The role of the Asia Pacific Partnership in discursive contestation of the international climate regime

Original Paper

Abstract

After withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol, the US Bush Administration and the Australian Howard Government pursued an international climate change policy focussed on voluntary international agreements outside the UN climate negotiations. This strategy included the formation of several climate agreements directed at technology development, including the 2005 Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (APP). The APP provides a model for international climate change policy directed at voluntary national greenhouse gas intensity targets, technology development through sectoral public–private partnerships and technology diffusion through trade. This article situates the APP within these US and Australian inspired climate agreements formed outside the UN negotiations. Bäckstrand and Lövbrand’s (in M. Pettenger (ed.) The social construction of climate change: power knowledge norms discourses, 2007) discourse analysis in relation to the international climate negotiations is used to explore differences between the APP and UN climate treaties. We find the APP embodies a discourse of what we call ‘deregulatory ecological modernisation’ that promotes limited public funding to ease informational failures in markets for cleaner technologies and management practices. The deregulatory ecological modernisation discourse is a deeply intensive market liberal approach to international climate change policy, which contests binding emission reduction targets and the development of a global carbon market. The USA, Australia, Japan and Canada represented a core group of countries that used the APP to promote the deregulatory ecological modernisation discourse and thereby contest any deepening of developed nations' emission reduction targets for the post-2012 period. However, with changes of leadership and new parties in power in the USA and Australia, it appears that the deregulatory ecological modernisation discourse has lost ground compared to a reengagement with discourses supportive of developed country emission reduction targets and equity-based adaptation and technology transfer assistance for developing nations.

Keywords

Climate change Asia Pacific Partnership APEC Sydney Declaration UN climate regime Ecological modernisation Discursive contestation 

Abbreviations

APP

Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate

APEC

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation

CBDR

Common but Differentiated Responsibilities

CDM

Clean Development Mechanism

COP

Conference of the Parties

EM

Ecological Modernisation

IPCC

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

JI

Joint Implementation

MEP

US Major Economies Process

NGO

Non-Governmental Organisation

PIC

Policy and Implementation Committee

SBSTA

Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice

UNFCCC

United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change 1992

UN

United Nations

US

United States of America

1 Introduction

This article examines the current contest of ideas for the future of the international climate change regime. Two key binding agreements on climate change have been negotiated within the United Nations system: the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. However, since 2002, several non-binding international agreements on climate change have emerged outside the UN system. The United States (US) G.W. Bush Administration and the Australian Government of Prime Minister John Howard were particularly prominent in promoting non-binding climate agreements. During the period 2002–2007, the US and Australia entered into a number of bilateral climate partnerships, multilateral technology partnerships and wider initiatives such as the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (APP) and the APEC Leaders Sydney Declaration. The relationship between the UN climate treaties and these non-binding climate initiatives is of some importance for understanding the recent history of and future prospects for the international climate regime. This article seeks to contribute to this understanding by exploring the extent to which the APP might be viewed as an effort by certain key nations to contest the direction of international climate change policy provided by the Kyoto Protocol.

In Sect. 2, we provide an overview of key theoretical concepts used later in the article, particularly, the concepts of ecological modernisation (EM) and discursive contestation in international environmental policy. Section 3 provides an outline of Bäckstrand and Lövbrand’s (2007) discourse analysis of the international climate negotiations that is used as a framework for analysis of the APP. Section 4 provides an historical description of the development of climate change initiatives outside the UN negotiations, including the APP and the Sydney Declaration. In Sect. 5, the key design features of the non-UN climate initiatives are identified and compared to the UN climate treaties. In Sects. 6 and 7, Bäckstrand and Lövbrand’s (2007) discourse analysis of the international climate negotiations is used as a framework to explore the use of the APP as a vehicle to promote a discourse of ‘deregulatory EM’ to contest any deepening of developed country emission reduction targets in the international climate regime. Finally, Sect. 8 concludes that with recent changes in political leadership in the USA and Australia, the deregulatory EM discourse appears to have lost momentum, and there is now less emphasis on the APP as a vehicle for discursive contestation. However, ideas raised by the APP, such as sectoral approaches and technology development, will likely remain relevant to the design of the post-2012 climate regime.

The focal point of analysis is the formal texts produced in the formation and operation of non-UN climate initiatives, particularly the APP. Texts were collected through archival analysis of documents available on the US Department of State website, official government websites of all participating APP countries and formal information released by the APP administrative organs. These documents provide accessible and appropriate entry points to investigate the extent to which the APP has been used as a vehicle for discursive contestation of the international climate change regime.

2 Theoretical concepts

This article draws heavily upon the theoretical concepts of ‘ecological modernisation’ and ‘discursive contestation’ to assist in analysis of the emergence and key ideas behind the APP. These two concepts are therefore briefly described below.

2.1 Ecological modernisation

Ecological modernisation (EM) theory has been influential over the last two decades in explaining national environmental policy, particularly in the European context (Mol and Sonnenfeld 2000, pp. 4–5). One of the founders of EM theory describes it as changing the direction of technological progress to put the compulsion for innovation at the service of the environment (Jänicke 2008, p. 558). A successful EM strategy will deliver the ‘win-win’ of improvement in business competitiveness and environmental performance (Jänicke 2008, p. 558). EM theory thus offers a policy response to environmental degradation that embraces the dominant socio-economic paradigm of technological progress and market-capitalist social relations (Dryzek 2005, p. 169). EM is a direct challenge to the predominant view from the 1970s that environmental protection and economic profit involve a trade-off or ‘zero-sum gain’ (Seippel 2000, p. 288). Mol and Sonnenfeld (2000, pp. 5–7) indicate the key features of EM are:
  1. 1.

    A change in the role of science and technology: ‘science and technology not only judged for their role in the emergence of environmental problems but also valued for their actual and potential role in curing and preventing them’.

     
  2. 2.

    An increased importance of market dynamics and economic agents: ‘as carriers of ecological restructuring and reform’.

     
  3. 3.

    A transformation in the role of the nation state: ‘more decentralised, flexible and consensual styles of governance emerge, with less top-down, national command-and-control regulation (…) More opportunities for non-state actors to assume traditional administrative, regulatory, managerial, corporate, and mediating functions of the nation-states’.

     
  4. 4.

    Modification in the position, role and ideology of social movements: ‘Increasingly, social movements are involved in public and private decision-making institutions regarding environmental reforms, in contrast to having been limited to the periphery or even outside of such processes and institutions in the 1970s and 1980s’.

     
  5. 5.

    Changing discursive practices and emerging new ideologies: ‘Complete neglect of the environment and the fundamental counter-positioning of economic and environmental interests are no longer accepted as legitimate positions (…) Intergenerational solidarity in dealing with the sustenance base has emerged as an undisputed core principle’.

     

Mol and Sonnenfeld’s description of the key features of EM is largely consistent with what Christoff (1996, p. 490) calls ‘weak ecological modernisation’. He describes weak EM as ‘economistic, technological, instrumental, technocratic, neocorporatist, national and unitary’, and weak in the sense that it is unlikely to promote ‘enduring ecologically sustainable transformations and outcomes across a range of issues and institutions’ (Christoff 1996, p. 490). Dryzek (2005, p. 177) explains that weak EM has been most strongly implemented in the more interventionist Northern European countries of the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland and also Japan. Christoff (1996, p. 491) suggests that weak EM should be contrasted with a hypothetical ‘strong EM’ that would encourage an ecological, open, deliberative, communicative, international and diversified social structure. The deliberative, reflexive processes of ‘strong EM’ would open up consideration of the normative assumptions of current development practices and potentially allow deep transformation of socio-economic systems away from current patterns of industrial modernity (Christoff 1996, p. 496; Dryzek 2005, pp. 173–174).

