The Environmentalism and Politics of Climate Change: A Study of the Process of Global Convergence through UNFCCC Conferences

The Environmentalism and Politics of Climate Change: A Study of the Process of Global Convergence through UNFCCC Conferences

Moses Metumara Duruji (Covenant University, Nigeria) and Duruji-Moses Favour Urenma (Covenant University, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0215-9.ch018
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This study examined the environmentalism and politics of climate change by undertaking a study of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) focusing on the Kyoto Protocol document and the UNFCCC conferences held after Kyoto that has centered on how to garner consensus on the way forward for the global community. The study also probed why the agreement at Kyoto, Japan started having problems when a change of government occurred in the United States with a Republican President that leaned towards the interests of big business most of whom would bear the most costs if the policies as articulated in the Kyoto protocols were to be executed and why the Democratic presidency of Barrack Obama has been slow in pushing forward the agreement at Kyoto. The study concluded that national political interests of the major powers seem to have stalled the implementation of the Kyoto protocol but a change in the dynamics of global leadership spectrum can have a significant impetus in producing an agreement on climate change.
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In 1997, the world gathered at Kyoto, Japan with the agenda to discuss an issue of global proportion which was considered urgent. That issue was the danger posed by emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) and the consequences of that to planet earth. Another important objective of the meeting was to map out strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change. Though the protocol which emerged from that meeting came into effect in 2005 after Russia ratified it, the manner in which major industrialized countries led by the United State foot-dragged on implementation over their demand that developing nations such as India and China should be made to extract commitment on reducing emission smothered the fire that produced the Kyoto protocol. The Copenhagen Climate Change Conference (COP15) of 2009 raised a lot of hope that the issues that stalled the implementation of the Kyoto protocol would be settled and every country carried along in a concerted effort at saving planet earth through a legally binding treaty that member states would domesticated. But in Copenhagen the polarization between developed countries, emerging countries such as India and China and the rests of developing countries could not lead to a meaningful conclusion. Instead, a rushed agreement that shifted the attention of environmental activists to Cancun Mexico the next venue of climate summit (COP 16) that held in December 2010 was what delegates took home. That conference in Cancun came without any concrete pathway towards arriving at agreements that would halt the rapidly changing climate generally seen as endangering the planet. Scientists, researchers, intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations and even concerned individuals all agree that the changes are due to the activities of man. Industrialization, power generation, deforestation, transport and agriculture among others contribute to emission of greenhouse gases including water vapors, carbon dioxide, methane, ozone.

Climate change caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gases has emerged as one of the most important environmental issues facing the international community. For instance greenhouse gases-particularly fossil fuel-based carbon dioxide emissions accumulates in the atmosphere as a result of human activities. The progressive increases in greenhouse gas concentrations raise the global average temperature and cause other changes to the climate (Bohringer, 2003). Its effects on weather and other natural environmental heritages have become increasingly felt since the 1990s. This view has raised the bar of climate change as one of the most significant challenges facing the world. Its projected impacts on the environment and society are unprecedented and better imagined that real. However scholars of climate change provided the scientific background to what is now a deeply political problem by the suggestion that global greenhouse gas emissions must decline rapidly to mitigate the impending consequences resulting from increase in temperature (Shanahan, 2009).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Environmentalism: This is a movement of like minds who are working to protect nature from the activities of man in the quest for survival by advocating for legislation and its enforcement as well as change in the attitude of people in the way we relate to our natural environment.

Kyoto Protocol: This is the agreement reach by stakeholders at the 3 rd Conference of the Parties held in Kyoto Japan in 1997 from 1 st to 11 th of December 1997; it came into effect in 2005 after it was ratified by Russia.

Convergence: The process of coming together of ideas, policies or aims that align or become similar and make a coherent purposive whole. As in the case of climate change the attempt at convergence is by agreeing on a global programme to reduce green house gases that are emitted into the atmosphere.

Politics: This is about struggle of position and resources within any association or group which naturally occurs in every society or grouping.

Climate Change: This is the sustained change in weather condition (over several decades or longer), in areas such as temperature, precipitation, atmospheric pressure, or winds etc.

UNFCCC Conference: United Nations Framework Convention on climate change (UNFCCC) is the international organization formed after the UN earth summit in Brazil to govern issues that relate to reducing global green house gases and mitigate the effects of climate change. It organizes conference of the parties where over 192 countries that have ratified the document gather to negotiate on issues of climate change.

Industrialization: It is the process in which a society or a country transforms itself from a primarily agricultural society into one based on the mechanized manufacturing of goods and services.

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