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Environmental Diplomacy: China’s Attitude and Effort Towards Climate Change

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With the rapid process of industrialization and modernization there has been notable increase in carbon emission leading to global change in climatic conditions in the last two decades. This phenomenon has been occurring worldwide and has drawn concern on mitigating global climate change. However, developed economies have been furthering their economic interests at the expense of the environment through industrialization while others have become victim of the trend of climate change creating a transboundary environmental problem. The concept of environmental diplomacy rose as a result of such transboundary environmental problems in order to negotiate on environmental governance between state entities.

According to Climate Action Tracker, China, the world’s most populous country, alone accounts for around twenty-seven percent of global carbon emission. China itself being subject to ill impacts of climate change and understanding the global threat it poses, has proactively drawn attention of world leaders to formulate and implement policies not just to mitigate the impacts of climate change rather eliminate the problem as a whole. As a rising power, and one of the major contributors to the global carbon footprint, China should play proactive role and cooperate with other international actors in tackling this global problem. This article explores the concept of environmental diplomacy, its emergence and importance, further analyzing China’s Environmental Diplomacy, its formulation in close coordination with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Environmental Diplomacy

Due to its evolving nature, no universally defined definition exists for Environmental Diplomacy. Various scholars from diverse background have defined environmental diplomacy in different ways. Whereas the scholars of environmental studies have defined it as negotiations concerned with conflict resolution over natural resources as well as instrumental use of the environment in resolving disputed and peace building. In reference to international relations, environmental diplomacy is understood asa negotiation between the states on environmental policy. In general terms, environmental diplomacy addresses issues and actions related to environmental security, global environment governance and environmental peace building involving a wide range of actors. As the environment is borderless, the issues continue to be addressed at a multilateral level. Despite different disciplinary backgrounds there is a shared focus on negotiation in studies on environmental diplomacy.

It was in late 1970s the world became aware and grew concerned over this issue when a scientific finding revealed about the phenomena of ‘acid rain’. This phenomenon indicated the initiation of international environmental problem and necessity to exercise international diplomacy was felt. The efforts to exercise environmental diplomacy goes back to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling which was initially signed by 15 nations in 1946 and came into force in 1948. The term environmental diplomacy got prevalence after the formation of United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) in 1973. After the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development(UNCED), known as the Earth Summit or Rio Summit in 1992, the term became more common. Acid rain was only the indication, so far there have been whole lot of transborder environmental problems like high pollution, unusual warming of atmosphere, ecological decline of world oceans, melting of glaciers, extreme weather patterns etc. providing greater attention to need of international environment diplomacy than ever before.

Lawrence Susskind in his book Environmental Diplomacy in 1994implied environment diplomacy to encompass multilateral environmental agreements and mentioned best practices to negotiate them in the context of broader international security priorities. Susskind has pointed out three key areas of scholarship within political science and international relations that the term environment diplomacy has acquired over past twenty years: First, is the environment security, a genre emerged after cold war where scarcity of resources has been posited as a potential source of violent conflict. Second being Global Environment Governance, to understand the key drivers of behavior within organizations that have international underpinnings, particularly within the United Nations’ system. Third, is Environmental Peace-Building where the derivative potential for environmental issues in securing peace actively in situations of conflict.

In June 1992, tens of thousands of official delegates and unofficial activists met in Brazil at an “Earth Summit” sponsored by the United Nations where the world’s attention was focused briefly on these global environmental problems. In 2002, the organizers of the “World Summit on Sustainable Development” (WSSD) purposely took out the word “environment” from the title of what was meant to bea ten-year milestone. Millennium Development Goals became the measure for the following ten years of environmental diplomacy. A forty-nine-page manifesto called the “The Future We Want” within the framework of a “green economy” repackaged the common aspiration towards sustainability at Rio Plus 20 in 2012. All these changes show that our system needs renewed analysis.(Susskind and Ali: Environmental Diplomacy,2015)

UNEP lists over 155 environmental agreement that has been negotiated at regional and global level since 1921. The task of achieving international agreement on any issue is extremely difficult especially for environmental issues. It combines scientific uncertainty, citizen and industry activism, politics and economics. The negotiation themselves are complex and time consuming usually preceded by extensive scientific findings. Humanity has now faced range of environmental problems that affect everyone globally and can only be managed through cooperation between all countries of the world.(Pamela S. Chasek: Earth Negotiation, 2001).

