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26

JULY-AUGUST 2017

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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

There is a great breadth and depth of official and unofficial activity

around the world aimed at meeting the climate change challenge.

Karen Florini, a visiting fellow at the University of

Oxford’s Oxford Martin School, was deputy special

envoy for climate change at the State Department

from April 2015 to January 2017. Previously, she

served as managing director for international climate at the

Environmental Defense Fund.

Ann Florini is a professor of public policy at Singapore

Management University, where she focuses on global

governance issues including energy and climate, and

a Faculty Fellow at American University’s School

of International Service. She was previously on the faculty of

the National University of Singapore, the staff of the Brookings

Institution and the staff of the Carnegie Endowment for Inter-

national Peace.

T

he world no longer waits for U.S.

leadership on climate. In 2014, astute

U.S. diplomacy helped foster a U.S.-

China joint announcement that in

turn made possible the breakthrough

Paris Agreement in 2015. But with that

agreement now in force, businesses

and cities already deeply engaged

and evidence of climate impact more

compelling by the day, U.S. disengagement is unlikely to leave a

leadership void for long. Already the European Union is stepping

into the role of China’s chief dance partner on climate, leaving the

United States on the sidelines of a projected multitrillion-dollar

market for climate-friendly solutions.

Indeed, in the run-up to the Trump administration’s June 1

announcement that it would withdraw from the Paris Agree-

ment—an announcement replete with gross mischaracteriza-

tions of the agreement’s actual provisions—businesses from

Exxon to General Mills to Intel called for the United States to

remain a party to the agreement. They did so not least because

they believe their ability to compete effectively in global markets

will be undercut by Washington’s abandonment of its seat at the

climate-policy table.

Climate change is also increasingly seen as a security issue. In

its 2015 report, National Security Implications of Climate-Related Risks and a Changing Climate , the Department of Defense

identified climate change as “an urgent and growing threat to

our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters,

refugee flows and conflicts over basic resources such as food and

water.” Moreover, Defense noted that these impacts “are already

occurring, and the scope, scale and intensity of these impacts

are projected to increase,” aggravating “existing problems … that

threaten domestic stability in a number of countries.”

Although the Paris Agreement has drawn the lion’s share of

recent international climate headlines, it is far from the only

forum in which Americans can, and do, address climate issues.

A glorious profusion of state, non-state and hybrid entities in

the United States and elsewhere is demonstrating impressive

ingenuity in relevant policy and technology. But this abundance

of loosely connected actors and initiatives makes it difficult to

understand howmany fronts exist in the battle against cata-

strophic climate change. To help reduce the confusion, this

article offers a tentative taxonomy. For context, some basics of

BY KAREN F LOR I N I & ANN F LOR I N I

IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT PARIS

International Climate Action Today

FOCUS

ON ENVIRONMENTAL DIPLOMACY