Climate change had to be addressed through universal negotiations. This notion was universally accepted (by scientists, NGOs, industry, Northern states, Southern states, and IGOs) and it formed the boundaries for the climate change arena by constituting and defining appropriate levels of participation in this global environmental problem. No potential alternatives were even seriously considered. This chapter demonstrated that neither scientific information nor strategic behavior accounts for the acceptance and prevalence of universal participation. Instead, universal participation came to influence the climate change issue because it structured the political context in which climate change was addressed. Everyone knew what a global response to climate change should look like. Climate change had to be addressed through universal participation because the specific historical conditions, shaped by the ozone depletion negotiations, narrowed the possible definitions of the climate problem to the one actual definition—universal.
Recognizing that universal participation was accepted as a fundamental characteristic of climate change is crucial because this prior understanding had a significant influence on both U.S. negotiating strategies/behaviors as well as the structure of the negotiations themselves. It is impossible to understand U.S. behavior or the flow of the negotiations without first understanding that climate change was ubiquitously defined as a universal problem. Universal participation enabled and shaped U.S. strategic behavior (to the dismay of all parties except industry), but it also allowed the South to link development concerns to climate change when it did not otherwise have the leverage to do so. These implications of universal participation are still being felt long after the FCCC was signed.
Universal participation does not necessarily imply environmentally good or bad outcomes. In fact, while universal participation requirements made the climate change negotiations more equitable, they facilitated a very effective U.S. delaying strategy that continues to hamper efforts toward solving the climate change problem. However, understanding the global governance of climate change must begin with an examination of this underlying commitment to universal participation. As per the expectations of the NLC/CAS framework and the modeling exercises, this underlying commitment can be attributed to an internalized norm for universal participation. A specific universal participation norm (one that highlighted North-first action and common but differentiated responsibility) structured the global response to climate change, influencing actor strategies and the negotiations themselves.
Rather than being the end of the story, however, the FCCC is merely the beginning. The Pick a Number model exercises and the earlier experience of the North-only participation norm remind us that even internal ized and stable norms evolve and sometimes break down. While the governance of climate change began with a stable notion of a global response inherited from ozone depletion, U.S. actions began to call into question the specific nature of a global response. U.S. actions did not alter the normative context, and the FCCC reified crucial participation principles, further locking the international community into universal participation. In the FCCC, universal participation entails common but differentiated responsibilities and the understanding that the Northern states are responsible for taking the first concrete steps to address climate change. However, the seeds of the subsequent debate over universal participation were sown.
Like the Vienna Convention, the FCCC calls for review and reappraisal and for further negotiations to implement its principles. This next set of negotiations would prove to be more contentious, but still shaped by universal participation. The governance of climate change would continue down the path defined by the universal participation norm—a path that would lead to normative contestation and significant debate.
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