Weak EM suggests that traditional regulation by the state (e.g. setting mandatory technology requirements) should be minimised in favour of more flexible approaches such as market-based regulatory instruments. Mol and Sonnenfeld identify a transformation in the role of the state to a facilitator of non-hierarchical, bottom-up styles of governance as a key feature of EM (2000, p. 6). However, weak EM still provides an important, albeit reduced, regulatory role for the state. Jänicke (2008, p. 559) has recently highlighted the important regulatory role of the state in pursuing a weak EM strategy:

Smart regulation plays an important role in the political competition for environmental innovation and can be identified as a key driving force behind environmental innovation (…) a ‘revisionist’, or pro-regulation view has successfully challenged traditional neo-classical argumentation by highlighting a positive relationship between environmental regulation and a country’s competitiveness.

Huber, another founding EM theorist, has recently stated that stringent regulation is the most important pre-condition for eco-innovation (Huber 2008, p. 2). He argues that EM ‘regulation for innovation’ typically involves the state setting flexible, performance-based standards (Huber 2008, p. 2). In contrast, traditional command and control approaches typically adopt a highly prescriptive regulatory approach of specifying a mandatory ‘best available technology’ or procedural standards for use in a particular industry (Huber 2008, p. 3). Huber provides examples of successful EM ‘regulation for innovation’ in the German feed-in tariff laws for increasing renewable energy supply and the Japanese ‘front-runner’ scheme for improving energy efficiency for household appliances (Huber 2008, p. 5). The two schemes are highly successful in fostering environmental improvement and technological innovation even though they rely on strong state regulation that is more characteristic of centrally planned economies (Huber 2008, p. 5). The state may therefore need to take a strong role in setting the conditions for successful implementation of a weak EM strategy. Dryzek (2005, p. 177) notes that the level of state intervention required for implementation of a weak EM strategy presents difficulties for countries with political-economic systems that typically provide a less interventionist role for the state, such as the Anglo-American countries.

2.2 Discursive contestation

Discourse analysis has been widely used in environmental policy research over the past 15 years (see Litfin 1994; Hajer 1995; Dryzek 2005, 2006; Hajer and Versteeg 2005; Bäckstrand and Lövbrand 2007; Arts and Buizer 2008). Whilst a variety of approaches to discourse analysis have been used in environmental policy research, all ‘have in common the aim to understand the social world by means of ideational and symbolic systems and orders’ (Arts and Buizer 2008, p. 2). This article adopts Dryzek’s (2006, p. 1) concept of discourse, which he describes as

a shared set of concepts, categories, and ideas that provides its adherents with a framework for making sense of situations, embodying judgments, assumptions, capabilities, dispositions, and intentions.

He identifies various discourses (e.g. industrialism, sustainable development, market liberalism etc.) that provide frameworks through which different actors interpret or give meaning to national and international environmental issues (Dryzek 2005, 2006). Dryzek (2006, pp. 8–11) points out that although a particular discourse may reach a hegemonic position during a period (e.g. market liberalism in recent international economic affairs), there is an ongoing contestation between discourses that provides a source for societal change.

Arts and Leroy (2006) have drawn on Dryzek’s study to develop an approach to analysis of discursive contestation in a particular ‘arrangement’ (i.e. field) of environmental policy. Similarly, Bäckstrand and Lövbrand (2007) have drawn on Hajer’s (1995) argumentative discourse analysis to provide an analysis of discursive contestation in the international climate negotiations over the past 15 years. The APP sits squarely within the field of international climate policy analysed by Bäckstrand and Lövbrand (2007). This article therefore draws on the results of Bäckstrand and Lövbrand’s (2007) discourse analysis as a heuristic device1 to assist understanding of the APP.

For the purposes of this analysis, we maintain an analytical distinction between agents (e.g. countries, corporations, NGOs, etc.) and discourses (e.g. concepts, categories and ideas, etc.). Dryzek (2006), Arts and Leroy (2006), Maguire and Hardy (2006) and Bäckstrand and Lövbrand (2007) all adopt the concept of ‘discourse coalition’ to describe a grouping of agents articulating a common discourse. Agents operating in discourse coalitions attempt to shape meaning within a policy field through the ‘production, dissemination and interpretation of texts, which include written texts (reports, memos, press releases, etc.) and spoken texts such as speeches, as well as meetings, public enquiries etc.’ (Maguire and Hardy 2006, p. 9). The power of an agent is thus commensurate with its ability to operate through discourse coalitions to articulate discourses that shape political, scientific and economic understanding within a policy field. We use the concept ‘discourse coalition’ later in this article to help explain the role of certain key countries in shaping the emergence and operation of the APP.

The following section provides a more detailed description of Bäckstrand and Lövbrand’s (2007) discourse analysis of the international climate negotiations that is used later in this article as a framework for analysis.

3 Meta-discourses in the international climate negotiations

Bäckstrand and Lövbrand (2007) identify three meta-discourses—‘green governmentality’, ‘ecological modernisation’ and ‘civic environmentalism’—that have been prominent in the international climate change negotiations over the past 15 years. Based on Foucault’s concept of governmentality (Foucault 1997, p. 82; Rose et al. 2006, p. 1); Bäckstrand and Lövbrand (2007, p. 129) describe the green governmentality discourse as ‘large-scale multilateral administration of environmental degradation’. The green governmentality discourse is ‘a science-driven and centralised multilateral negotiation order, associated with top-down climate monitoring and mitigation techniques implemented on global scales’ (Bäckstrand and Lövbrand 2007, pp. 124–126). It is evidenced by the effort to establish a worldwide monitoring and reporting system for national greenhouse gas emissions, national policy measures, national target implementation and international bureaucratic structures to collect, administer and manage this data (Bäckstrand and Lövbrand 2007, pp. 126–127). They comment that through a detached and powerful view from above, the ‘global gaze’, nature is approached as a terrestrial infrastructure subject to state protection, management and domination’ (Bäckstrand and Lövbrand 2007, p. 128). The ‘global gaze’ and dominant narrative of planetary management has, however, softened recently with the climate negotiations demonstrating a greater willingness to accommodate local complexities and input especially on issues surrounding vulnerability and adaptation to climate change (Bäckstrand and Lövbrand 2007, p. 128). They argue that the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol are shaped by, and propagate the green governmentality discourse of global climate management. The UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol provide for mandatory measurement and reporting of emissions plus verifiable targets and timetables for national emission reduction by developed countries. All these measures are directed towards a global management goal of achieving a safe stabilization of the concentration of greenhouse emissions in the atmosphere (Bäckstrand and Lövbrand 2007, p. 126).