China’s Environmental Diplomacy

As mentioned earlier, China is the “world’s largest emitter of the GHGs” accounting for a staggering twenty-seven percentage. However, it can not be denied that China has also been facing the potential threat of climate change. Since 1990s climate change has been recognized as a source of environmental threat. In China, global warming has led to rise in sea level and extreme weather events causing coastal floodings, degradation and scarcity of water resources. Though China has contributed to regional economic growth, it has also equal role of being region’s largest polluter.Enermous amount of green house gas is emitted by burning of fossil fuel. China is the world’s largest pollutant responsible forcausing global warming. This unwantedrecord has attracted global concernand created pressure on China to take responsibility. In order to protect its image in international arena, China had to take some steps in forming its policy in the area of climate change in context of UNFCCC.

As the consequences of global warming and climate change is increasing, governments have started working unilaterally to adapt and mitigate climate change. The international cooperation on global warming began with in 1992 UNFCCC, signing at the Earth Submit. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol laid a path for reduction of green house gases for developed countries following steps for its implementations. China as an emerging power has been a participant ofin all those negatiationsand is a core member of the negotiation group “China plus G 77”. It is crucial for China to play an influential role as doing so is in the best interest of China, its humongous population and in turn in it’s economy.

In 1990 the Chinese diplomats and environmental professionals joined the Inter-governmental Party on Climate Change (IPCC). Qu Geping, former Minister of Environment Protection Authority made a commitement to support global struggle against climate change. After the five round of engagement of IPCC for negotiation, UNFCCC was established on May 9, 1992. Same year in Rio Summit Chinese former Premier Li Peng adressed that global warming was threatning the national security of relevant countries and signed the UNFCCC. Since then, UNFCCC has been implicated in the concern and agenda setting of Chinese national interest and foreign policy. To join UNFCCC China had to go through three stages. The first stage from 1990-1992 was to make China integrate its principles and  policy into the negotiation of UNFCCC. In the second stage from 1992-1997 great challenge to policy makers where the Kyoto Protocol and trade mechanism imposed on developing countries like Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), Joint Implementation (JI) and Iternational Emission Trade (IET). The third stage from1997 to present where China ratified the Kyoto protocol and beganto introduce Clean Development Mechanism. (Hongyun: Global Warming and China’s Environmental Diplomacy,2008)

Based on Chinese foreign practise from 1992 China possess three charecteristics toward the international struggle against climate change:

  1. China always insists it principle on “common and differential responsibility”
  2. China chooses the strategy of joining the international regimes against climate change formed by developed countries
  3. China tries its best to avoid any concrete responsibility or burden and insists on “no regret” principle.

(Hongyun: Global Warming and China’s Environmental Diplomacy,2008)

In China, National Coordination Committee is responsible for coordinating and formulating policy related to global struggle of climate change. This committee performs two functions: firstly, to cope with climate change issue while protecting its national interest and sovereignty and secondly, to do strategic study on energy and an economic development study in regardsto global climate changes. After its first meeting in 1990, it has only called a conference once just before China joined international negotiation on climate change.

Conclusion

In today’s twenty-first century global warming and climate change have become a major issue. Individual effort of any particular state would not be sustainable enough to fight and reduce impacts of climate change as it is a global phenomena. EveryState-actors should come together underan international regime and make cooperative efforts. The concept of Environmental Diplomacy was introduced to createcooperation between nation-states to negotiate on environmental issue in global level as somecountries have been more victimized than others.Especially industrialized nations are responsible for high proportion of global carbon emissionsleading to global climate change.So far, multiple summit have been held, conventions has been signed and protocols have been issued bounding all most every country. China being the largest GHG emission producer in the world is also a participant of all these negotiations.China has been working on various level to cut down the emission of harmful gases. However, evaluating China’s policy regarding climate change in connection to international regime seems to be of what they call it “no regret” policy. According to which China would not take the burden or full responsibility under international regime of climate change that would reduce China’s economic growth.

References:

Ali,S.H., Vladich,H.V. (2016) Environmental Diplomacy. In C.M Constantinou, P Kerr, P Sharp (Eds),The Sage Handbook of Diplomacy(pp 601-616). City road, 55: SAGE Publication Limited

Susskind, L.E., Ali, S.H. (2015).Environmental diplomacy: negotiating more effective global agreements(2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press

Hongyung, Y. (2008). Global Warming and China’s Environmental Diplomacy. New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Carroll, J.E. (1988). International Environmental Diplomacy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Chasek, P.S. (2001). Earth Negotiation: Analyzing Thirty Years of Environmental Diplomacy.Tokyo: United Nations University Press

Gupta,N. (2008, March 9) Environmental Diplomacy. retrieved from https://www.borgenmagazine.com/environmental-diplomacy/

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Diplomacy

The Digital Diplomacy Revolution

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The way people communicate with one another has changed dramatically. The term “networked society” is used to describe how society has developed, where data is freely transmitted. Knowledge is obtained, contained, interpreted, controlled, and exchanged in almost entirely different ways than previously done. The use of technology, especially the internet and other ICT-based technologies, in the conduct of diplomacy is referred to as digital diplomacy. Covid-19 has ushered in a new age of digital diplomacy, also known as e-diplomacy. It has evolved as one of the instruments for advancing foreign policy. The days of strict government oversight are long gone. Information has a greater impact in today’s “networked” society because it can spread in a matter of seconds or minutes.

