ENGO Influence in International Climate Change Negotiations - Case Study of the Issue of Post-2012 during COP 11 and COP/MOP 1

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2007

89 Pages, Grade: pass




I. Introduction
1. Subject of the Thesis
2. Research Questions
3. Limitations of the Study
4. Review of Literature
5. Theoretical Approach and Methodology
5.1. Regime Theory
5.2. Stages of Regime Formation
5.3. Power, Interests and Knowledge in Regime Formation
(i) Power-based approach for Regime Formation
(ii) Interest-based approach for Regime Formation
(iii) Knowledge-based approach for Regime formation
5.4. Case Study Approach
5.5. Analytical Framework

II. Climate Change: Science, Policy and ENGOs
1. The Science of Climate Change
2. Development of Climate Regime
2.1. From Rio to Kyoto
2.2. Beyond COP 3: Events Leading to the Entry into Force of the Kyoto Protocol
3. Legal Context of NGO participation in Climate Change Negotiations

III. Case Study Analysis
1. Introduction
2. Beyond Kyoto: Post-2012 climate policy
3. Key Bodies and Relevant Actors in Post-2012 Negotiations
during COP 11 and COP/MOP 1
3.1. The Global Policy Forum
3.2. States/Policy-Makers
(i) The European Union
(iii) G77/China
(iv) OPEC
(v) Economies in Transition
(vi) AOSIS
3.3. Environmental NGOs: Climate Action Network
(i) CAN Membership
(ii) Organisational Profile
(iii) CAN Strategies in International
Climate Negotiations
4. Stages of International Policy Formation
4.1. Agenda Setting: Issue of Post-2012 in the
Negotiating Table
(i) Seminar of Government Experts
(ii) UNFCCC Subsidiary Bodies 22
4.2. Negotiation Phase: COP 11 and COP/MOP 1
4.3. Operationalization: 2006 Implementation of
COP 11 and COP/MOP 1 Decision
(i) UNFCCC Dialogue on Long-Term
Cooperative Action
(ii) Ad Hoc Working Group on Article 3.9
of the Kyoto Protocol
5. Analysis of Evidence of NGO Influence on post-
negotiations at COP 11 and COP/MOP 1
5.1. Evidence of CAN Participation
(i) Access
(ii) Resources
(iii) Activities
6. Evidence of goal attainment
6.1. CAN Policy Goals for COP 11 and
COP/MOP 1 on Post 2012 issue
7. Effects on Negotiation Outcome
8. Effects on Negotiation Process
9. Indicators of NGO Influence
10. Tracing Causal Mechanisms
10.1. Process Tracing
10.2. Counterfactual Analysis

IV. Conclusion


I. Introduction

There is recently a resurgence of attacks in the media against the scientific basis of global climate change and the necessity for political action. Some global warming sceptics from the academic and political sectors accuse majority of climate experts, the media, governments and environmental NGOs of a conspiracy to deceive the public on what they term ‘the great global warming swindle’[1]. Although the scientific community is virtually united behind the idea that the earth’s climate is indeed changing and that human activities are the primary cause of it, it is not difficult to comprehend why a political debate surrounding the issue of whether political action should be undertaken continues to flourish. Global warming is, after all, arguably the greatest scientific and political concern confronted by humanity.

It also comes as no surprise that the scepticism surrounding climate change

Since the first major gathering of states and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) in the 1972 Stockholm Conference to address global environmental problems, the role of environmental NGOs (ENGOs) in international policy making is elevated to the level of significance. States are no longer viewed as the exclusive actor in the formation of international environmental policy. The growing complexity of global environmental problems paved the way for states and international organisations to turn to ENGOs for their expertise and resources. However, despite changes in the role ENGOs play in the global political arena their influence in the formation of international law remains contentious.

One environmental issue characterized by complexity and exigency that concerns ENGOs and states alike is the global warming phenomenon. No other environmental issue has the potential of affecting the way people of all regions of the world live. Indeed, climate change is arguably the international community’s most serious environmental problem to date.

Since its early discovery in the 1960s (Luterbacher and Sprinz, 2001: 24), the science of climate change has advanced and there is now scientific evidence that global climate is warming (IPCC, 2001; 1). The potentially global and long-term detrimental effects of climate change require the concerted action of international actors—states and non-states. Thus, the Kyoto Protocol is envisioned to serve as an initial step taken by all countries in the long battle to address climate change. If science is to be believed, further global action is necessary to achieve the objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), of “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” (Art. 3, UNFCCC).

Unfortunately there are significant players in the climate debate that did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, and states parties to it are divided on how to move forward when the agreement expires in 2012 (hereinafter ‘post-2012’). This dilemma needs to be addressed soon as 2012 is fast approaching. The eleventh sessions of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC and the Conference of Parties serving as the first Meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP11 and COP/MOP1) was the first official gathering of states that formally addressed the issue of post-2012. How the ENGOs, represented by the umbrella organisation Climate Action Network (CAN) took part in the negotiations and whether it has influenced the results in light of the apparent differences of opinion among states is the concern of this thesis.

