Playing to One’s Strengths: The Implicit Division of Labor in U.S. and EU Climate Diplomacy

At the end of 2016, the transatlantic policy community is in a state of flux. New leaders on both sides of the Atlantic have assumed office—or will do so soon—and bring with them what are, in some cases, profoundly different views than those of their predecessors.  The issue of climate change is one such case in which the policies implemented and achievements made to-date are at odds with the professed views of the incoming U.S. administration.

The 2015 Paris Agreement was a high point of climate diplomacy.  This Policy Report looks at the history of international climate negotiations before turning to the factors that contributed to the Paris Agreement’s adoption and quick entry into force.  It identifies the United States and the European Union as crucial players in the diplomatic process, and examines the leadership styles that were employed by both actors to craft an agreement that not only met with their own approval, but that was accepted by other—at times less cooperative—actors.  In a fresh take on climate diplomacy, the authors analyze key players’ Twitter feeds to learn more about negotiators’ priorities and opinions, using Twitter to determine the value each actor places on various topics.  The Policy Report concludes with an assessment of U.S. and European cooperation on climate and the division of labor that led to the Paris Agreement.  Finally, it looks to the future of climate diplomacy in light of the new administration that will take office in Washington in January.

Diplomacy—and climate diplomacy—will be as essential as ever in the years ahead.  This Policy Report offers AICGS’ signature insights into how the U.S. and Europe can collaborate on an issue that will continue to appear on the transatlantic agenda.

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The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies.

Katja Biedenkopf

University of Leuven, Belgium

Dr. Katja Biedenkopf was a Visiting Fellow and DAAD/AICGS Research Fellow from February through July 2016. She is Assistant Professor at the University of Leuven, Belgium. Her research centers on climate and environmental policy. Dr. Biedenkopf has conducted research on the external effects of European Union environmental policy on the United States, China, and South Korea, in particular in the areas of electronic waste, chemicals, and climate policy. She also has worked on questions regarding global environmental governance, the diffusion of greenhouse gas emissions trading, and policy entrepreneurship. Previously, Dr. Biedenkopf worked as an Assistant Professor at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands; as a postdoctoral fellow at the Free University of Berlin, Germany; and as a doctoral research fellow at the Vrije Universiteit Brussels, Belgium. Prior to her academic career, Dr. Biedenkopf worked as EU Affairs Manager at the American Electronics Association, a Brussels-based trade association.

Dr. Biedenkopf’s research project at AICGS analyzes and compares the ways in which Germany, the United States, and the European Union engage in climate diplomacy. To push for the adoption of an international climate agreement in Paris in December 2015, Germany, the U.S., and the EU, among other nations, stepped up their outreach to various countries, trying to build momentum for the negotiation process. Their climate diplomacy strategies aimed at shaping debates and influencing the definition of countries’ national interests so as to influence their position in the negotiations. The project maps, analyzes, and compares these initiatives.