Second, Bäckstrand and Lövbrand (2007, p. 124) identify an EM discourse in the international climate negotiations, which they describe as a ‘decentralized liberal market order that aims to provide flexible and cost-optimal solutions to the climate problem’. The EM discourse builds on the narrative that environmental degradation can be decoupled from economic growth and that ‘capitalism and industrialization can be made more environmentally friendly through green regulation, investment and trade’ (Bäckstrand and Lövbrand 2007, p. 129). The dominant EM discourse in the international climate negotiations is the ‘weak’ version that is based upon a ‘technocratic and neo-liberal economic storyline that represents technological adjustment and innovation as key to “eco-efficiency” and cost effectiveness’ (Bäckstrand and Lövbrand 2007, p. 129). The ‘weak EM’ discourse has shaped the Kyoto Protocol and is manifested through the flexibility mechanisms of joint implementation (JI), international emissions trading and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) (Bäckstrand and Lövbrand 2007, p. 129). The rationale for the Kyoto flexibility mechanisms is to create an international system of tradable emission reduction credits or ‘carbon market’ that will allow developed countries the benefit of emission reduction activities outside their borders and hence lower their economic cost of meeting emission reduction targets (Lohmann 2005). The Kyoto Protocol allows decentralized, private sector activity in implementation of activities of the carbon market. For example, the CDM project cycle allows private sector actors broad participation in the design, implementation, validation and verification of CDM projects (Lövbrand et al. 2009, pp. 80–82). The CDM project cycle is consistent with the focus in weak EM discourse on flexible and cost-effective problem solving through market-based and private sector channels (Bäckstrand and Lövbrand 2007, p. 130). The flexibility mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol demonstrate that the weak EM and green governmentality discourses are compatible within the same institutional structure (Bäckstrand and Lövbrand 2007, p. 130). The market mechanisms of the ‘weak EM’ discourse in fact require the legal and bureaucratic structures created by a green governmentality discourse.

Finally, Bäckstrand and Lövbrand (2007, p. 131) identify a discourse of civic environmentalism in the international climate negotiations as advocated by NGOs and some developing nations. The more radical version of this civic environmentalist discourse ‘advocates a fundamental transformation of consumption patterns and existing institutions to realize a more eco-centric and equitable world order’ and ‘contests the structures of global environmental governance that revolve around the liberalization of markets, free trade and sovereignty based practices’ (Bäckstrand and Lövbrand 2007, p. 132). It is highly critical of market-based flexibility mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol that are representative of a market liberal bias towards ‘privatisation and deregulation at the expense of environmental protection’ (Bäckstrand and Lövbrand 2007, p. 132). The radical civic environmentalism discourse is also concerned ‘with a fair distribution of the costs associated with the mitigation of climate change among states, as well as the compensation to poor countries for their disproportionate vulnerability to severe climate events’ (Bäckstrand and Lövbrand 2007, p. 133). This discourse is evident in NGO submissions and lobbying, and has been noted in developing country submissions in the Kyoto negotiations (Agarwal et al. 1999, pp. 54–56). Also, the radical civic environmentalism discourse arguably had some influence on design of the UNFCCC in the equity considerations that underlie the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) (McGee and Taplin 2009a).

However, Bäckstrand and Lövbrand (2007, p. 134) also identify a more moderate version of the civic environmentalism discourse that focuses on the ability of transnational civil society to act as a complement to state-centric practices and increase the legitimacy of the climate regime. The reformist version of the discourse suggests that ‘increased access and stakeholder participation of international diplomacy outside the community of legitimate decision makers (i.e. states) can increase the public accountability and legitimacy of multilateral institutions’ (Bäckstrand and Lövbrand 2007, p. 134). The reformist civic environmentalism discourse is commonly advocated by mainstream environmental NGOs that are prepared to conditionally accept the co-benefits of the cost flexibilities of the carbon market and facilitation of sustainable development within developing host countries by shifting towards cleaner production (Bäckstrand and Lövbrand 2007, p. 135). The openness of the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol meetings to NGO observer attendance and participation by lobbying is an indication of the imprint of the reformist civic environmentalism discourse upon the UN climate negotiations and UN environmental forums more generally.

Bäckstrand and Lövbrand’s (2007) analysis provides a useful heuristic device to assist understanding of the ideational struggle over the content of international climate change policy. We agree that contestation between the meta-discourses of green governmentality, ecological modernisation and civic environmentalism has largely shaped the UN climate treaties and institutions. We also agree that a weak EM discourse associated with the establishment and implementation of the Kyoto flexibility mechanisms has dominated the UN climate negotiations over the past decade (Bäckstrand and Lövbrand 2007, pp. 138–139). However, the strength of the weak EM discourse has not led to it assuming a hegemonic position in the discursive landscape of the international climate negotiations. As discussed earlier, at the domestic level, the weak EM discourse may act in tandem with the strong state regulatory intervention associated with the green governmentality discourse. Similarly, at the international level, the weak EM discourse acts in tandem with international regulation to set collective international emission reduction goals, monitor national emission levels and allocate binding national emission reduction targets (Bäckstrand and Lövbrand 2007, p. 131).

4 Development of non-UN multilateral climate initiatives

In order to provide context to the emergence of the APP, the following section provides a background of the key non-UN climate initiatives inspired by the USA and Australia during the years of the Bush Administration and Howard Government. First, an outline is provided of the UN climate agreements to provide a yardstick against which the non-UN climate initiatives might be compared. Second, a short history is provided of the major non-UN climate change initiatives during the period of the Bush Administration and Howard Government; the US climate change partnerships, APP, APEC Sydney Declaration and US Major Economies Process. The APP is thus situated within the range of non-UN climate initiatives that have been formed over the past 8 years.

4.1 The UN climate agreements

In order to understand the evolution of the non-UN climate change initiatives it is important to first understand the UN-based climate process. The UNFCCC is the seminal international agreement on the human response to climate change. It provides a general recognition of the problem of human induced climate change and an objective in Article 2 to stabilize atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases at a safe level. The UNFCCC also embodies important equity principles designed to guide future sharing of the benefits and burdens of the human response to climate change. The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities in Article 3 provides that the developed nations (listed in Annex 1) should take the lead in combating climate change and its impacts. Annual conferences of the parties (COPs) have negotiated more detailed national obligations to give substance to the general obligations of the Convention. The Kyoto Protocol sets binding emission reduction and/or limitation targets for the richer developed nations listed in its Annex B (largely corresponding to the countries listed in UNFCCC Annex 1). The targets for the Annex B nations, if achieved during the period 2008–2012, will provide an absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for these nations of 5.2% below 1990 levels. However, the Annex B nations are not required to achieve all their emission reductions by domestic measures. At the insistence of the USA, the Kyoto Protocol also contains the flexibility mechanisms that allow some emissions reduction to occur in developing nations that may be credited to Annex B national targets.

The UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol also seek to facilitate the transfer of cleaner technologies to developing nations to help reduce emissions growth. Article 4.5 of the UNFCCC provides that developed nations shall take ‘all practical steps to promote facilitate and finance’ the transfer of ‘environmentally sound technologies and know-how’ to developing nations. A Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) was created under the UNFCCC charged with the role of ‘development and transfer of environmentally-friendly technologies’ (UNFCCC 2008a). In 2000, the SBSTA commissioned a special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on technology transfer (IPCC 2000), and at COP 7 in 2001, an Expert Group on Technology Transfer was created to provide advice on enhancing technology transfer activities under the convention (UNFCCC 2008b). Agreement was also reached at COP 7 to establish a fund for assisting developing country adaptation to climate change that is partly designed to provide technology transfer to developing countries (UNFCCC 2008b). Despite these initiatives, there has been limited success under the SBSTA process due to tension between developed and developing countries over whether transfer of technology should be on market-based or concessional terms (Forsyth 2003).

In 2001, the Bush Administration indicated the USA would not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, even though the agreement had been previously signed by the Clinton Administration in 1998 (White House 2001). In 2002, the Howard government also indicated it would not ratify Kyoto (U.N.Wire 2002). However, the Kyoto Protocol still entered into force, triggered by ratification by the Russian Federation in 2004. COP 13 in Bali, Indonesia, set in train formal negotiations on national commitments to succeed current commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. This negotiation is scheduled to conclude in December 2009 at COP 15 in Copenhagen, Denmark, when it is hoped that a climate agreement for the post-2012 period will be agreed.