1. Subject of the Thesis

States and international organisations are formal actors in drawing up international environmental agreements. As mentioned, nongovernmental organisations also has a key role to play. From the time of the adoption of the United Nations Charter in 1945, which provided for accreditation of NGOs (Art. 71), the NGO world experienced exponential growth. Some scholars believe that a critical mass has been reached making NGOs the new “fifth state” on the field of global governance (Fitzduff et.al., 2004:2)[2]. NGOs have, in many places, become significant political actors, and this heterogeneous group has made its presence felt at the local, national, and international levels.

However, the growing numbers of NGOs do not entail a similar transition of their official status under the UN system. As provided in the UN Charter (Art. 4), only states can be members of the organisation. Hence, only voting states have formal powers to determine the outcome of international treaty negotiations. NGOs are subject to rules established by states, if any, for their limited participation in negotiation meetings. Although NGOs are cannot vote during international negotiations, they have devised ways to have an effect on the results of the process. However, the degree of NGO influence in international policymaking varies from one negotiation to another and this is becoming a major subject of interest for legal and NGO scholars.

This study aims to bring the debate on NGO influence to the current stage of international climate change negotiations. This thesis shall explore the influence of key ENGO’s within the legal framework of participation in climate change policymaking with particular focus on the issue of process for negotiation of post-2012 climate policy during the Eleventh Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC and first Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP11 and COP/MOP1) as well as the events leading to and following the said meeting, as may be relevant.

COP 11 and COP/MOP 1 is the first and, to date, the largest gathering of states parties to the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol and NGOs. About 360 non-governmental organisations took part in various capacities in formal and side events where parties discussed, negotiated and adopted important decisions which includes: the operational details of the Kyoto Protocol (a package of decisions known as the “Marrakesh Accords”)[3], and; in accordance with Article 3.9 of the Protocol, COP11 and COP/MOP1 also made decisions on negotiation process for post-2012 commitments.[4] As it is a well-defined and easily identifiable area of negotiations, it is useful as an object of study. For this study, we employ a modified version of the methodology developed by Corell and Betsill (2001) for the analysis of NGO influence in international climate negotiations.

2. Research Questions:

In accordance with the UNFCCC,[5] states parties have regular meetings at the Conference of the Parties (COP) to define relevant issues, formulate and negotiate rules of procedure and future binding policies aimed at achieving the framework convention’s ultimate objective of achieving “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.[6] It was during the third COP in 1997 that states parties agreed to a protocol to the UNFCCC which set binding targets for a group of countries (Annex B) to reduce the global greenhouse gas emissions “by 5% below the 1990 levels”.[7] The first commitment period begins in 2008 until 2012. The protocol also provides that states parties shall initiate consideration of any commitments seven years prior to 2012. Thus, parties to the protocol have the important task of negotiating for post-2012 arrangements, if any, during its regular meeting in 2005.[8]

In December 2005, the twelfth COP and first COP/MOP took place in Montreal, Canada. The most controversial issue in the agenda was the issue of post-2012. As ENGO influence on the result of negotiations on this issue is the subject of this thesis, my first research question is as follows:

1. To what extent did the ENGOs, represented by the umbrella group Climate Action Network (CAN), participate in negotiations leading to the COP 11 and COP/MOP 1 decision on the issue of post-2012 commitment?

In accordance with the chosen methodology, corollary to this question are:

a) Did CAN engage in transmission of information to state decision-makers regarding the issue of post-2012? And what, if any, were the strategies used by CAN to transmit these information?
b) Apart from transmission of information to state decision-makers, are other strategies aimed at promoting its objectives as far as negotiation on the issue of post-2012 is concerned employed by CAN and its members? How has it affected the negotiation process?
c) Are the information transmitted and the strategies employed reflected on the COP 11 and COP/MOP 1 decision on the issue of post-2012?

The second research question is,

2. How can the negotiation outcome of COP11 and COP/MOP1 on the matter of post-2012 climate policy be explained?

The answers to the first two questions are needed in order to answer the final question, which is analytically more interesting.

This case study has a limited scope but the results of this research could be helpful in future research on ENGO-influence in subsequent meetings of parties to the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol when they negotiate for provisions for a post-2012 agreement. It is my hope that further understanding on how ENGOs influence, if at all, the outcome of the international climate negotiations will be generated by this study.

3. Limitations of the Study

Several of the choices I have made for this thesis need specification. First, why did I concentrate on the Eleventh Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC as a case study? The study of NGO influence is context-dependent. NGOs are perceived to have been highly prominent in the final outcome of some international negotiations (i.e., landmines agreement, ozone depletion) but less influential on others. Until the United Nations enacts a treaty defining a uniform policy for NGO participation in all international negotiations, generalizations of NGO-influence in international policy-making remain untenable. Thus, a case study of a particular international negotiation is not only practical, it will also add to the growing field of scholarship already established on the subject of NGO-influence. Further, in the field of climate policy, COP 11 and COP/MOP 1 is a significant milestone in the continuing negotiations. With the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol on February 16, 2005, the Protocol also launched its own governance structure. Just as the COP meetings govern actions under the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol has its own process. At the 11th COP in Montreal, the climate negotiations also had the first Meeting of Parties under Kyoto. Further, during the meeting, a landmark number of NGOs participated in various capacities (i.e., observers, lobbyists, protesters, campaigners, members of government delegations).[9] The parties negotiated and adopted important decisions including the operational details of the Kyoto Protocol (a package of decisions known as the “Marrakesh Accords”)[10] and, in accordance with Article 3.9 of the Protocol, COP/MOP 1 also took decisions on a process for considering further commitments for post-Kyoto, when the first commitment period ends in 2012.[11] As it is a well-defined and easily identifiable area of negotiations, it is useful as an object of study.

