Competing definition of climate change and the post-Kyoto negotiations

Chloé Anne Vlassopoulos (Department of Political Science, University of Picardie, CURAP/CNRS, Amiens, France)

International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management

ISSN: 1756-8692

Publication date: 24 February 2012



The purpose of this paper is to examine the definitional debates linked to climate change and their impact on the policy actors ' position and on policy content. It is suggested that while discussing about “climate change”, different policy arenas perceive different problems implying different responsibility attributions and different solutions.


The study mobilizes different sources, such as regulations, research reports, and scientific papers, combined with personal interviews with international agents participating in the climate policy negotiations process.


Initially, climate change has been defined as an environmental degradation problem. Progressively, other competing definitions of the problem occupied the public debate. Alternatively, climate change has been discussed as a development issue, a migration issue and a security issue. The paper argues that while this polyphonic discourse persists, the problem definition process remains unaccomplished, new institutional equilibriums cannot be established and, consequently, policymaking cannot follow.

Practical implications

By focusing on the different perceptions and debates of the climate issue, this paper points to the conflicts transcending the international arena. This gives policy actors a wider view of the negotiating process in which they are involved.


Most analyses explain the success or failure of international agreements by pointing to either the presence/lack of governmental compliance or the institutional complexity and need for coordination between enforcement agencies. Less attention is paid to the way public problems are perceived by different policy communities. This paper focuses on the definitional debates accompanying the post-Kyoto negotiations and their impact on the policy making process.



Anne Vlassopoulos, C. (2012), "Competing definition of climate change and the post-Kyoto negotiations", International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management, Vol. 4 No. 1, pp. 104-118.

Download as .RIS



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.