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Dickinson to Durban » Climate Change » Who’s Got the Power?

Who’s Got the Power?

Climate change is an expansive issue that needs reform on many levels from the individual choices we make to the framework of world politics. Bulkeley and Newell argue in Global Institutions: Governing Climate Change that on the political level the nation state is not as important as it is perceived to be and that there are other important actors in climate change politics. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), the IPCC, and large corporations do have significant influence on climate politics, but are they more important actors than nation states?

NGOs did help shape negotiations for the Kyoto Protocol through the Climate Action Network (CAN) and the European Union. The UNFCC does have measures to check the parties who signed the treaty and the IPCC’s reports do have influence among the leaders, but what it really comes down to is the nation states holding each other accountable for their emissions and paying attention to the reports that the IPCC issues. But in the end they do not have the ability to make the decisions that can change policy. Ultimately it is up to the nation states in the form of the United Nations to enact policy and then hold each other liable for following that policy. The United Nations is simply a coalition of nation states, which should be more powerful together, but due to differing personal agendas, economies, and resources are divided. This coalition only works when these parts all work together. Currently they cannot all find common ground, meaning the most important actors in climate policy would be the individual nation states and there choice to enact policy within their own nation state, and convince the other nation states that it should be adapted by all.

What it all comes down to then is power. Who has the most power to influence climate policy? Bukeley and Newell claim that power comes from economic and military strength. Therefore the nation states with the most economic and military strength will be more powerful in respect to other nation states. The United States can therefore be seen as a hegemon of global politics. The United States has both the wealth and the military force. According to this definition of power, what other than another nation state could even compare to the power of the U.S.?  It has already been stated that the individual nation states are divided, and certainly big business can try and influence decisions, but ultimately they still answer to the national government, the same can be said for NGOs. Therefore the most important actors in climate policy are the nation states, because the nation states have the power to put compromise and work together to actually enact change through policy reforms.

Bulkeley, H., and P. Newell, 2010. Governing Climate Change. Routledge, New York.

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