Second, why do I focus on the agreement regarding the negotiation process for post-2012 commitments during COP 11 and COP/MOP 1? This is because the issue of post-2012 is the most contentious and important issue, for ENGOs and states alike, during the meeting. Any agreement on post-2012 has major significance to all concerned ENGOs. ENGOs are dissatisfied with the current international set-up under the Kyoto Protocol but they see the treaty as an important initial step towards a broader future agreement. ENGOs, represented by CAN, has proposed a modified climate framework embracing not just Annex I parties but also a sector of developing countries which carbon emissions have grown since the adoption of Kyoto or are expected to grow in the future as a consequence of their current economic system. Thus, like the negotiations leading to the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol, current and future negotiations for post-Kyoto commitments is an interesting subject in the study of NGO influence.

Finally, for this study, the spotlight is on the Climate Action Network (CAN) for the reason that it is the biggest conglomeration of ENGOs involved in climate negotiations since the adoption of UNFCCC. Furthermore, the UNFCCC Secretariat has recognized CAN as a constituency focal point for all ENGOs involved in climate negotiations during COP meetings (UNFCCC Secretariat, 2004).

The period of study shall cover the period beginning with the preparatory meetings leading to COP 11 and COP/MOP 1 including the Seminar of Government Experts and the 22nd meeting of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Bodies and ending with the initial meetings of the UNFCCC Dialogue on Long-Term Cooperative Action and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Article 3.9 of the Kyoto Protocol in 2006. Finally, no interviews with participating personalities are conducted for insufficiency of time and resources. Instead, primary documents such as organizational reports, position papers, speeches and official releases are used in the analysis.

4. Review of Literature

Since the Stockholm Conference on Human Environment in 1972[12], the body of research on NGO participation in global international politics has been continually expanding. Collectively, these studies indicate a gradual but growing influence of NGOs on policy formation addressing global environmental issues.

Literature on NGO influence in international environmental policy can be classified into three categories of inquiry. The first category of research focus on the policy outcome of international negotiations as contained in treaty texts. Bas Arts (1998) focused his examination on the content of the Biological Diversity and Climate Change conventions and how the NGOs managed to influence the wording of the two treaties. His examination of published advocacies of NGOs and the actual text adopted by the states led him to conclude that in these two instances NGO influence was both limited and indirect. While Gulbrandsen and Andresen (2004) agree that NGOs make a difference in global environmental politics, they contest any claims of the extent of actual influence of NGOs in international negotiation outcomes. They criticise NGO scholars who have confused political influence with resources, access to information and delegates, and other NGO activities. For these reason, Gulbrandsen and Andressen examined the influence of NGOs in negotiations on the rules of the Kyoto Protocol (‘Marrakesh Accords’) as contained in the COP7 Report. In terms of NGOs goal attainment, the authors pointed out there was no major breakthroughs in NGO influence on the matter of compliance rules. The most important channel of influence was through alliances made by NGOs with key actors leading to adoption of “the dual approach to compliance proceedings, public participation, and legally binding consequences” (Ibid: 68).

A second category of NGO studies involves the examination of the process and procedure of international policy-making. Cecilia Albin (1999) discusses the circumstances leading to positive contribution by NGOs to international negotiations. The factors favoring substantial NGO influence are appeal to the interests of participating governments, possession of relevant expertise, effective lobbying, framing of issues appealing to wider public concern and public mobilisations over these, and adequate funding. Albin identified the types of NGO activities in international negotiations: problem definition, agenda setting, and goal setting; enforcement of principles and norms; public mobilisation and advocacy; provision of needed information and expertise; lobbying; direct participation in international policy formulation; and monitoring of compliance (Ibid: 378). These span from the preparatory phase to the final phase of securing implementation and are undertaken by NGOs in both informal and official roles. Due to the inconsistency of rules regarding NGO participation in international environmental policy negotiations, Albin concludes that “a principled, consistent and cautious expansion of the chances to participate is long overdue” (Ibid: 385).

Pamela Chasek (1997), in her comparison of eleven cases of multilateral environmental negotiation, advocated the use of phased process analysis by breaking down the negotiating process into a series of phases and turning points to analyse the roles of different actors, the management of issues, the formulation of alliances, and consensus building. By viewing the negotiation process as a succession of phases (i.e., precipitant phase, issue definition, statement of initial positions, drafting/formula building, final bargaining/details, ratification/implementation) Chasek was able to identify relationships between variations in process and outcome. Although the focus of her study is not on NGO influence, its remains relevant and instructive. Her study shows that NGOs exert more influence in the precipitant and issue definition phase whereby governments are pressured to address an environmental issue at the international level or by submitting a draft treaty to governments that addresses the issue of concern. NGOs also significantly influenced treaty negotiations throughout the rest of the process by continued pressures on the delegates to agree before the deadline or by initiating key turning points.

