Yongusil 42: OCIS, North Korea, Institutional Socialization, and the UNFCC

By | July 19, 2014 | No Comments

Since the disappointing outcome to the Copenhagen Conference of the Parties meeting (COP 15) in 2009, the world’s efforts and impetus revolving around climate change mitigation and carbon emission reductions seems moribund, to say the least. Successive COP meetings of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), have failed to make headway or fudged the issues. Political narratives have changed dramatically since the more optimistic years of the early 21 century and the age of austerity and neo-liberalism’s “realist” imperatives have become the order of the governmental day. The government of Tony Abbott has negated much of the climate change agenda of previous Australian governments and seeks to roll back popular and political conceptions of even the veracity and validity of climate science and the fact of climate change itself. How intriguing therefore that the Oceanic Conference on International Studies, at the University of Melbourne, should serve as the venue for a conference panel whose focus was the one country not it seems currently doubting climate or environmental science, namely, North Korea.

Comprising Dr. Benjamin Habib (LaTrobe University), Lisa Tuck (Curtin University), and our own Director of Research Dr. Robert Winstanley-Chesters (Cambridge University’s Beyond the Korean War project and the University of Leeds), the panel entitled “The International Climate Change Regime in Northeast Asia” explored new contexts, theoretic frameworks, and sources for examining international approaches and institutions focused on combating or mitigating climate change and its impacts in the wider East Asian context, as well as a more focused look at North Korea’s relations with this developing institutional field.

Lisa Tuck and Benjamin Habib, with a joint paper, produced an intriguing analysis of Wikileaks Cablegate archive, considering the material focused on climate change within it through the prism of the developing “Relative Gains” field. While on the macro-scale “relative gains” are certainly informative in relation to the intentions of the “great powers” (such US and Australian concerns as to their potentially reductive impact on US economic competitiveness in relation to developing Asian states), on the medium-micro scale of the Korean Peninsula such an approach could be equally informative. Of course, it would not be surprising if Pyongyang’s institutions sought to extract value from the relative gains or losses of both the process of climate change and that which seeks to negate its impacts.

Considering the field through which North Korea might have begun this process, and the vectors through which it encountered the institutions, Benjamin Habib’s “North Korea’s Socialisation into the International Climate Change Regime,” building on Alastair Ian Johnson’s work on institutional socialization, served as a revealing effort to examine those vectors. Following Johnson’s lead, Habib mapped Pyongyang’s socialization journey from mimicry, through social influencing to final persuasion.

Finally, and connected to Dr. Habib’s fine presentation, Dr. Robert Winstanley-Chesters developed the analysis further, beyond Pyongyang’s initial engagement with the process (such as its first national communications and action plans on climate change), to perhaps the practical outcomes of this socialization and process, namely its first Clean Development Mechanism, accredited projects, and potential CER credits.

Just as climate change and our world-wide efforts (or lack thereof) to combat, mitigate, or reverse it and its impacts are essentially a work in progress, and have been since Carbon Dioxide was first theorized to be raising global temperatures in the early 1970s, so collectively this informative panel tracks a developmental agenda in progress. All involved would freely admit there is more research necessary–for example into the processes by which the Czech Environment Ministry became involved (it supports the accrediting organization used by North Korea to facilitate the process), and other elements. However, this panel served as a revealing step on a potentially vital road for developmental research so far as East Asia and North Korea are concerned.

Soundcloud audio of the presentations can be found below:

Lisa Tuck and Dr. Benjamin Habib

Dr. Benjamin Habib

Dr. Robert Winstanley-Chesters

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