since, internal divisions, and notably the fierce opposition by Poland (the Council Presidency during the second half of 2011), have rendered a reinforced internal climate regime and stronger positioning in global climate politics difficult (Verolme 2012: 10).10 What is more, inter-institutional quarrels over the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty initially did not facilitate deliberations on a stronger foreign (climate) policy implementation and strategy either. As a result, the EU remained rather silent for much of 2010. Only after the Cancun summit did this situation change to some extent: for 2011 and 2012, the EU was at least able to forge a minimum common position, which represented in essence the revival of its long-standing leadership-by-example approach based on reinvigorated old positions and diplomatic means drawing on continued internal policy advances (Geden 2011). When doing so, and this brings the enabling factors into the picture, it benefitted from a general window of opportunity for exerting influence, which had opened up after COP 16. Given the ← 273 | 274 →restored faith in the UN process, but limited investments of other industrialized players and the major emerging economies during this period, discussions on the substance of the regime had become less important than the re-ignition of the process toward negotiating a new global agreement. This provided the EU with the opportunity to step in with its “road map” proposal and resort to a diplomatic strategy that had already proven its worth in the mid-1990s. Greater efforts were invested into coalition-building, notably with the LDCs and AOSIS, and particularly through the Cartagena Group in 2010 and 2011 (Verolme 2012; Bowering 2011), but to a lesser extent already in 2012 when it “failed to build new alliances with the poorest countries and those most vulnerable to climate change, by turning down almost all of the[ir] requests”, according to Green MEP Sandrine Bélier (Agence Europe 2012c; see also Marcu 2012). In 2011 particularly, and based on the force of numbers (EU-27 plus its allies), a more assertive stance in defending its arguments for the road map approach could be adopted, which resulted in the successful exercise of influence at Durban. Its leverage over the Doha outcome can then be explained by its willingness to make a commitment on an emissions reduction target it would, in times of economic crisis, certainly achieve by 2020.

In sum, as the UN regime moved toward the expiry of the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period on 31 December 2012 and recovered from the Copenhagen summit, its proceedings were marked by a high degree of continuity. Despite the crisis of the multilateral process right after COP 15, illustrated by debates about the possibilities of moving forward in smaller coalitions of the willing, the UN climate regime proved a high degree of perseverance. Negotiations were gradually re-centred around the Convention, and, in 2012, moved completely “back on track”. In many ways, over 20 years of climate regime negotiations have thus demonstrated an astonishing resistance to change, which can best be understood with reference to the very nature of multilateral diplomacy in the UN system. A similar evolution was detected for the EU. Where observers had speculated about the “Copenhagen disaster” as a critical juncture for its climate policies in early 2010, a major overhaul of either the Union’s internal or its external climate policy has not occurred. On the contrary, recent developments insert themselves rather well into the overall logic discovered in this longitudinal study: a slow and incremental development of EU actor capacity paired to a gradual expansion of its foreign climate policy based primarily on a leadership-by-example approach.


1The backtracking followed in 2013 when Japan announced to reduce its emissions by 3.8% compared to 2005 by 2020, which would actually result in an increase from 1990 levels.

2At the time of writing, this measure was however expected to be repealed, as of 2014, by the subsequent government.

3The function came with a double-hat: being a Vice-President of the Commission, the Representative also presides over the newly created Foreign Affairs Council and has to ensure the coordination of EU foreign policy (Art. 18, para. 4, 3 TEU).

4The Council debate was held on the request of Germany and the UK and resulted in the commitment “to address climate change at all political levels”, employing also the services of the EEAS (German Foreign Ministry 2011).

5In early 2010, the European Parliament would approve the former Danish President of COP 15, Connie Hedegaard, as first Climate Commissioner.

6The Cartagena Dialogue participants in 2010 were: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, the EU Council Presidency, the European Commission, France, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malawi, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Peru, Rwanda, Samoa, Spain, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom and Uruguay (Casey-Lefkovitz 2010).

7At the same time, the EU actively attempted to intensify its bilateral climate cooperation with major players, especially China (Belis/Schunz 2013).

8In 2013, the negotiations in the global climate regime were indeed slowly advancing toward the 2015 deadline. Among the key outcomes of COP 19 in Warsaw were parties’ pledges to submit national “contributions” towards the envisaged 2020 agreement well in advance of COP 21 (by the first quarter of 2015). The EU, which had proactively argued for a more ambitious “stepwise approach”, expressed its content with this intermediate outcome.

9The question could be posed how big of a sacrifice this was for players like the US, China or India. Nonetheless, it has to be noted that they subscribed to a procedure suggested by the EU.

10For 2012, some observers even remarked that “the climate diplomacy of the EU is faltering due to Poland’s obstruction, which is preventing the EU from increasing its level of ambition” (Agence Europe 2012c).