In examining the disenfranchisement of civil society organisations in global governance for sustainable development, Green and Fisher (2004) formulation the dimensions of disenfranchisement as a means of explaining the limitations of NGOs’ capability to influence agenda-setting and decision-making in international negotiations. The first involves the endogenous resources (i.e., money, highly-trained and knowledgeable human resources, political stability) from within the organisation or the country it is based. It is observed that NGO representatives who do not have the ability to communicate in English or who lacks basic information about the mechanics of international treaty negotiations are often left out in the dark during the crucial stages (Ibid: 4). Similarly, NGOs from politically unstable countries are more likely to devote their resources on domestic concerns. The second is what Green and Fisher calls ‘transnational connectivity’ (Ibid: 4) or the means through which NGOs obtain information that in turn promotes engagement in international policy-making. This can be obtained by membership in epistemic communities such as the Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change or the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment. The third dimension is geopolitical status obtained from strategic alliances among NGOs and the alliances of their host country, as well as its endowment of natural resources (Ibid: 5). Prominent NGOs, like World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) and Greenpeace with wealthy host countries, enjoy relative strength vis-à-vis NGOs from developing countries. On specific issues such as biodiversity, NGOs from countries rich in natural resources, like Brazil, enjoy relatively higher levels of participation and influence in shaping the Convention on Biodiversity.

The third category of NGO studies in relation with climate change negotiations is a hybrid of the outcome and process approach. According to Peter Bachrach and Morton Baratz (1962), an analysis of power relations between actors should include the overt decision-making but also an assessment of political procedures, social values, conflicts, non-decision making. Thus, political influence is exercised prior to decision-making (or lack thereof) by issue-formulation, problem definition and agenda-setting. The influence of an actor over overt decision-making, they argue, only constitutes the initial face of power while control over the agenda makes up the second face. According to the ‘second face’ argument, powerful actors and interests have already settled the frames of discussion and to have any relevance, NGOs must adhere to certain values and frames. In this context, Daniel Berlin (2005) goes a step further to explain differences among environmental NGOs by examining the importance of various power resources at NGO’s disposal using the pressure perspective and the status perspective on NGO influence. Berlin argues that influences in international negotiations are demonstrated by NGOs using what he calls insider and outsider strategies. Outsider strategies include demonstrations, direct actions, boycotts and media campaign while insider strategies include provision of research results, scientific assessments, expert advice and policy analysis to decision-makers (Ibid: 2). His argument is that NGOs being a heterogeneous crowd of organisations working within a political context dominated by states compete for resources, funds and attention to promote their own goals (Ibid: 3).

In the third category is the study conducted by Chiarra Giorgetti (1998) on the involvement of NGOs in the negotiations on climate change. Since the case study only involved a specific convention and the proceedings leading to its protocol, Giorgetti was able to provide an almost holistic analysis of the influence of NGO actors on the negotiations by looking not just at the process of involvement but also the inter-group and intra-group relations. She distinguished between two kinds of NGOs, BNGOs and ENGOs, and discussed the methods these two groups employed in furthering their substantive agenda (Ibid: 202). The outcomes of the negotiations are best proof of the extent of pressuring and arm-twisting exerted by ENGOs and BNGOs to ensure that the text reflects their interests. According to Giorgetti, the climate change negotiations established a precedent for the participation of NGOs in international negotiations (Ibid: 212).

NGOs were actively involved in negotiations for a climate change convention from the early phase until the adoption and post-ratification stage. As compared with past environmental treaty negotiations, NGOs, because of their scientific expertise and media tactics, were allowed into formal meetings as observers and were sometimes allowed to intervene during plenary conferences (Ibid: 213). The conflicting agenda of BNGOs and ENGOs made them guard their turfs and exert heavy pressures on governments to protect their interests. Major coalitions were formed to provide greater voice for concerned NGOs. Foremost are the Climate Action Network (CAN) and Global Climate Coalition (GCC), a conglomeration of oil companies and heavy energy users (Ibid: 221). Issues evolved as authoritative scientific findings emerged. For instance, GCC initially contested the science of climate change but after the publication of the Second Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), GCC gave some form of credence to its findings but emphasized the need for further research to clear existing uncertainties as “any action to prevent or reduce GHG emissions would have such a major impact on the U.S. carbon-based economy (Ibid: 225). Giorgetti however emphasized that although there were agreements, there also existed major differences and conflicts from within BNGOs[13] and also ENGOs[14]. To further their advocacies, NGOs utilised different methods of action, namely: lobbying[15] ; influencing the agenda[16] ; and presentation of draft protocol provisions[17]. Giorgetti’s conclusion was that BNGOs and ENGOs involved during the climate negotiations, not being homogenous sectors, had contrasting views between themselves and within their ranks. These differences influence their views on the entire climate change issue and they employed different methods and actions to influence the outcome at the negotiations with varying levels of success.

