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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

Soft Power Dynamics in Middle Eastern Conflict

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The Middle East is synonymous with eternal conflict as being at the cross-point between Africa, Europe, and Asia.

The paper intends to understand how the power could be derived from the cultural roots in a world filled with pre-existing biases based on religious values, nationality, and interpretation of history.

Palestine receives strong international support through social media by sharing its pain and grievances increasing its soft power that hampers Israel’s international relations. A new question emerges can the soft power paradigm be used to resolve the problem?  

The roots of the Middle Eastern problem are driven by historical-religious literature which shows the Middle East to be the historic homeland of Jews and they wanted to get back to their original homeland due to two-millennium long suppression that finally ended up as the holocaust.

Israel continues to emphasize and promote stories related to Second World War which help them gain the legitimacy to exist as a state. It is also remarked that the holocaust may have been a decisive condition for the creation of a Jewish state but this action would have occurred sooner or later.

One of the biggest strengths for Israel and its legitimacy comes from the Biblical literature which has some historical stories in it and mentions Israel and Judah in the Middle East providing American Christian Support which seems to be dropping as a result Israel needs to work on its soft power.

A similar strength can be found in Quran for Israeli as Surah Al-Ma’idah in Chapter 5 verse 12 states about the Children of Israel and verse 21 explains that they are “destined to enter and not to turn back else they will become the loser.” These verses motivate Israeli for their cause which raises an interesting phenomenon that some pro-Israeli media would use Quranic verses to gain legitimacy.

History needs to be studied to understand how and where the differences between Jews and Muslims started. Originally there was a peaceful relation between Jews and Muslims but Jews refuse to acknowledge Muhammad a non-Jew as one of the prophets of God which caused the relationship between Jews and Muslims to deplete.

Finally, Banu Qurayza a Jewish community allied with Qurashites against Prophet Muhammad that caused Medina to suffer a war-built hatred towards Judaism.

However, even after looking at the differences Muslims, Christians, and Jews are Abrahamic religions maintaining their base Judaic-monotheistic tradition as both Roman Catholics and Arab previously had polytheistic culture and Israel has indirectly benefitted from this historical fact.

Israel could benefit from various religions by showing show respect to the leaders of Abrahamic religions and even maintain an apologetic attitude on behalf of some of the members of the Jewish community which may have conducted villainous actions as per some stories based on other religious doctrines.

The tower of one’s ego can prohibit supporting the national interest which could only be achieved by becoming softer to gain soft power.

It is argued that the ancient Philistine is related to present-day Palestine. Palestine as a result gets associated with David and Goliath or Samson’s struggle with Philistine. However, the term Palestine is more complicated which had developed in the period.

There are also claims that the Syria Palaestina was constructed as a punishment for Bar Kochba Revolt in 135CE while the name Palaestina given to the region seems to be older than Bar Kochba Revolt and even older than the Roman Emperor Hadrian.

The image of the Israel and Palestine conflict is connected towards mythical combat between David and Goliath. David was an inexperienced youth who later became king of Israel and defeated a giant from ancient Philistine called Goliath.

Some actors who are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause have also connected Palestine with David who was weak at the beginning of the story while they perceive Israel as an unjust giant and the toughest fighter in the region.

The Middle Eastern conflict goes beyond religion and history as it has multiple dimensions due to multiple crimes against humanity causing people to be refugees that inflict social, political, and economic damages.

A medium to obtain soft power is by resolving the humanitarian crisis and Israel being perceived as a perpetrator tampered with its national image.

Israel as an economically advanced country with large spending power can establish economic institutions to raise funds in providing education, training, and employment to victims of that conflict regardless of their religion, ethnicity, gender, or political views who have been scattered around the world which would help Israel gain legitimacy.

The economic recovery of the war victims can minimize some damage enforced upon the national image but there is a strong opinion that the Palestinian community lacks legal rights as being in Israeli jurisdiction. So, political rights might have to be secured to the Palestinians while they have to live in Israel for Israel to create a positive national image.  

The Israeli government also create an option for the Palestinian community to have the right to return, granting them protection in Knesset (Israeli Parliament), while promoting Arab Israeli politicians, and can even reflect how they have shaped the Israeli government in the international arena to build Israel’s soft power.

Finally, the last piece of the puzzle is the social affairs which are closely tied to the soft power paradigm.

There is a clear fear that the Jews are eclipsing the social identity of the Palestinian people but in reality, they are closely linked as Arabic language and Hebrew are Semitic languages, their scripts have common Aramaic ancestry, and Halaal and Kosher dietary cultures are also similar.

There should be an effort to study the similarities to build unity and to study unique qualities as to appreciate one another’s differences. Israel could also create Cultural Relations Centers around the world that promote both Jewish and Palestinian language, culture, and cuisine to create respect and solidarity. 

There can also be the production of television programs, movies, digital applications which could allow people to understand the Middle Eastern community.

Tel Aviv is the center for the development of many technological advancements and carries great potential to build creative applications and visual storytelling that could help spread awareness about the Middle East.

On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority could request the Israeli government to provide scholarships in various Israeli Universities which could enhance their credential for making effort to create a peaceful world as well as proposing exchange programs by inviting Israeli students to visit regular Palestinian colleges and working spaces decreasing bitterness.

The Palestinian Authority could also pursue Israeli investment in core-Palestinian settlements that could create employment as well as mutual dependence allowing Palestine to grow with a greater bargaining power while maintaining a symbiotic relationship.

