Initial Conditionshe Meaning of Universal Participation in 1992

As with any governance activity, the drive to implement the FCCC did not begin from a clean slate. These activities took place within a normative context defined by the FCCC.12 The notion of a global response for climate change is directly observable in the FCCC itself and it calls for universal participation, defined by:

• Common but Differentiated Responsibilities

• North-first actions

• Northern assistance for Southern actions13

The FCCC negotiations thus served to deepen the lock-in around the understanding of universal participation that emerged in the ozone depletion negotiations. However, this notion of a global response did not go unchallenged. Internalization of a norm does not make it immune from challenge or change. Though the North-first variant of universal participation dominated the normative context for the FCCC negotiations, a competing notion of a global response—universal commitment—emerged as well and was advocated by the United States. The United States based this competing vision in science, calling upon research noting the growing contributions of Southern states to the climate change problem. The idea of universal commitment did have some cachet in the North—even though most Northern states were angered by U.S. recalcitrance on emissions reductions. However, in the South, universal commitments were viewed with enormous skepticism and derision. Southern states stressed the historical responsibility for the climate change problem that clearly lay with the Northern states.

The U.S. challenge to the North-first global response was not successful, and thus, in the period between 1992 and 1997 when the international community began implementing the principles of the FCCC with rules and regulations, the normative context was initially stable around the North-first variant of universal participation. In the course of these negotiations, however, we see the clear emergence of competing visions of a global response—North-first and universal commitment. We can also see, once again, how underlying norms of participation are at the foundation of the governance of climate change as norm contestation over universal participation fostered a key debate on the road to Kyoto.

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