Peter Newell and Matthew Paterson (1998) take the debate on NGO influence in international negotiations away from liberal institutionalist framework which regard states as rational actors and towards the political economy perspective which regard states as agents in the reproduction of capital. They argue that a perspective which starts from the role of the state in promoting capital accumulation much better explain the state position in international negotiations leading to the adoption of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol. Accordingly, the centrality of fossil fuel in modern capitalist economies and the political realities accompanying the availability of fossil energy in different countries help explain the success of fossil fuel lobbies in limiting the scope of countries’ bargaining position in climate negotiations (Ibid: 680). The strength of fossil fuel lobby had been demonstrated time and again in the EU as well as in the USA throughout the course of the international climate debate.[18] This, according to Newell and Paterson, is proof of the strong influence of fossil fuel companies in shaping international policies to address climate change owing to the current structural power of capital.

Finally, a comparative study of the desertification and climate change agreements by Elisabeth Corell and Michele Betsill (2001) provides a more systematic approach to the study of NGO influence in international negotiations. Corell and Betsill developed an analytical framework to address the lack of systematic approach for the study of NGO influence in international environmental negotiations and strengthen findings of NGO influence in any given case. The framework developed is a complementary approach that combines examinations of NGO participation (activity, access and resources) with goal attainment (Ibid: 105). They argue that this approach provides a richer picture of NGO influence by focusing knowledge and information as the resource with which NGOs exert influence, looking both at the international transmission of information as well as its effects on other actors. To demonstrate the utility of their framework, a comparative analysis of the negotiations of the Desertification Convention and the Kyoto Protocol was conducted. It is suggested that NGO influence is determined by factors such as the manner in which an environmental issue is addressed and negotiated at the international level which varies depending on the nature, history and framing of the issue, the political opportunity structure and the NGO profile (Ibid: 106).

5. Theoretical approach and methodology

5.1. Regime Theory

Regime theory came about in the 1970s as a response to the growing intellectual challenge of collective-actions and partly in response to the political challenge of a declining role of the United States as a dominant actor in international negotiations (Young 1999: 189). The concept of “hegemony” was a creation of realists to explain how international co-operation could occur in a world characterized by anarchy dominated by national interests. Regime theory distances itself from the notion of ‘hegemony’ and recognizes the possibility for selfish actors to cooperate under current international set-up which allows one to cheat and where there is no central authority that stands over national governments (Bjornstad, 2004: 7).

The classic definition of an international regime is that set of ‘principles, norms, rules and decision-making procedures around which actor expectations converge in a given issue arena’ (Krasner 1983: 2). This distinguishes it from an international organisation, and also from international conventions or structures that apply across a wide range of issue areas. It encompasses informal or politically agreed rules and procedures as well as legally binding ones (Greene, 1996: 197). Although states are typically the formal members of regimes, many case studies have demonstrated that non-state actors, such as NGOs, are often very important in the formation and development of international regimes.[19]

Sustained international cooperation is useful and essential for tackling trans-national environmental problems. Agreements negotiated by states, and the development of institutions involving influential international and domestic actors, are key ways in which such cooperation can be organised and maintained. Regimes provide an important framework for the interactions both between international and domestic actors and processes, and between knowledge, power and interests relevant to a particular issue area. Moreover, a regime provides a focus for the formulation and implementation of policies to tackle a particular set of transnational environmental problems (Greene, 1996: 198).

To analyse the process by which international regimes come into existence, Young (1999) suggests distinguishing between at least three stages: agenda formation, negotiation and operationalization. These concepts will be explained in the following section.

5.2 Stages of Regime Formation

One issue being addressed in the current debate on international relations is when and how international regimes are established. I shall not be involved in this exchange of argumentation though it may be interestingly tempting. This thesis shall adopt the widely accepted stages of regime formation developed by Oran Young (1998; Levy, Young, Zurn, 1995: 268). As one of the authors combining neo-liberal and constructivist elements, Young divides the process of regime formation into three stages: “agenda setting” as an open process of consultations before embarking for a concrete regime, “negotiation” as the process of bargaining resulting in a fixed agreement, and international and domestic "operationalization"; on the international level, this is a monitoring apparatus to administer the regime on an ongoing basis, on the domestic levels, it is the diverse ways of governments trying to translate the provisions of the regime from paper into practice. It is worth noting that these three stages are analytical categories which, in practice, may overlap. Nevertheless, the distinction between the stages of regime formation is important since they may involve different players, contexts, driving-forces, path-dependent dynamics, collective-action problems and tactics (Young, 1998: 7).

Agenda setting encompasses how and when an issue arises on the international political agenda, how the issue is framed and, finally, what triggers it to move to the stage of active negotiation. The negotiation stage begins with the initiation of direct, focused negotiations and ends with the adoption of an agreement. Operationalization is the process whereby an agreement moves from paper to practice and typically involves both domestic and international action. Contrary to the belief of cooperation being shaped by interests only, Young finds that each of these stages follows different rationales: in the first stage, ideas are the driving forces of the process, while interests become most important during concrete negotiations. For both international and domestic operationalization, material resources are crucial. Further, states are not the only actors in this process, but they are influenced by non-state actors, especially because international negotiations are linked to domestic bargaining processes.

5.3. Power, Interests and Knowledge in Regime Formation

Empirical research on regimes over the last decade refuted some of the early propositions about their character and formation. It has demonstrated that they come in a variety of types. They can form and operate in a wide diversity of circumstances, and in the absence of hegemonic powers. Moreover, once established, they can survive and influence shifts in the distribution of power in international society, and can persist even if their obligations become inconvenient to one or more powerful states or if there is deterioration in overall relations between their participants. Thus, at least a number of regimes have shown to be robust and can have significant consequences.