Culture, history, and institutions can be combined to create harmony. A key aspect to gain soft power and legitimacy is by becoming softer by showing respect to the opponents while appreciating and accepting others’ viewpoints.

Therefore, the study of religion, history has to be conducted from a neutral perspective that can be trusted by all international actors and could serve as a uniting factor while maintaining an apologetic attitude towards historic mistakes. There needs to be an effort to provide economic and political compensation for the victims which have caused notoriety in the international arena and finally the culture of the two competing communities needs to be celebrated through cultural institutions to build trust and harmony.

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Diplomacy

Biden-Putting meeting: Live from Geneva

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19:00 The places of the flags on the Mont Blanc bridge on which President Biden and President Putin will pass to reach the meeting venue on Wednesday usually hold the flags of the different Swiss cantons. Not today. The American and Russian flags have been placed to welcome the two leaders. 

18:00 A day before the Geneva summit: Hotel Intercontinental where the American delegation and probably President Biden himself is staying, how the city looks like a day before the meeting, what are the security measures like, why isn’t the UN involved and are the usual protests expected?

Iveta Cherneva with live video political commentary from Geneva one day ahead of the Biden-Putin Summit

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Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?

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In recent years, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, have been trying to bolster their ‘Soft Power’ in a number of ways; by promoting tourism, tweaking their immigration policies to attract more professionals and foreign students and focusing on promoting art and culture. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken the lead in this direction (in May 2017, UAE government set up a UAE Soft Power Council which came up with a comprehensive strategy for the promotion of the country’s Soft Power). Under Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia has also been seeking to change its international image, and it’s Vision 2030 seeks to look beyond focusing on economic growth. In the Global Soft Power Index 2021, Saudi Arabia was ranked at number 24 and number 2 in the Gulf region after the UAE (the country which in the past had a reputation for being socially conservative, has hosted women’s sports events and also hosted the G20 virtually last year)

Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?

   One other important step in the direction of promoting Soft Power in the GCC, is the attempt to popularize cricket in the Gulf. While the Sharjah cricket ground (UAE)  hosted many ODI (One Day International )tournaments, and was witness to a number of thrillers between India and Pakistan, match fixing allegations led to a ban on India playing cricket at non-regular venues for a duration of 3 years (for a period of 7 years from 2003, Sharjah did not get to host any ODI). The Pakistan cricket team has been playing its international home series at Sharjah, Abu Dhabu and Dubai for over a decade (since 2009) and the sixth season of the Pakistan Super League is also being played in UAE. Sharjah has also hosted 9 test matches (the first of which was played in 2002).

 Sharjah hosted part of the Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament in 2014, and last year too the tournament was shifted to UAE due to covid19 (apart from Sharjah, matches were played at Dubai and Abu Dhabi). This year again, the UAE and possibly Oman are likely to host the remaining matches of the IPL which had to be cancelled due to the second wave of Covid19. The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup to be held later this year (October-November 2021), which was actually to be hosted by India,  could also be hosted not just in the UAE, but Oman as well (there are two grounds, one of them has floodlights). International Cricket Council (ICC) is looking for an additional venue to UAE, because a lot of cricket is being played there, and this may impact the pitches. The ICC while commenting on the possibility of the T20 World cup being hosted in the Middle East said:

, “The ICC Board has requested management [to] focus its planning efforts for the ICC Men’s  T20 World Cup 2021 on the event being staged in the UAE with the possibility of including another venue in the Middle East’

GCC countries are keen not just to host cricketing tournaments, but also to increase interest in the game. While Oman has a team managed by an Indian businessman, Saudi Arabia has set up the SACF (Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation) in 2020 and it has started the National Cricket Championship which will have more than 7,000 players and 36 teams at the school level. Peshawar Zalmi, a Pakistani franchise T20 cricket team, representing the city of Peshawar the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which plays in the Pakistan’s domestic T20 cricket league – the Peshawar cricket league —  extended an invitation to the SACF, to play a friendly match against it. It’s owner Javed Afridi had extended the invitation to the Saudi Arabian team in April 2021.  Only recently, Chairman of SACF Prince Saud bin Mishal  met with India’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dr Ausaf Saeed, to discuss ways for promoting the game in Saudi Arabia. He also visited the ICC headquarters at Dubai and apart from meeting officials of ICC also took a tour of Sharjah cricket ground.

GCC countries have a number of advantages over other potential neutral venues. First, the required infrastructure is already in place in some countries, and there is no paucity of financial resources which is very important. Second, there is a growing interest in the game in the region, and one of the important factors for this is the sizeable South Asian expat population. Third, a number of former cricketers from South Asia are not only coaching cricket teams, but also being roped in to create more enthusiasm with regard to the game. Fourth, UAE along with other GCC countries, could also emerge as an important venue for the resumption of India-Pakistan cricketing ties.

Conclusion

In conclusion, if GCC countries other than UAE — like Saudi Arabia and Oman  — can emerge as important cricketing venues, their ‘Soft Power’ appeal is likely to further get strengthened especially vis-à-vis South Asia. South Asian expats, who have contributed immensely to the economic growth of the region, and former South Asian cricketers will have an important role to play in popularizing the game in the Gulf. Cricket which is already an important component of the GCC — South Asia relationship, could help in further strengthening people to people linkages.

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