4.2 US climate change partnerships

Shortly after indicating that it would not ratify Kyoto, the USA entered into non-binding, bilateral ‘climate change partnership’ agreements with a number of countries directed at cooperative research on climate change science, greenhouse gas accounting and technology development (McGee and Taplin 2008, p. 201). The first US bilateral climate change partnership was entered into with Italy in July 2001, and was directed at research into climate science and low emission technologies (US Department of State 2001). As of July 2008, the USA had entered into a total of fifteen similar climate change partnerships (13 with individual nations and two with regional groupings) all of which are non-treaty, informal agreements outside the UN climate process (McGee and Taplin 2008, p. 203). The US climate change partnerships are essentially directed at information exchange and the pooling of research efforts on climate science, greenhouse accounting and cleaner energy technologies. The US climate change partnerships do not contain national or collective emission reduction burdens. Australia also formed a number non-binding bilateral climate change partnerships after indicating that it would not ratify Kyoto (Australian Government 2009). Although the EU has remained a strong supporter of the UN climate process, it has also entered into a number of similar bilateral partnerships in recent years, including a climate change partnership with China (European Commission 2009).

During the period 2001–2004, the USA also inspired and entered into a number of non-binding multilateral technology development partnerships relevant to climate change. The US-inspired multilateral technology development partnerships include the: Methane to Markets Partnership (for the capture and commercial use of methane), International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy (on the development of hydrogen energy), Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum (on capture and burial of carbon dioxide from stationary electricity generation) and Generation IV International Forum (on the design of nuclear power stations) (Bäckstrand 2008, pp. 92–94).

4.3 Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate

In 2005, the APP was formed as a US-initiated and Australian supported soft law climate change agreement outside the UN climate process (Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen and van Asselt 2009). The APP is not solely a climate change agreement, as it is formally directed at the development of clean energy technologies to address the multiple issues of air pollution, energy security, poverty eradication, development and reduction of greenhouse gas intensities (APP 2006a, p. 1). Exchange of information and sharing of policy experiences between governments, public research bodies and the private sector is a key part of APP activities (APP 2006a, p. 2). However, the private sector is also anticipated to play an ‘integral part of the cooperative activities of the Partnership’ (APP 2006a, p. 2). The APP has a policy and implementation committee (PIC), comprised of government representatives, to set the general direction of the partnership (APP 2006a, p. 4). A distinctive design feature of the APP lies in its reliance on eight sectoral based task forces to select and implement projects for technology development and information exchange (e.g. coal mining, steel, aluminium, etc.). The APP task forces are comprised of representatives of government agencies, public sector research bodies and private sector interests. Each APP task force has produced an ‘action plan’ describing initial projects in technology development, information gathering and information exchange. Private sector representatives participate in meetings of the APP task forces and are prominent in contributing to the selection and implementation of the projects. The APP contains no collectively agreed targets for national greenhouse gas reduction. Instead, each APP partner country is encouraged to set its own voluntary national target for reducing greenhouse gas intensity2 (APP 2006a, para 1.1), rather than committing to emission reductions in absolute terms. Table 1 provides a summary of the key features of the APP.
Table 1

Key features of the Asia Pacific Partnership

 

Summary of content

Participation

USA, Australia, Japan, China, India and South Korea (since 2005) and Canada (since 2007).

Founding documents

Vision Statement, Charter, Communiqués, action plans drafted by sector-based task forces.

Nature of national obligations

Voluntary national obligations, founding documents are non-binding.

Problem focus

Energy security, development and poverty eradication, air pollution and climate change.

Institutional design

Partner nations facilitate cooperation in research and implementation of cleaner and more efficient technologies and practices. The PIC sets broad direction of APP and the task forces decide on specific content of APP projects. Very limited public funding provided for operation of partnership. Private sector expected to take leading role in funding partnership.

Key activities

Development of cleaner technologies and practices through information exchange, information gathering, capacity building, trade facilitation and joint technology development.

Joint goal/target on greenhouse gas emission reduction

No.

National goal/target on greenhouse gas emission reduction

No. The APP encourages individual nations to set a goal/target to reduce greenhouse gas intensity. However, a member nation has no obligation to set such a target.

International price on greenhouse emissions

No. The APP does not contain any regional or national emissions trading scheme, carbon tax or similar.

Sectoral focus

Yes. Eight sectoral-based task forces established to formulate and implement action plans.

Differentiation in obligation

No. Developed and developing APP nations have the same formal level of obligation under the partnership. Principle of CBDR not mentioned.

Adaptation to climate impacts

No express references to adaptation.

Land use change and forestry

No.

Sources: APP (2005, 2006a, b, c, d, 2007)

4.4 Sydney APEC Leaders’ Declaration on Climate Change, Energy Security and Clean Development

The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum was initiated by Australia in 1989 as an informal consultative arrangement to facilitate dialogue amongst economies of the Asia Pacific region on trade and investment liberalization issues. APEC currently has 21 member economies, including all APP nations except India (APEC 2008a). Each year one APEC member country acts as coordinator, and hosts a round of meetings for national leaders and senior business and government officials. APEC periodically forms ad hoc working groups on various issues, including energy and technology (APEC 2008b). As primarily a consultative forum, APEC does not have a founding charter or formal constitution but instead relies upon an agreed set of procedures and practices for hosting of its meetings (APEC 2008b).

In September 2007, Australia hosted the annual APEC Ministerial Meeting and Leaders Meeting in Sydney. The Australian domestic political environment at that time had a significant influence upon the high profile of climate change at this meeting. The conservative Howard Government was facing an election in late 2007 and throughout the year electoral polling had indicated the government would be defeated. Climate change policy was a key issue in election campaigning with significant debate raised about Australia’s decision not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol (Lawrence 2009). The Howard Government had provided steadfast support for US criticism of the treaty as a ‘flawed’ agreement (Howard 2007b). In the lead up to the Sydney meeting, Howard commented (Howard 2007b),‘the Kyoto model—top-down, prescriptive, legalistic and Euro-centric—simply won’t fly in a rising Asia Pacific region’. The Howard Government looked to the Sydney APEC Ministerial Meeting to rebuild its domestic political stocks on climate change by brokering an agreement that could be seen as an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol (Howard 2007a). Howard went as far as to state that the APEC Sydney Leaders Meeting would be ‘one of the most important international gatherings of leaders to discuss climate since the 1992 Rio Conference’ (Howard 2007b).