In spite of attempts to identify one, it now seems clear that there is no single type of factor or process determining when, why and how regimes develop and what consequences they have. Power and interests certainly play a key role. However, so too do several other factors. For example, understandings from the natural and social sciences typically play an important role in debates about the nature and scale of the environmental problems, their impacts and the formulation and implementation of policy responses. ‘Knowledge’ is clearly a key condition for the rational management of natural resources and the environment. Moreover, scientific and policy processes are in continual interaction, and they shape each other. Thus scientists and environmental knowledge will be influenced by international environmental institutions. But scientific institutions, advisory bodies, ‘epistemic communities’ and individual scientists also typically play a major if not structural role in the development and implementation of such regimes.

Moreover, in addition to power, interests and knowledge, social learning, individual leadership and the international context can also be critical (Levy, Young and Zurn, 1994). Combinations of all such factors, and of different types of actors, are usually significant for any given regime. Their relative importance changes as the regime develops through various stages of agenda-setting, negotiations, and operationalization.

(i) Power-based approach for Regime Formation

For a long time, the study of international power relations has been dominated by realism and neorealism (Arts, et al., 2001: 146). Until the advent of pluralisms, realism and neo-realism claim that power in international relations is concentrated in nation-states. Scholars within neo-realism ascribe little or no causal relevance to regimes (or other international institutions) on international relations (Sydnes, 2001: 789). They argue that given the anarchic character of the international system, with no supra-national global authority, States are left to secure their national interests and needs through the use of material resources.[20] Thus, they agree that non-state actors, such as NGOs, are of little relevance in explaining power relations especially in matters of ‘High Politics’[21] and power games: “…with some exceptions their effect either on capabilities or on objectives is likely to be minimal, and in no way can they be seen themselves as significant actors.” (Willets, cited in Newell 2000, p.3).

The distribution of power is the major variable for neo-realists. States deploy power resources in pursuit of their preferences (Bjornstad, 2004: 12). Neorealists assume an international condition of anarchy—where states protect their capacity for self-help and this capacity is a function of their relative power-- due to lack of central authority. Concerns about relative gains affect the utility functions of states, so that gains of another state detract from one’s own interest[22] (Grieco 1988:500). Therefore, neo-realists argue that the power-based explanation predicts that the interests of dominant states will determine the outcome of international negotiations between highly asymmetric actors in high-salient issues. Hence, non-state actors have little significance (Ibid). That does not mean that (neo)realists deny the existence of non-state actors, nor that they would declare illegitimate the study of non-state actors in its own right. Rather, they argue that nation-states dominate international relations (Reinalda and Verbeek, 2001: 146).

On the other hand, pluralism constitutes a major attempt to incorporate non-state actors into the study of international relations. Pluralism holds that power in the international system is widely dispersed. It ignores the possibility that international power relations result in different hierarchies in different issue areas. It thus treats nation-states and non-state actors as equally influential. If international power relations constitute the point of reference, it will be necessary to develop a theory of such relations between nation-state and non-state actors. Nevertheless, pluralist scholars have demonstrated a tendency to theorize about international organizations and transnational corporations, rather than non-government organizations.

With the end of the Cold War, economic, social and political internationalization, and regional integration schemes, fundamental changes in international power relations paved the way towards a new look at international politics. NGOs became the center attention for many international relations authors. Reinalda and Verbeek (2001: 150, 151), enumerates the sources of NGO influence in international policy formation: expertise on various issues; closeness to target groups of international policies; domestic political constituencies; media access; resources, and; alliance building among NGOs and other political actors . According to Reinalda and Verbeek (Ibid), these sources of influence are “power capabilities that can make NGOs interesting partners for national governments or international organizations”. Hence, in relation with state actors, NGOs are likely to develop a strategy aimed at securing their domestic and international objectives by influencing constituencies that are the domestic basis of support of national governments. And with the constant domestic pressure of reelection, as well as international pressure to survive and adapt, national governments will judge their relations with NGOs accordingly. Furthermore, at present some NGOs are participating in the implementation of influential international organizations’ policies (i.e., World Bank, World Trade Organization). This functional link provides additional source of NGO power leverage over national governments (Ibid: 155).

(ii) Interest-based approach for Regime Formation

The two interest-based approaches to the study of regime formation are the constructionalism, contractualism and the institutional bargaining. Institutions may help overcome obstacles to international cooperation and utilize the integrative potential among states. Constructivists argue that although states pursue their self-interests, they collectively have common interests in a number of issues that can only be realized through cooperation (Keohane, 1984: 97). Constructivists argue that international politics is not necessarily a zero-sum game. A win-win scenario is possible if states pursuing their shared interests. Using rational choice models like the Prisoners’ Dilemma[23], the constructivist theory sees international regimes as an essential instrument that states can use for self and collective gains (Ibid). First, international institutions are the framework within which states define their interests and identities (Wendt, 1987: 336). Second, states form international institutions through their perceptions and actions (Wendt, 1992: 393). Consequently, states do not establish regimes on the basis of predefined interests and identities. Rather, these are defined by the process of regime formation. When established, regimes will become part of States perceptions of their identities and interests. In other words, regimes become ‘‘infused with value’’ beyond their functional attributes (Sydnes, 2001: 790).

