Diplomatic Leadership and National Climate Action: Understanding the Shifting Roles of the US and China
The US and China are widely regarded as playing a key role in the forging of the Paris Agreement 2015. Since the defection of the Trump administration from the Agreement there has been much speculation about whether China will step into the ‘climate leadership vacuum’. Yet the fact that the US and China represent the two most significant great powers, the two biggest emitters or that they cooperated on the road to Paris hardly amounts to leadership. This presentation conceptualises, distinguishes and relates diplomatic leadership and national climate leadership and employs this framework to evaluate the respective roles of the US and China over the period 2013-2015. It is shown that the US played a much more significant diplomatic leadership role than China in forging the Paris Agreement, while China has undertaken more significant national climate action than the US. Unlike the US, China has seen its primary diplomatic responsibility as leading developing countries rather than ‘leading the world’, and its national emissions reduction efforts have been predominantly driven by domestic considerations. China is therefore unlikely to rush to fill the international ‘leadership vacuum’ in climate diplomacy in the near term, especially given China’s continued investments in fossil fuels, at home and abroad. This may change in the medium to longer term if Xi Jinping decides that China will pursue a more consistent and concerted vision of ecological civilisation at home and abroad.
Robyn Eckersley was educated at the University of Western Australia, Cambridge University (UK) and the University of Tasmania, and taught political science at Monash University from 1992-2001 before joining the University of Melbourne in 2002. She has published widely in the fields of environmental politics, political theory and international relations, with a special focus on the ethics and governance of climate change, including in journals such as Political Studies, European Journal of International Relations, Review of International Studies, Ethics and International Affairs and Global Environmental Politics. Her book The Green State: Rethinking Democracy and Sovereignty (2004) won the Melbourne Woodward Medal in 2005 for the best research in Humanities and Social Sciences and was runner up in the International Studies Association’s Sprout Award for 2005 for the best book on Environmental Studies. She was a Visiting Professor at the Research Center for Global Welfare, The Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Chiba University in Japan in 2008, a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, from August 2009 to January 2010; and served as Arne Naess Chair in Global Justice and the Environment at the University of Oslo, November 2010 to January 2011. She was elected as Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia in 2007. She as also served as Chair of the Organising Committee of the Sixth Oceanic Conference on International Studies (OCIS VI), held at the University of Melbourne on 9-11 July 2014; Chair of the Oceanic Conference on International Studies Transition Committee and Co-convenor/Treasurer of the Australian Political Studies Association Environmental Policy and Politics Research Standing Group. She has served as Director of the Master of International Relations Program 2011-2012 and Chair of the Discipline of Political Science from 2008-2010, 2014 and second semester 2015.