At the meeting, Howard attempted to negotiate an APEC position on a long-term, aspirational (i.e. non-binding) global emissions reduction goal (Wilkinson 2007a). However, media reporting suggested that developing nations, particularly China, were unhappy about attempts to agree on a global emission reduction goal outside of the UNFCCC process (Wilkinson 2007b). The meeting produced the ‘Sydney APEC Leaders Declaration on Climate Change, Energy Security and Clean Development’. Given China’s reluctance to discuss global emissions goals, the Sydney Declaration contains only a very weak commitment for APEC nations to ‘work to achieve a common understanding on a long-term aspirational global emission reduction goal to pave the way for an effective post-2012 international arrangement’ (APEC 2007). Interestingly, the Sydney Declaration adopts an approach, similar to the APP, of shifting the focus of international cooperation on climate change toward voluntary commitments for research, information sharing and development of cleaner technologies. The ‘Action Agenda’ contained in the Sydney Declaration commits to the establishment of an Asia Pacific Network for Energy Technology to strengthen cooperation between research bodies in the APEC region in areas such as ‘clean fossil energy and renewable energy’ (APEC 2007, p. 5). The Action Agenda also commits to the promotion of clean coal and carbon sequestration through the APEC Energy Working Group (APEC 2007, p. 5). The Sydney Declaration also parallels the APP by focussing climate change policy on non-binding targets for reduction in carbon intensity. The Declaration contains an aspirational target for a 25% reduction in energy intensity in the APEC economies by 2030, using 2005 as a base year (APEC 2007, p. 4). This energy intensity target is ‘APEC-wide’ and so does not apply individually to any one country. An APEC ‘peer review mechanism on energy efficiency’ set up under the APEC Energy Working Group is tasked with facilitating and reviewing the individual progress of countries towards meeting the intensity target and is due to formally report back in the APEC Leaders Meeting in 2010 (APEC 2007, p. 4). Table 2 below provides a summary of the key features of the APEC Sydney Declaration.
Table 2

Key features of the APEC Sydney Declaration

 

Summary of content

Participation

Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Chile; China; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Japan; Republic of Korea; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Peru; Philippines; Russia; Singapore; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; United States; Vietnam.

Founding documents

APEC has no formal founding documents except policy documents on operation of meetings. The Sydney Declaration is a voluntary, non-binding memorandum of understanding of the APEC nations.

Nature of national obligations

Voluntary national obligations encouraged; no binding national obligations.

Problem focus

Energy security, economic growth, climate change, environmental quality, poverty reduction.

Institutional design

Aspirational targets for reduction in energy intensity and reforestation, commitment to further discussions to seek common understanding on a long-term aspirational global emission reduction target, capacity building and information sharing through research networks and APEC Energy Working Group.

Key activities

Aspirational targets at a regional level for energy intensity and forestry practices; research, development and information sharing on cleaner technologies; exchange views on effective and coherent policy instruments.

Joint goal/target on greenhouse emission reduction

Yes. Aspirational APEC wide target to reduce energy intensity by 25% by 2030; continue discussions towards a common view on long-term aspirational target for global greenhouse gas reduction.

National goal/targets on greenhouse gas emission reduction

No.

International price on greenhouse gas emissions

No.

Sectoral focus

Yes. Cleaner fossil energy, renewable energy and forestry sectors.

Differentiation in obligation

No. Developed and developing APEC nations have the same formal level of obligation under Sydney Declaration. The principle of CBDR not formally mentioned.

Adaptation to climate impacts

Yes, to be supported by ‘appropriate policy exchanges, financing, capacity building and technology transfer’; however, no specific adaptation financing included in Sydney Declaration.

Land use change and forestry

Yes. Aspirational 20 million hectare reforestation target by 2020 and establishment of Network for Sustainable Forest Management.

Source: APEC (2007, 2008a, b)

4.5 US Major Economies Process

In May 2007, in preparation for discussions at the 2007 Group of Eight (G8) meeting in Germany, President Bush announced a new US initiative initially named the ‘Major Emitters and Energy Consumers’ process (White House 2007a) (MEP). The MEP was described as directed at ‘both developed and developing economies that generate the majority of greenhouse gas emissions and consume the most energy’, and designed to address climate change ‘in a way that enhances energy security and promotes economic growth’ (White House 2007a). The MEP proposed US-sponsored meetings of fifteen of the world’s ‘top greenhouse economies and polluters’ to ‘develop a long-term global goal to reduce greenhouse gasses’ with each country working to ‘achieve this emissions goal by establishing ambitious mid-term national targets and programs, based on national circumstances’ (White House 2007a). The USA envisioned that national targets and programs would be determined by each nation individually (White House 2007a). The MEP initiative also proposed that major emitting nations ‘develop parallel national commitments to promote key clean energy technologies’, with the USA spurring international development banks to provide low-cost financing options for clean energy technology transfer (White House 2007a). The US proposal for the MEP also raised the importance of forestry issues and improvements in energy efficiency.

The MEP was specifically intended to ‘build on and advance US relations with the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate and other technology and bilateral partnerships’ (White House 2007a). The Whitehouse Chairman on the Council on Environmental Quality, James Connaughton, confirmed that the MEP process would adopt the APP approach of drawing together representatives from various sectors such as power generation and energy production to devise a ‘common work program on best practices’ (White House 2007b). Despite launching the MEP, the Bush Administration claimed to be committed to the UNFCCC process and that the MEP meetings would ‘complement’ ongoing UN activity (White House 2007a).

The first MEP meeting took place in Washington, D.C., in September 2007, and was attended by seventeen nations and/or organisations, including all APP nations. In accordance with the USA naming of the process, this first meeting was initially referred to as the ‘Major Emitters’ Summit’. However, the title of this and all subsequent meetings was changed to the ‘Major Economies Process’ in deference to developing nation concern at being labelled as ‘major emitters’ (Clemons 2007). At a press conference prior to the Washington meeting, US climate change officials were cautious to make clear that the MEP meetings would feed back to the UNFCCC and that the MEP had been endorsed by the G8 and APEC (US Department of State 2007a). James Connaughton described the proposed US architecture for a post-2012 international climate agreement as involving a global aspirational long-term goal for reducing emissions, nationally determined policies to pursue emission reduction and energy security, sectoral-based programmes to reduce emissions, expansion of markets for clean energy technologies, action on deforestation and expanded financing for clean technology projects (US Department of State 2007a). Connaughton clearly stated a US preference for a ‘bottom-up’ international climate policy involving public–private partnerships for technology development, and each nation deciding their own emission reduction commitments (US Department of State 2007a). Not surprisingly, President Bush’s speech at the first MEP meeting confirmed this approach (White House 2007c). He also announced that the US Treasury would establish an ‘International Clean Technology Fund’ supported by ‘contributions from governments around the world’ to ‘help finance clean energy projects in developing nations’ (White House 2007c). The Clean Technology Fund has been established under the administration of the World Bank and together with an associated Strategic Climate Fund has attracted pledges from developed countries of US$ 6.1 billion since establishment in 2008 (World Bank 2008).

The second and third MEP meetings were held in Hawaii in late January 2008 and Paris in April 2008, respectively. The Paris MEP meeting was particularly instructive, as the USA divulged its position on medium-term national emission reduction commitments. President Bush indicated that the USA proposed through further intensity targets ‘to stop the growth of US greenhouse gas emissions by 2025’ (White House 2008a, pp. 2–3). However, this emission reduction goal was highly conditional in that technology must advance sufficiently to allow the required emission reduction to occur (White House 2008a, p. 3). This climate goal would allow US greenhouse emissions to increase for at least another 17 years and is completely at odds with the absolute emission reduction targets of the Kyoto Protocol. The US MEP position therefore drew severe criticism from the German Environment Minister who described it as showing ‘losership not leadership’ (Deutsche Welle 2008).

