James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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The World Next Week: UN Climate Change Conference Begins in Poland, the IAEA Visits Iran, and TTIP Negotiations Resume

by James M. Lindsay
November 7, 2013

A wind farm in Guazhou, China (Carlos Barria/Courtesy Reuters). A wind farm in Guazhou, China (Carlos Barria/Courtesy Reuters).

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the upcoming conference on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting in Tehran, and the second round of talks between the United States and the European Union to reach a deal for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

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The highlights:

  • World leaders head to Warsaw next week for a United Nations summit on climate change. The meeting is formally the 19th Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC and the 9th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. The delegates are hoping to take a step closer to the goal of reaching agreement on a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol that could be signed by 2015 and implemented by 2020. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported in September that if the emission of heat-trapping gases continues at the current rate the globe will warm by 2°C over the next thirty years. That may not sound like much, but it could fundamentally alter the environment—not to mention many coastlines. There are a few bright spots on the climate horizon. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported last month that “energy-related carbon dioxide emissions actually declined 3.8% in 2012 even though the U.S. economy grew 2.8%.” Meanwhile, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency reports that the increase of global CO2 emissions slowed to 1.1 percent last year, a sharp drop from the average of 2.9 percent over the last decade. And carbon emissions in China increased by just 3 percent in last year, the lowest number in decades. The bad news of course is that China is the world’s largest emitter of heat-trapping gases, and slower growth in heat-trapping gases won’t save world from significant climate change.
  • An IAEA delegation will visit Iran next week to continue discussions over the country’s nuclear program. The visit comes amid growing talk that Iran and the P5+1 are on the verge of striking an interim agreement in which Tehran would halt its uranium enrichment program and the West would relax some of its sanctions on Iran. The two sides would then try to use the “breathing space” created by the interim agreement to negotiate a permanent agreement. U.S. officials are emphasizing that any relaxation of sanctions would be “reversible,” so if Tehran failed to deliver on its end of the bargain the West could reapply pressure. That argument is not persuading critics on Capitol Hill. They argue that now is the time to apply more pressure on Iran and not less. That leaves administration officials trying to find a diplomatic package sufficiently attractive to entice Iranian cooperation but not so attractive as to send Congress into open rebellion. Stay tuned.
  • U.S. and EU negotiators meet next week in Brussels for the second round of talks on the proposed free-trade agreement otherwise known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The talks were originally scheduled to be held on October 7-11, but were postponed because of the partial shutdown of the U.S. government. The United States and the EU account for about one-third of global trade, so TTIP has the potential to spur economic growth on both sides of the Atlantic and to increase Western influence over the rules of the global trading system. Unlike other trade negotiations, tariff rates won’t be a major sticking point in the TTIP talks. Tariffs have already been either eliminated or substantially reduced on transatlantic trade. The main challenge will instead be how to harmonize the divergent regulatory systems on both sides of the Atlantic. The political uproar over Edward Snowden’s revelations about U.S. spying is adding an additional complication as well. One thing to watch for is whether President Obama can convince Congress to pass trade promotion authority (TPA), the procedural device by which Congress agrees to limit itself to an up-or-down vote on a trade agreement. TTIP has no chance of happening if Congress insists on the right to rewrite the specific provisions of any deal.
  • Bob’s Figure of the Week is Yasir Arafat. My Figure of the Week is 2.8 percent. Our audience-nominated Figure of the Week comes from TWNW listener Mike Samras (‏@msamras) who picked 350. As always, you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out why.

For more on the topics we discussed in the podcast check out:

UNFCCC: The UN has the summit’s agenda and background information. Bloomberg lays out the obstacles to a climate change agreement. Michael Levi explains why climate diplomacy is so difficult. Pew Research Center compiles public opinion polls on climate change.  CFR’s International Institutions and Global Governance program has a Global Governance Report Card for climate change.

IAEA in Tehran: The IAEA documents Iran’s nuclear sector. Times of Israel details the IAEA’s Iran investigation. The New York Times reports on the last meeting of between the IAEA and Iran. The Associated Press outlines the ongoing negotiations in Geneva. The Hill posts the proposed sanction relief plan offered by President Obama while Congress eyes new sanctions.

TTIP: The United States Trade Representative announces the next round of TTIP negotiations. The Wall Street Journal explains how the NSA spying allegations could be an obstacle to successful talks. The EU Delegation to the United States outlines EU trade policy. Chatham House discusses challenges to the trade deal. The German Marshall Fund calls TTIP “an economic NATO.” Robert Kahn explains the potential benefits and pitfalls of TTIP.

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