Before 1988 it would be curious to discuss climate change as existing within a normative political context. To this point, climate change was primarily a scientific issue and scientists were the main protagonists in climate change conferences. As the issue began to attract political attention the normative context stressing universal participation became clear. The seeds of this understanding were evident at conferences in 1988 and in the IPCC process. By 1989, universal participation was well entrenched.
In 1988, the Toronto Conference, "The Changing Atmosphere: Implications for Global Security," blurred the line between scientific conference and policy discussion. Though it was not a formal political session (most attendants were scientists), the forty-eight nations represented (including two heads of state) did call for the development of a climate change convention.42 In line with the participation requirement being developed at the time in the ozone depletion proceedings, the conferees called for Northern states to take the lead and agree to cut carbon dioxide emissions, while also insisting that the North should aid the South in fighting climate change.43 While the conference recommendations had no legal status, it is noteworthy that the participating nations felt that "[f]urther conferences or meetings on an international agreement on atmospheric changes should include greater participation from both developing countries and the members of the Eastern Bloc."44 The statements made at the Toronto conference reiterated the concurrent concerns with Southern participation in the MP process, where the universal participation norm was gaining momentum in the midst of the cascade stage of the norm life cycle.
Nineteen-eighty-eight also saw the inauguration of the IPCC in November. UNEP and the WMO created the panel to research and report the current state of climate change knowledge. Thirty states undertook this largely scientific enterprise (eleven developing, including the crucial Southern states: India, China, and Brazil) in three working groups: the science of climate change, the impacts of climate change, and potential policy responses to climate change.45 The express purpose of the IPCC was to provide a firm foundation for future negotiations. The North-heavy makeup of the panel reflected the current state of climate science expertise, rather than an understanding of appropriate participation. However, the IPCC was not immune to the alterations of the normative context ongoing in the ozone negotiations.
At the second meeting of the IPCC in 1989, Tolba stressed that Southern states "want to participate in the scientific and decision-making aspects of climate change, but do not have the funds for the facilities, scientists' training, and sophisticated equipment."46 At the same meeting, funds were proposed to assist Southern states in getting up to speed on the climate change issue. Ahmed Djoghlaf, vice chairman of the eventual negotiating committee, noted, "[T]he work of the IPCC was accorded much greater legitimacy following the decision at its second session to set up a Special Committee on the Problems of Developing Countries."47 After this session, Southern participation on the panel rose to fifty-four.48
By December 1988, growing scientific activities and knowledge fostered a sense of urgency about the potentially devastating effects of global warming, and the nations of the world were beginning to contemplate the need to take political action to address this scientific problem. The UN General Assembly made these concerns tangible when it passed the "Protection of global climate for present and future generations of mankind" resolution.49 This resolution, among other things:
1. Recognizes that climate change is a common concerns of mankind, since climate is an essential condition which sustains life on earth;
2. Determines that necessary and timely action should be taken to deal with climate change within a global framework.50
Thus, the international community embarked on a course of research and policymaking with the goal of conceiving ways to address the climate change problem within an entrenched political context stressing universal participation. This normative context was made manifest at two major conferences in 1989 and 1990, in the actions of UNEP, as well as in the transfer of negotiating authority from UNEP to the UN General Assembly.
At a 1989 conference in Noordwijk, Netherlands, sixty-eight states (roughly half North and half South) convened the first ministerial-level meeting on climate change. This meeting was designed to lay a foundation for convention negotiations and to increase the participation in the convention process.51 The Ministerial Declaration reflected the participation concerns and recommended:
that [a climate change] convention will be framed in such a way as to gain the adherence of the largest possible number and most suitably balanced spread of countries.52
In addition, by this time, development issues were already high on the agenda—a clear signal of the existence and importance of universal participation. The Noordwijk meeting specifically addressed the issues of financial assistance and technology transfer, further acknowledging in the final declaration that "developing countries will need to be assisted financially and technically."53 This followed directly from the understanding of a global response developed in the ozone depletion negotiations. The South was at Noordwijk, and their issues were on the agenda from the political beginning. Critically, the United States and other Northern states agreed in principle with the need to provide development assistance even though the South did not (objectively) have the leverage to force the linkage of their issues with climate change.
Universal participation and the consequent concern with development assistance continued to be a major concern at the 1990 SWCC. This conference, initially envisioned to include twenty to thirty industrialized nations, ballooned to a conference attended by 137 states.54 When the SWCC was originally conceived, universal participation had yet to solidify as a norm. By 1990, however, universal participation had become a fact of the climate change issue. Daniel Bodansky noted that at the SWCC, the Southern perspective was "forcefully expressed in its own voice" for the first time.55 At the conference itself, Margaret Thatcher remarked, "[O]ur immediate task this week is to carry as many countries as possible with us, so that we can negotiate a successful convention on climate change in 1992."56
Development issues loomed large at the SWCC—a consequence of Southern participation. In his opening remarks, Tolba stressed that a main criterion for the negotiating process would be the needs of the South,57 and the ministerial declaration produced by the conference called for a global response. The conferees urged "all countries and regional economic integration organizations to join in [climate convention] negotiations,"58 while also recognizing that the North should take the lead, and that the South needs "adequate and additional financial resources."59
Both Northern and Southern states understood the requirement of universal participation, and the institutional context (IPCC, UNEP, WMO) in which climate change was addressed further reinforced the requirement's appropriateness. UNEP and Tolba clearly viewed universal participation as crucial, and focused on development issues as they did in the earlier ozone negotiations.60 Even as early as 1988, Richard Smith (U.S. State Department) testified to Congress that UNEP activities "focused largely on developing countries, promoting the consideration of climate factors in national policy decisions on alternatives for development."61 Further, Tolba himself testified before Congress in 1989 and argued that Southern states "have a right to development" as well as noting that "developing countries have a role to play in coming up with solutions to international environmental concerns."62
Nothing made the acceptance of universal participation more unmistakable, however, than the decision in the UN to move the climate change negotiations from the auspices of UNEP (already a universal participation advocate) to the General Assembly itself. This move, pushed by the South, but acceded to by the North,63 was designed to "achieve an appropriate balance between environmental and developmental issues."64 As attentive as Tolba and UNEP had been to Southern concerns and as diligently as Tolba had represented Southern perspectives in the ozone negotiations, the South was ready to fully participate on its own and push its own agenda, and they believed the General Assembly would be more equitable.65 Again we see the subtle workings of the participation norm. Southern states now viewed themselves as full participants in the climate change negotiations—where they did not view themselves this way in the ozone depletion negotiations only five years before.
Universal participation thus structured the initial political context for the climate change negotiations that commenced in February 1991. Northern states, fresh from the transformation of their rule models in ozone depletion, called for and facilitated universal participation early in the climate change negotiations.66 Southern states, slow to get involved with climate change when it was solely a scientific issue, participated in large numbers once it became clear that international negotiations would be the manner in which the international community addressed climate change. The nature of the global response to climate change was becoming clear and it looked very familiar—there would be universal participation, and states understood this to mean: common but differentiated responsibilities, North-first action, and Northern support for Southern participation.
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