A MEP meeting was also held at the conclusion of the G8 summit in Hokkaido, Japan, in July 2008. The Hokkaido meeting produced the first publicly released document of the MEP, the ‘Declaration of Leaders Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change’ (MEP Leaders Declaration) (White House 2008b). The MEP Leaders Declaration contains a ‘shared vision’ for a long-term cooperative global goal for emission reduction, but does not contain any attempt to quantify such reduction. This contrasts with a G8 declaration released shortly before the Hokkaido MEP meeting which contains a ‘vision’ for G8 nations to ‘consider and adopt’ a goal of achieving at least a 50% reduction (baseline year unstated) in global emissions by 2050 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan 2008). The MEP Leaders Declaration notes that developed nations will implement economy wide mid-term goals and actions to achieve absolute emission reductions (White House 2008b). However, this statement on developed nation mid-term goals is significantly qualified in that ‘where applicable’ developed nations may concentrate on ‘stopping the growth’ of emissions (White House 2008b, p. 2). This accommodates the Bush Administration’s climate goal of the USA concentrating on ‘stopping the growth’ of national emissions until 2025. The MEP Leaders Declaration also strongly emphasises the APP approach of sectoral-based technology cooperation and information exchange (White House 2008b, p. 3). The inspiration that the MEP Leaders Declaration draws from the APP task force approach to technology development is quite clear.

Table 3 below provides a summary of the US position articulated in MEP process from publicly available information arising from the MEP meetings.
Table 3

Key features of the US position in the Major Economies Process

 

Summary of Content

Participation

Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, EU, France, Germany, Indonesia, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, UK, and the United Nations.

Founding documents

MEP organised by letter of invitation from President Bush, MEP Leaders Declaration is a memorandum of understanding between the MEP participating countries.

Nature of national obligations

Aspirational, voluntary and nationally determined.

Problem focus

Energy security, climate change, economic growth, sustainable development.

Institutional design

Global aspirational goal on emission reduction, national policies to facilitate private sector activity in clean energy research and deployment, improved forest practices, improved financing for developing nation uptake of cleaner energy technologies.

Key activities

Public private partnerships for cleaner energy and production, international fund to assist financing transfer of cleaner technologies to developing nations.

Joint goal/target on greenhouse gas emission reduction

A long-term aspirational global goal for greenhouse gas reduction.

National goal/targets on greenhouse gas emission reduction

Yes, but aspirational, non-binding commitments. The USA is to concentrate on ‘stopping the growth’ of greenhouse emissions until 2025 and then seek absolute emission reduction ‘if technology allows’.

International price on greenhouse emissions

No, a matter for national policy.

Sectoral focus

Yes. Industry based information exchange on clean energy technology and best practices.

Differentiation in obligation

Differentiation in strategies based on national circumstances.

Adaptation to climate impacts

Importance of adaptation noted and the role of technology in adaptation emphasised. However, no specific commitments in regard to adaptation funding.

Land use change and forestry

National policies to discourage deforestation and improve sustainable forestry encouraged.

Sources: White House (2007a, b, c), US Department of State (2007a), and White House (2008a, b)

5 An alternative vision for the future of international climate change policy?

The US bilateral climate partnerships, multilateral technology partnerships, APP, APEC Sydney Declaration and the MEP process demonstrate a significant fragmentation of the international discussions on climate change (Biermann et al., 2009). This raises an important question as to whether this fragmentation in international climate discussions has provided support to the Kyoto Protocol or is rather supporting alternative approaches to international climate policy. Table 4 therefore provides a summary of the key features of the non-UN climate change initiatives and offers a comparison to the Kyoto Protocol.
Table 4

Comparison of non-UN climate initiatives and the Kyoto Protocol

 

Kyoto

US bilateral partnerships

Multilateral technology partnerships

Asia Pacific Partnership

APEC Sydney Declaration

US MEP position

Absolute national emission reduction targets for developed countries

×

×

×

×

×

Binding national emission reduction targets for developed countries

×

×

×

×

×

Formal differentiation of obligation between developed and developing countries based on CBDR principle

×

×

×

×

×

International emissions trading scheme

×

×

×

×

×

Research and information sharing on climate science

×

×

×

×

Decoupling of economic growth and emissions

Research and information sharing on cleaner technologies and policies

Aspirational national emission targets

×

×

×

Promotion of public-private cooperation in technology development and implementation

×

Focus on energy security and climate change

×

×

Sectoral approaches on technology development and information exchange

×

×

Regional, national or sectoral greenhouse intensity or energy intensity targets

×

×

×

Focus on reduced deforestation in developing nations

×

×

×

Aspirational global goal for emission reduction

×

×

×

×

Improved financing/investment in cleaner technologies in developing nations

×

×

Sources: Same as Tables 1, 2 and 3 above

Table 4 indicates that the APP, Sydney Declaration and the US MEP position indicate a preference for an international climate change policy focussed on:
  • Research and information exchange on lower emission technologies, policies and practices;

  • Linking of climate change to energy security;

  • Aspirational national emission reduction goals;

  • Aspirational global emission reduction goals;

  • Greenhouse gas intensity or energy intensity goals;

  • Sector-based approaches for development and exchange of information on cleaner technologies and management practices;

  • Addressing deforestation and forestry practices in developing nations; and

  • Financial mechanisms for cleaner energy investment in developing nations.

This represents a significant shift away from the key Kyoto features of absolute emission reduction targets, binding national targets, formal differentiation of obligation between developed and developing countries and the flexibility mechanisms of the carbon market. The APP, the Sydney Declaration and the US MEP position therefore offer a significant alternative direction for international climate change policy. The APP was the first of the non-UN international climate initiatives sponsored by the Bush Administration and Howard Government that combined technology development, sectoral approaches and promotion of voluntary national intensity targets. The APP therefore has special significance in that it pioneered an alternative vision for international climate policy that was heavily favoured by the Bush Administration and Howard government in their later years.

The following section therefore uses Bäckstrand and Lövbrand’s (2007) discourse analysis of the international climate negotiations as a framework to explore how the APP was used as a vehicle to promote this alternative vision for international climate change policy.

6 The APP and deregulatory ecological modernisation

The APP, Sydney Declaration and US MEP position contain an alternative vision for international climate change policy based on technology development, sectoral approaches and voluntary national intensity targets. The APP significantly represents the first attempt at combining these ideas in an international agreement and institutional structure on climate change. It is therefore important to see where the APP sits within the discursive landscape of international climate change policy described by Bäckstrand and Lövbrand (2007), as outlined previously in Sect. 3.

The APP is generally unsupportive of the green governmentality discourse as it fails to articulate strong international regulatory institutions for a binding collective international emission reduction goal and national emission reduction targets. There is a significant weakening of the green governmentality ‘global gaze’ of a planet wide management system of measurable emissions and verifiable emission reduction commitments that is present in the UN climate agreements. The APP makes no effort to link with the binding emission reduction targets of the Kyoto Protocol, but rather supports voluntary national targets for reducing greenhouse gas intensity. The non-binding approach of the APP is a voluntarist approach to international climate change policy that is significantly at odds with the green governmentality discourse present in the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol.

Similarly, the ‘radical resistance’ and ‘reformist’ forms of civic environmentalism discourses are noticeably absent in the APP. The formal APP documents contain no references to the equity principle of common but differentiated responsibilities or indication that historical emissions patterns and/or current disparities in national emission levels should play a significant role in international climate policy. The role of civil society, particularly environmental NGOs, has been largely marginalised in the APP. The partnership was formed behind closed doors and therefore without civil society input (McGee and Taplin 2006). The formal parts of PIC meetings have been limited to government representatives. However, since the first APP Ministerial meeting in January 2006, various industry stakeholders have been invited to PIC meetings to give presentations and/or have discussions (APP 2009). Business representatives also hold positions on the APP task forces and are routinely present at those meetings. In contrast, there is no public evidence that environmental NGOs have been included in any of the APP PIC and task force meetings. However, because the participation lists for PIC and task force meetings are not made public the exclusion of environmental NGOs from APP meetings cannot be definitely verified.3 The APP agreement and institutional conduct reflects an elite form of hybrid climate governance4 open to large private sector interests, public research bodies and government actors. The elite hybrid governance of the APP is at odds with the reformist version of the civic environmentalism discourse that provides a key role for NGOs as a legitimating counterbalance to the influence of business and state actors.