For many people, Twitter has been the go-to platform for modern diplomacy. We’ve seen how social media helped the Arab Spring revolution in countries like Tunisia, Yemen, and Egypt. The word “Twiplomacy” was coined to describe diplomacy conducted through Twitter. There are close to 300 Twitter accounts dedicated to heads of state. More recently, during the populist boom, we’ve seen how leaders like Modi and Trump’s Twitter presence aided their electoral performance. Not only governments but also non-state actors, such as terrorists, have used social media to further their goals.

The Rise of Digital Diplomacy

Between March 2020 and the end of 2020, the United Nations headquarters in Geneva hosted 1,200 important international conferences online. The UN has been able to continue its operations on the ground as a result of this. In terms of digital diplomacy, the United States now leads the way. Since 2003, the US State Department has had an e-diplomacy branch, but it was Hillary Clinton who brought it to a whole new dimension. She introduced “21st Century Statecraft,” in 2009, a program aimed at complementing conventional foreign policy techniques with statecraft technologies that completely harness the network and technologies of an interconnected world. The US State Department employs 150 full-time social media workers in the e-diplomacy office.

India’s Use of Social Media in Public Diplomacy

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) sent out its first tweet in 2010, managed by Ambassador Navdeep Suri, then joint secretary and head of the public diplomacy section. Many distressed Indians stuck abroad found Twitter to be a helpful crisis management tool, facilitating the safe evacuation of over 18,000 Indian people from Libya during the civil war in 2011. India aspires to be a trailblazer and is working hard to pave the way for itself to become a global leader. For a nation like India, social media allows for constructive communication about the country’s coming of age as a result of scientific progress, technical advancements, and new ideas advanced by initiatives like digital India. The government should take advantage and expand their public diplomacy agenda more engagingly. The government can intensify its initiatives – even on the foreign policy agenda – in a perfect digital diplomacy setting, and the public can have a more direct channel to communicate with their government. In the age of digital diplomacy, it is critical to address policy context relevant to a world where political views are developed based on knowledge from tweets and social media accounts. As, Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, put it: “The only thing that is constant is change”. Countries must take advantage of the latest digital diplomacy framework to develop the skills needed for the future and to create stable digital channels for future diplomats.

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Diplomacy

Ramifications of The Pandemic In International Relations

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coronavirus people

Ever since the global spread of the COVID-19 virus, claims have been made of the pandemic causing a massive impact in global politics and international relations. In the pre-pandemic era, international relations were defined by increasing bipolarity, greater isolationism, greater trade protectionism and increasing nationalism. While the West led by the US was gradually adopting a protectionist attitude, the East led by China in particular, was looking towards increasing multilateral cooperation. Alongside this, international organizations were seeing their roles diminishing. Moreover, populist leaders and authoritarian governments were gradually gathering influence globally, in stark contrast to a decline in democracy and neo-liberalism. These trends could be seen most clearly in the US/China conflict that has dominated most international relations rhetoric of the 21st century.

Although China had been hit with the pandemic first, through extreme lockdown measures, quick responses, mass screenings, targeted monitoring and an effective socio-political response, the country quickly reversed course and had flattened its curve by March, depicting the resilience of the country. With a mere 87,000 cases as of December 2020 in a country of 1.4 billion people, China’s effective policies to deal with the pandemic can hardly be sidelined. Nevertheless, as the virus had been identified in China first, this triggered a massive backlash from the West, particularly the US, where President Trump blasted China for covering-up details about the virus. Rumors were spread by the White House itself about the virus originating from a Wuhan lab, and the virus was labeled the Wuhan Virus – a move discouraged by the WHO. This inflammatory language worsened relations between the two countries. Going even further, President Trump terminated US involvement in the World Health Organization, claiming it to be controlled by Chinese authorities.

With this move the influence of the world’s most important health organization was weakened, further showcasing the decline of the liberal international world order, due to a diminishing trust in international organizations. Thus, the pre-Covid trend of a lack of trust in international organizations, continued during the COVID-19 pandemic as well. With Trump advocating for closed borders with his “We need the wall more than ever” expressions  on Twitter, and similar far-right leaders like France’s Le Pen ruing the “religion of borderless-ness” for the pandemic, the West’s protectionist, nationalistic ideas showed no signs of abating even during a global crisis.

In stark contrast, the East led by China continued on its path of greater cooperation and interdependence, through bilateral and multilateral engagements. With the US leaving a void in the global leadership spot for handling the pandemic, China stepped in and offered to assist other countries in handling the outbreaks in their respective countries. China’s foreign ministry’s spokesperson,  Hua Chunying, even stated that they would like to share China’s good practice and experience.

