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Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional

Print version ISSN 0034-7329

Rev. bras. polít. int. vol.55 no.spe Brasília  2012


The G-77, BASIC, and global climate governance: a new era in multilateral environmental negotiations



Since the 1960s, the countries of the developing world have approached international negotiations together as the Group of 77, or G77. The G77 has steadily demanded greater participation in international politics. Member-states also argued that negotiations should lead to international agreements that enhanced their development possibilities. After 2000, several countries in the G77 grew economically and politically to take on larger roles. The BASIC countries – Brazil, China, India, and South Africa – emerged as a coalition in 2009 that has teamed up to address climate change negotiations together. At the same time, they maintained their ties with the G77 and continued to negotiate within it. This article asks how the rise of the BASIC coalition affects the status of the G77 and its members' ability to achieve their central goals in the negotiations: a seat at the table and resources to support their sustainable development aspirations.

One of the most important historic commonalities among the members of the G77 is a sense that they have been excluded from equal participation in global negotiations. In contrast to this history, the large regional powers in BASIC have begun to draw increasing international attention, especially in the climate negotiations. They have been invited to many small side meetings, and were influential in the small group negotiating the conclusion to the Copenhagen climate meeting. In fact, BASIC countries often would prefer less inclusion, since it is often coupled with demands for more climate action from them. From the standpoint of the rest of the G77, the presence of the BASIC countries draws more attention to the G77 and magnifies its demands. Yet the BASIC countries and others in the G77 do not necessarily share the same interests in climate negotiations, and the G77 itself is less recognized as a leader with the rise and partial separation of its largest members. BASIC countries remain, in their words, "anchored" in the G77, but their distinct status has contributed to the G77's decline as a negotiating coalition.

The G77's other major goal is to use the climate negotiations to pressure for assistance in their national development efforts. Member countries have insisted on financial assistance for adapting to the effects of climate change, arguing that the quicker pace and manner in which the Northern countries developed caused the problem in the first place. They also seek technological and financial assistance in transforming their own economies to modernize them and make them more sustainable. The BASIC countries have helped to bring greater visibility and force to the G77 demands, as they tend to share preferences on finance proposals. All of them want new and additional funds that come from public sources, oppose donor dominance of the mechanisms used to distribute assistance, and frame their demands as development rights. The BASIC countries have supported such demands inside the G77 and on their own, and have begun to stress that some sub-categories of the G77 – the Small Island Developing States, the LDCs, and Africa – have special priority for funding assistance for adaptation to climate change.

While they agree at the level of principle on financing arrangements, with the BASIC countries making the G77's demands stronger, the empirical picture is more mixed. The same factors that make the BASIC countries top recipients of foreign direct investment – they are economically dynamic, have comparatively good infrastructure, and can manage more and larger economic projects – make them more attractive recipients for climate funding and technology exchange. The four BASIC countries have hosted more than 80 percent of the emissions reductions projects funded through the Clean Development Mechanism, for example. The other 130 or so G77 countries split the remaining 20 percent. A similar situation has emerged with technology and technology transfer, another key demand of the G77 in the climate negotiations. Despite all the calls for licensing of "green" technology to developing countries, there is still very little of it in the climate area. When licensing of clean energy technology has occurred, China (25 percent), India (17 percent), and Brazil (12 percent) have been the main recipients. These countries also have the best capacity to develop their own green technologies. BASIC countries acknowledge their structural advantages for absorbing modern finance and technology, and have begun very modest projects of their own to offer development assistance to less developed countries.

Most observers have seen a relationship of mutual benefit or at least mutual dependency between the members of the G77 and BASIC. In general, the G77 is seen to benefit from the greater visibility and negotiating weight of its larger and wealthier members, while the BASIC countries avoid isolation and gain legitimacy for their demands when they are couched within the G77's agenda. On the other hand, this article shows that many members of the G77 appear to have some concrete disadvantages from asserting similarity with the BASIC countries.



Kathryn Ann Hochstetler
Balsillie School of International Affairs, University of Waterloo, Canada.

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