The dominant weak EM discourse in international climate policy promotes a market-liberal order of flexible and cost-effective emission reduction (Bäckstrand and Lövbrand 2007, p. 129). This discourse is strongly present in the efforts of the Kyoto Protocol to create and implement an international carbon market. Private sector actors are thereby co-opted into the structures of international climate change governance by being allocated roles in the operation of the Kyoto flexibility mechanisms (Lovbränd et al. 2009, pp. 80–84). The weak EM discourse of Kyoto is based on the market-liberal logic that: (1) emission reductions should occur at the site of least financial cost; (2) a price on carbon emissions will help cure the market failure of the ‘externality’ of greenhouse emissions that are not priced within current production and consumption decisions; and (3) an international market for tradable emission reduction credits will assist in achieving mitigation at least financial cost (Lohmann 2005).

The APP is also based on the EM meta-discourse of flexible and cost-effective emission reductions. However, to date the APP has taken a different path to flexible and cost-effective emission reduction by seeking to remedy failures in the flows of information in national and international markets for cleaner energy technologies and practices (McGee and Taplin 2009b). The APP task forces have largely sought to bring the private sector and public research bodies into cooperative activities to exchange information on the use of existing technologies and best practice environmental management standards. The vast bulk of APP task force activities have thus been directed at gathering information about current cleaner development practices, dispersing information about ‘best-practice’ approaches and building expertise and knowledge within target markets to encourage trade in cleaner technologies and practices (McGee and Taplin 2009b). For example, the APP description of the initial batch of 100 APP projects approved by the PIC in late 2006 suggests that only in the order of five percent of these projects relate to deployment of technology, demonstration projects or technology-based research (McGee and Taplin 2009a).5 It is also significant that the total funding for the APP from all governments up to 2008 is only US$ 200 million, with the USA contributing US$ 65 million (US Government 2008). This lack of significant public funding for APP implementation suggests an almost a blind faith that a modest easing of informational blockages in technology markets will spur trade between developed world suppliers and developing world customers for cleaner technologies and management practices.

As discussed above, the weak EM discourse of the Kyoto Protocol favours the creation of tradable emission reduction credits that are exchanged through the international carbon market. Critics of the international carbon market view the creation and market exchange of these tradable emission reduction permits as a commodification of the atmosphere and marketisation of international environmental policy (Bachram 2004, p. 2). The Kyoto Protocol has thus been described as a ‘market liberal’ or ‘neoliberal’ approach to international climate change policy (Lohmann 2005) particularly from critics supporting a radical civic environmentalist discourse (Bäckstrand and Lövbrand 2007, p. 132).

However, Dryzek (2006, p. 2) describes market liberalism in a wider context beyond environmental policy as ‘the dominant global economic discourse that emphasises free trade, capital mobility, and deregulation’. He comments that governments under the sway of market liberal ideas are committed to reducing environmental controls, expanding trade, and promoting economic growth at all costs’ (Dryzek 2005, p. 159). Using this wider understanding of market liberalism, it is arguable that the APP embodies a deeper or strengthened market liberal discourse in negotiations for the international climate regime. The APP chooses to concentrate on facilitation of trade in cleaner technologies and management practices and thereby places complete faith in a decentralised market-lead response to climate change. The EM discourse embodied in the APP is thus significantly deregulatory in favouring non-binding activity to facilitate trade in cleaner technologies and practices rather than the binding emission reduction targets and regulatory institutions of the international carbon market. The APP might thus be viewed as embodying a micro-discourse, which we call ‘deregulatory EM’, that stands in contrast to the dominant weak EM discourse in international climate negotiations that is evident in the Kyoto Protocol. Whilst, the deregulatory EM discourse might thus be viewed as a slightly ‘weaker’ form of ecological modernisation, it is still broadly consistent with the key features of ecological modernisation identified by Mol and Sonnenfeld (2000) as described in Sect. 2 above. The deregulatory EM discourse focuses on technology as the central response to climate change; promotes facilitating markets in cleaner technology; relies on decentralised governance mechanisms and a greater role for the private sector and claims mutuality between economic development and reducing emissions. An elevation of the role of NGOs in environmental decision-making is the only key feature of ecological modernisation that is absent from the deregulatory EM discourse. The APP deregulatory EM discourse thus contests the more regulatory weak EM discourse surrounding the binding emission reduction targets and carbon market flexibilities of the Kyoto Protocol.

The following section discusses the use of the deregulatory EM discourse by certain key APP countries to contest the dominant weak EM discourse of the Kyoto Protocol and thereby attempt to influence the shape of the post-2012 climate regime.

7 The APP as a discursive coalition

The weak EM discourse that has had such influence on the international climate negotiations also provides a limited acceptance of the green governmentality meta-discourse. In particular, the green governmentality discourse must be accepted to allow creation of the regulatory frameworks for setting binding national emission reduction targets and rules for calculation of emissions and operation of the flexibility mechanisms of the carbon market. However, since their rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, the US Bush Administration and Australian Howard Government openly opposed existing and future binding emission reduction targets for developed nations, at least in the absence of binding commitments for key developing nations. These countries were not willing to support the existing green governmentality discourse of binding emission reduction targets for developed countries and the associated weak EM discourse needed to establish a regulatory structure for the flexibilities of the international carbon market. They therefore needed an alternative discourse to use in the international climate negotiations that avoided support for a deepening of binding targets for developed countries and the associated use of carbon pricing.

The USA and Australia had historically supported the weak EM discourse and its preference for a decentralised liberal market order in responding to climate change. However, a weak EM discourse linked to the green governmentality discourse of binding emission reduction targets for developed nations was not palatable to the Bush Administration and Howard government. The USA and Australia therefore responded to their desire to contest binding emission targets for developed countries by constructing a discourse coalition of countries to promote an alternative discourse of deregulatory EM. The deregulatory EM discourse promoted by the Bush Administration and Howard Government is deeply market liberal in that it places faith in private sector action within markets for trade in cleaner technologies and practices as the key to responding to climate change. The international regulatory structures promoted by the weak EM discourse are thereby openly contested by the deregulatory EM discourse.

Japan was concerned at the comparative disadvantage its industry would suffer as a result of the US withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol (Tiberghien and Schreurs 2007, pp. 72–73). Whilst it remained strongly attached to the symbolism of the Kyoto Protocol,6 key actors within the Japanese government, such as the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry, were advocating for a future international climate regime centred on voluntary technology development (Kameyama 2004). The APP offered an opportunity to re-engage the USA on climate change and also open up an alternative to furthering the potentially costly binding national targets approach of the Kyoto Protocol (Tiberghien and Schreurs 2007, p. 88). Japan therefore joined the APP from its start in 2005. Japan has applied the APP deregulatory EM discourse in recent UN climate negotiations in arguing for bottom up sector-based approaches for technology diffusion and sector-based intensity targets as an alternative to binding emission reduction targets for both developed and developing countries.7 The Canadian government of Stephen Harper joined the APP in October 2007 seeking respite from Kyoto emission reduction targets that Canada would be unable to meet (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 2007). The USA, Australia, Japan and Canada thus formed a core to a deregulatory EM discourse coalition that was bound by a common desire to establish an alternative discourse to the green governmentality and weak EM discourses that involved a deepening of Kyoto-style emission reduction targets for developed countries.