Furthering its charm offensive, China started shipping out masks and ventilators to countries that were very badly hit by the pandemic, like Italy, Spain and Serbia. With the countries of the European Union shutting down their borders and hoarding domestic supplies, despite Italy’s pleas for help, Italy turned to China for aid in fighting the coronavirus pandemic. This “mask diplomacy” along with China’s Health Silk Road has served to strengthen global public health governance, as envisioned by China.

Undeniably, the pandemic’s effects in the short-term have been wide-reaching, especially in the social and technological domain. However, expecting global politics and international relations to undergo a transformational change in the long-term, solely due to the COVID-19 pandemic is relatively far-fetched, especially if current global trends are assessed.

The virus may or may not have taken its toll on international diplomacy in the traditional context, but it has certainly shaken many things if not stirred them completely.

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Diplomatic Fiasco: PTI Government’s Failure on the Climate Diplomacy Front

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“Think about this: terrorism, epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – all challenges that know no borders – the reality is that climate change ranks right up there with every single one of them”.– John F. Kerry

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have both declared that unrestrained climate change poses a threat to international peace and security. Presently, climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity. We all will witness its impacts, making it a critical foreign policy and diplomatic issue. Climate change will overturn the 21st century world order and characterize how we live and work. Even so, in the midst  of a global pandemic, it is evident that climate change will be the major issue of this century. As countries will move toward rebuilding their economies after COVID-19, recovery plans will shape the 21st century economy in ways that are clean and green, safe and healthy, and more resilient. Over the last decade, foreign policymakers have taken measures to better understand climate risks. To date, foreign policy responses to climate change have primarily centered on the security repercussions of climate change.

To chart a fresh course ahead, in order to initiate a global fight against climate change, President Joe Biden welcomed a diverse set of leaders from around the globe to explicate the connections between climate security, climate change and broader foreign policy objectives. The list of invitee included world leaders like President Xi Jinping of China and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, PM Modi of India, Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh to attend the two-days meeting to mark Washington’s return to the visible lines of the fight against climate risks. Though, Pakistan have its place in the same region, and fifth-most vulnerable country to climate change, it has been disqualified from the summit. Likewise,  Biden dispatched his climate envoy, former secretary of state John Kerry, to prepare the ground for the summit in meetings with global leaders. The U.S. invited the leaders of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which includes the 17 countries responsible for about 80-percent of global emissions and GDP, along with, heads of countries that are unambiguously vulnerable to climate impacts or are representing robust climate leadership.

The current global efforts towards mainstreaming of climate change in development policies and programs are getting more traction due to expanding avenues of domestic and international climate diplomacy. For developing countries, climate diplomacy is undoubtedly becoming a key incentive to integrate climate change issues into their foreign policy. Pakistan is also a relatively new player in the climate diplomacy arena with a nascent institutional setup. The climate diplomacy adaption experience of Pakistan is still at the embryonic stage. The main problem is the gradual decline in the aptitude and capacity of institution to develop a clear policy route. The policy decline is much more rapid under the PTI government. Pakistan’s ambassadorial clout has eroded over the years due to political unpredictability and economic timidity. Similarly, the government has failed even to built a national narrative on climate change issue. Imran Khan has been warning the world of catastrophe if the climate problem is not addressed, but has failed to come out with a clear policy direction on the issue.

Among the many challenges fronting the Imran Khan government will be tackling the notoriously dysfunctional U.S. – Pakistan relationship. The Biden presidency has designated climate change as a critical theme of its foreign policy, and indeed aware of Pakistan’s deep climate vulnerability. For the first time since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pakistan is not a foreign policy priority for U.S. administration. Many high-ranking Biden government officials, including climate change envoy John Kerry, know Pakistan well. When Kerry was Obama’s secretary of state, co-chaired US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue that counted renewable energy. Anybody familiar with how Islamabad and Washington have interacted over the last 74 years will resort to weary metaphors: a roller-coaster ride, the dynamic between an overbearing mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. Biden and his experienced team of ex-Obama administration officials are likely to press Pakistan – for Islamabad, it is a catch-22 situation. In the indigenous context, internal political strife in Pakistan and economic dependency on other countries have raised questions about our ability to effectively fight our case in international arena. The latest diplomatic fiasco speaks very loud and clear about the government’s inability to deal with fast-changing geopolitics. Washington’s broader interests in Asia, including relationships with China and India, will determine its policy at the Leaders’ Summit on Climate. It seems, Pakistan has no friends in the Biden administration. Thus, out-of-the-box thinking is required for Pakistan’s foreign policy decision makers.

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