Neo-liberal contractualists share the assumptions of neo-realists regarding the anarchic character of the international system. Nonetheless, they view states as relatively free to act upon their interests. According to contractualists, regimes facilitate cooperation by reducing insecurity among states through establishing rules, information systems and enforcement mechanisms. In short, regimes are established by states to overcome collective-action problems, enabling them to reap joint gains. Hence, the interest-based perspective looks at the interplay between interests and institutions (Ibid, 789).

Institutional bargaining, as a model of regime formation, was developed by Oran Young (1998) which, unlike other game theory models, focuses on the bargaining process rather than negotiated regimes. The phrase ‘institutional bargaining’ refers to efforts on the part of autonomous actors to reach agreement among themselves on the terms of constitutional contracts or interlocking sets of rights and rules that are expected to govern their subsequent interactions (Young, 1991: 282). These contracts occasionally take the form of broad framework agreements encompassing the basic order or ordering principles of an entire social system. More often however, institutional bargaining centers on efforts to reach agreement on the provisions of more specialized institutional arrangements or regimes covering particular issue-areas in contrast to the basic ordering principles of the global society. One of Young’s assumptions is that parties in institutional bargaining regularly act under a “veil of uncertainty” regarding their own future positions and interests. In his model, unlike Keohane which considers uncertainty as motivation for states to create regimes to reduce uncertainty, Young considers uncertainty as a condition that enables actors to form regimes (Bjornstad, 2004: 15).

Table 1

Stages of Regime Formation and Related Theories

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Sydnes, 2001: 790

Although interest-based theorists consider NGOs as insignificant actors in regime formation, the presence of uncertainty and the problem of balancing domestic and international political objectives provide room for maneuver to NGOs. International NGOs play a significant role in diminishing uncertainty of states. By advancing their own objectives in the domestic arena, NGOs having international networks are not only able to consolidate their position but more importantly they can assist states pursue their own interests by reducing uncertainty of other states’ possible commitment.

(iii) Knowledge-based approach for regime formation

Proponents of knowledge-based approaches argue that the processes that produce the self-perceptions of states and the interests they advance in their foreign policy are shaped by the normative and causal belief systems held by decision-makers. Consequently, changes in domestic leadership and/or changes in belief systems can trigger changes in foreign policy (Meyer, Hansenclever and Rittberger, 1997: 136). Knowledge and ideas play a role in shaping the perceptions and preferences of actors involved in international policy-making through learning and norm diffusion[24]. If interests are unknown and objectives are uncertain, consensus about policy-relevant understanding can contribute to regime formation. States are still the central actors in international relation, but knowledge-based approach theorists argue that domestic and trans-national non-state actors play a key role in regime formation (Bjornstad, 2004: 19).

With the growing technical uncertainties and complexities of international problems, cognitivists argue that there is an increasing need to recognize that human agency lies at the interstices between knowledge and national actions. For instance, multilateral research about ozone depletion produced clear scientific proof that the shared consequences of this global environmental problem would be severe. Likewise, the shared benefits from precluding further depletion of the ozone layer were seen by all actors as compelling. Prominent NGOs that played a key role in advancing this knowledge include Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and Sierra Club.

5.4. Case Study Approach

Although states are typically the formal members of regimes, many case studies have demonstrated that non-actors had been significant players in the formation and development of several international environmental regimes.

Yin (1994: 13) defines case study approach as appropriate for the study of ‘contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context, especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident’. Hence, the general purpose of case studies is to analyze a specific subject matter in order to study the material in-depth (Bjornstad, 2004: 24). Case study approach is relevant to this thesis because the research questions I have proposed demand an intensive research design to be answered. This study is not meant for theory building but rather an interpretative case study as it is chosen due to an interest in a case per se. Theory is used to organize and comprehend a complex situation involving numerous data.


[1] Wheldon, J., “Greenhouse effect is a myth, say scientists,” The Daily Mail (5 May 2007). Accessed at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/technology/technology.html?in_article_id=440049&in_page_id=1965 on 5 March 2007.

[2] In 1994, the Union of International Associations listed over fifteen thousand NGOs (Weiss and Gordenker, 1996: 17), while in 2000, it was estimated that there were over two million NGOs in the United States, sixty-five thousand in Russia and twenty-one thousand in the Philippines (Ibid: 7).

[3] These decisions contain guidelines for how the Protocol will function, such as those relating to the “flexible mechanisms” intended to help parties reach their emissions targets in a cost-effective way, and a compliance mechanism.

[4] Earth Negotiations Bulletin, Vol. 12 No. 219 (December 12, 2005), accessed at http://www.iisd.ca/climate/cop11/ on 21 May 2006.

[5] See, Article 7 UNFCCC

[6] See, Article 2 UNFCCC

[7] Article 3.1, Kyoto Protocol

[8] “Commitments for subsequent periods for Parties included in Annex I shall be established in amendments to Annex B to this Protocol, which shall be adopted in accordance with the provisions of Article 21, paragraph 7. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol shall initiate the consideration of such commitments at least seven years before the end of the first commitment period…xxx” Article 3.9, Kyoto Protocol .