Despite the solidity of the core of the deregulatory EM discourse coalition, the strength of commitment of the APP developing countries to the discourse coalition has been much more tenuous. The Chinese government has given some legitimacy to the deregulatory EM discourse in supporting the APP. However, at the same time, the Chinese government has also been a strong advocate of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities in the UN process by calling for a further deepening of developed nation emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol (Chinese Government 2007). The Chinese government’s willingness to give some legitimacy to the deregulatory EM discourse of the APP appears to be a pragmatic decision (Heggelund and Buan 2009). On the one hand, China could obtain the benefits of technology development and information exchange from the APP, but on the other press the green governmentality and civic environmentalism discourses within the UN negotiations process. Similarly, in joining the APP, the Indian government has provided legitimacy to the deregulatory EM discourse. However, this support is again tempered by India continuing to press the green governmentality and civic environmentalism discourses within the UN climate negotiations in seeking further developed nation binding emission reduction targets based on historical responsibility (The Times of India 2008). South Korea also joined the APP but has maintained an active role in meetings and negotiations under the Kyoto Protocol. The coalition supporting the APP deregulatory EM discourse was therefore comprised of a core group of developed countries seeking an alternative to Kyoto-style binding emission reduction targets together with a group of developing countries with a much more pragmatic and ambivalent attitude towards the discourse. The analysis in Sect. 5 indicates that the governments of Australia, Canada, Japan and the USA have also had some success in promoting the deregulatory EM discourse through the APEC Sydney Declaration and MEP.

The discourse coalition supporting the APP deregulatory EM discourse appears to have potentially weakened at its core with the changes in the leadership of the Australian and US governments. The Howard Government in Australia was defeated at the polls in November 2007. The first act of the new Australian government under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and shortly thereafter participate in the UN climate meeting at Bali in December 2007 (Lawrence 2009). The Rudd Government has committed Australia to participate in the negotiations under the Bali Mandate for binding absolute emission reduction targets for the post-2012 period, thereby turning its back on the deregulatory approach of the APP in favouring voluntary commitments. Australia remains within the APP and reconfirmed support for the activities of Sydney Declaration at the 2008 APEC Leaders meeting in Peru (APEC 2008c). However, Australia’s re-engagement with the green governmentality discourse of binding emission targets and weak EM discourse of the Kyoto carbon market suggests that it no longer views the APP as a vehicle for discursive contestation of the international climate regime.

The US Obama Administration took office in January 2009. The USA remains a supporter of the APP and also reconfirmed support for the Sydney Declaration at the 2008 APEC Leaders meeting in Peru (APEC 2008c). However, there are similar early indications that the new US administration will retreat from the deregulatory EM discourse championed by the Bush Administration in favour of a reengagement with the green governmentality discourse of binding emission targets. At the April 2009 UNFCCC meeting in Bonn, Germany, the Obama Administration delegates indicated that the USA would commit to absolute emission reduction targets as a part of a global post-2012 climate agreement (US Department of State 2009). At the Bonn meeting the Obama administration put forward a 2020 target of a 15% reduction on 2009 levels and a 2050 target of an 80% reduction on 2009 levels (US Department of State 2009). The US statement spoke of the necessity for a ‘structure to ensure significant funds flow to developing countries’ and a need to ‘develop appropriate protocols to ensure that low-carbon technology is effectively developed and diffused’ in those countries (US Department of State 2009). These US statements suggest a re-engagement with the weak EM discourse of flexible market based mechanisms for technology transfer to assist countries meet some of their emission reduction commitments. The US statement at Bonn even stated that the USA recognised a ‘unique responsibility both as the largest single historic emitter of greenhouse gases and as a country with important financial and technological capabilities and resources’ (US Department of State 2009). This statement supports higher obligations for developed nations based in part on historical causation of climate change, suggesting a re-engagement with the fairness concerns of the civic environmentalism discourse. Whilst it is early days, there are strong initial indications of a substantial weakening of the deregulatory EM discourse in US policy statements and a re-engagement with the green governmentality, weak EM and even civic environmentalism discourses. The Bush Administration approach of using the deregulatory EM discourse as a foundation of US international climate policy and the APP as a vehicle for political contestation of the future of international climate policy appears to be ending.8

8 Conclusion

The APP has been used by the USA, Australia, Canada and Japan to promote a discourse of deregulatory EM to contest further Kyoto-style emission reduction targets for developed countries in the post-2012 climate negotiations. The deregulatory EM discourse was inspired by the necessity for the Bush Administration and Howard government to articulate a vision for international climate change policy that offered a significant departure from the politically negotiated, binding, absolute emission reduction targets and the associated carbon market of the Kyoto Protocol. The APP deregulatory EM discourse combines voluntary national intensity targets and sector-based public-private cooperation to remedy informational failures in markets for cleaner technologies and practices. The APP discourse coalition contained a solid core of developed countries seeking an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol, namely, Australia, Canada, Japan and the USA. However, other APP countries, such as China and India, have been more ambivalent in their support for the deregulatory EM discourse, by still advocating strongly for binding developed nation targets within the UN climate negotiations. The deregulatory EM discourse is also discernable in the APEC Sydney Declaration and US MEP position. The early signs from the US Obama Administration and Australian Rudd Government are pointing towards a re-engagement with the targets and timetables approach of the UNFCCC negotiations. However, elements of the APP deregulatory EM discourse, such as sectoral technology working groups and intensity targets, may well still be prominent in any global climate agreement coming out of the Copenhagen conference at the end of 2009.

Footnotes

  1. 1.

    A heuristic device is a procedure that ‘involves the use of an artificial construct to assist in the exploration of social phenomena. It usually involves assumptions derived from extant empirical research (…). Such devices have proved especially useful in studies of social change, by defining bench-marks, around which variation and differences can then be situated’ (Scott and Marshall 2009).

  2. 2.

    Greenhouse gas intensity is represented by greenhouse gas emissions per unit of economic output. It is commonly expressed as tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent/per unit of gross domestic product, see McGee and Taplin (2006).

  3. 3.

    There is some recent evidence of a thawing in the attitude within the APP to NGO participation with an inaugural invitation in the USA to NGO and local government representatives for a ‘breakfast briefing’ on the APP. See US Department of State (2008).

  4. 4.

    Hybrid climate governance is climate governance managed by both state and non-state actors (Bäckstrand 2008).

  5. 5.

    From table in APP executive summary of task force action plans (APP 2006d, p. 2).

  6. 6.

    The protocol was viewed as representing Japan’s new global leadership, was negotiated in Japan and bore the name of a Japanese city (Tiberghien and Schreurs 2007, p. 81, 88).

  7. 7.

    Particularly in the UN climate negotiations during the period 2007–2008, see (Vihma 2009).

  8. 8.

    The US Senate was also a strong supporter of the Bush Administration decision to not ratify the Kyoto Protocol and may still prove a significant obstacle to the US ratifying a post-2012 treaty containing binding emission reduction targets for developed countries; see Skodvin and Andresen (2009).

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge the excellent assistance that Harro van Asselt and Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen provided in finalising this article and in editing this special issue. The authors also thank the two anonymous reviewers of this article for their valuable assistance.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of LawUniversity of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia
  2. 2.Graduate School of the EnvironmentMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Environmental Management, Mirvac School of Sustainable DevelopmentGold CoastAustralia

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