[9] ENB, 28 November 2005, Vol 12, No. 280. at http://www.iisd.ca/climate/cop11.

[10] These decisions contain guidelines for how the Protocol will function, such as those relating to the “flexible mechanisms” intended to help parties reach their emissions targets in a cost-effective way, and a compliance mechanism.

[11] Earth Negotiations Bulletin, Vol. 12 No. 219 (December 12, 2005), accessed at http://www.iisd.ca/climate/cop11/ on 21 May 2006.

[12] The Stockholm Conference was unique because for the first time, environmental NGOs participated and met in parallel sessions in an attempt to influence the policy crafting of the formal negotiations. This established a new model for the inclusion of NGO participation into the policy arena, as evidenced by subsequent United Nations Conferences echoing a similar organisational format. During the Stockholm Conference accredited NGOs outnumbered governmental delegations two to one (Florin, 2001: 38)

[13] While some BNGOs led by GCC suggest for suspension of any action other BNGOs like the International Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCP) and insurance and reinsurance companies called for greater participation from concerned sectors to manage the risks associated with global warming.

[14] Giorgetti classified ENGOs involved in climate negotiations as ‘mainstream’ groups and ‘deep ecologists’ (Giorgetti, 1998: 219). According to her, while the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) supported market-based mechanisms, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club disagreed.

[15] ENGOs lobbied through daily publications during conferences, protest actions, and openly criticising positions of delegates which they did not favour. BNGO’s on the other hand tried to reach and influence government delegates by publicly stating their positions, organising conferences, and bringing their own experts to the negotiations (Ibid: 239).

[16] BNGOs and ENGOs used their official access to the Convention during plenary sessions to define and redefine specific issues on the agenda. In addition, NGOs used the opportunity to present their positions on the floor before the delegates to bring to the agenda items left out by the parties (Ibid: 242-243)

[17] As they were not allowed by the rules to propose drafts directly to the Secretariat, NGOs used their relations with delegates to influence the proposals of parties. For example, the Foundation of International and Environmental Law (FIELD) represented the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) at the negotiations (Ibid: 243).

[18] According to Newell and Paterson, the proposals of the European Union for a community-wide carbon tax was strongly criticized by European industrialists led by Europia (the European Petroleum Industry Association) who lobbied governments to drop the proposal as being politically unrealistic. The EC carbon tax proposal instead became conditional on similar actions being adopted by industrial competitors such as the United States and Japan. In addition, caveats were included exempting energy-intensive industries and major exporters from the tax. Eventually, the proposal instead became a recommendation for legislation to EU member states (Ibid:685-686). In the United States, it appears that even during the UNCED negotiations on a climate change convention, fossil fuel companies have successfully lobbied the government to instruct the US delegation to deflect attention away from issues that may damage the interests of the fossil fuel industries. US delegate were encouraged to focus on the many remaining scientific uncertainties and ambiguities in relation to cost, a position which faithfully echoed the position of fossil fuel companies (Ibid).

[19] See, for example: Elliot, 1994; Princen and Finger 1994; Petersen, 1992.

[20] Applied to the formation of resource regimes the potential sources of power are generally not military force, but rather threats or promises related to economical sanctions, aid and investments, opting out, non-compliance, access to resources, and so forth.

[21] The low regard by neo-realists to NGOs is founded on the well-known distinction between ‘high politics’ and ‘low politics’. To a realist, security is at the heart of international politics and it structures power relations in other issue areas. This implies that non-state actors are expected to have no influence at all on security relations, while their capacity to maneouver in ‘low politics’ issue areas is conditioned by the states’ interests not just in the issue at stake, but also in their security relations. NGOs are completely ignored or assumed to be instruments of the most powerful nation-states.

[22] Otherwise known as distributive bargaining, neo-realists argue that states negotiate about fixed values in a zero-sum game. States try to maximise their own utility at the expense of other states.

[23] The point of departure in this dilemma is two actors who prefer to cooperate rather than refrain from cooperation, but both actors will gain more if only the other actor cooperates. The result of the game is that both actors refrain from cooperation; no matter what the other actor does, it will be beneficial not to cooperate. Thus, individual rationality often results in collective sub-optimal outcomes due to problems of coordination and fear of cheating. This fear is created by an uncertainty about other states’ own objectives and interests.

[24] The nature of environmental politics makes it sensitive to cognitive factors such as scientific knowledge, exchange of ideas and processes of argumentation. Thus, international negotiations can be an arena for learning and internationalisation of norms (Liftin, 1994:3).

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ENGO Influence in International Climate Change Negotiations - Case Study of the Issue of Post-2012 during COP 11 and COP/MOP 1
University of the West of England, Bristol  (School of Law)
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ENGO, Influence, International, Climate, Change, Negotiations, Case, Study, Issue, Post-2012, COP/MOP, Masters
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MSc Rabbi Deloso (Author), 2007, ENGO Influence in International Climate Change Negotiations - Case Study of the Issue of Post-2012 during COP 11 and COP/MOP 1, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/118449


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