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Global Climate Change Policy
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A major international climate summit approaches, and all eyes are on the United States.

Introduction

The president of the United States plans to attend a major upcoming international climate summit. Members of the National Security Council will need to consider a strategic goal for the summit, bearing in mind the potential impact of climate change, the potential effects of proposed mitigation measures, and the need to secure international support for the U.S. approach from both developed and developing countries.

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smoke stacks emitting greenhouse gases
Content

The Situation

Developed or industrialized countries, including the United States, have been releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. In recent decades, rapid economic growth in major developing countries such as China, India, and Brazil has led to significant increases in their own greenhouse gas emissions. Major U.S. and international scientific organizations have concluded that such human activity is responsible for much of the warming observed in recent decades. The effects of this global warming or climate change pose risks not only to the environment, but also to the security and livelihoods of people in the United States and around the world, now and in the future. Various international responses are possible, but the questions of whether, how, and how fast to cut emissions; who should bear the costs of doing so; and how to compensate those harmed by both climate change and policy responses have few simple answers. The U.S. government has convened a National Security Council (NSC) meeting to consider what goal to pursue at an upcoming international climate summit that the president plans to attend. NSC members will need to weigh the options, bearing in mind the potential impact of climate change, the potential effects of proposed measures to limit or prevent it, and the need to secure international support for the U.S. approach from both developed and developing countries.

 

Concepts 

  • International environmental policy
  • International economic policy
  • Multilateralism
  • International development

 

Issues

  • Intersection of economic and foreign policy concerns
  • Interests and responsibilities of developing and developed states
  • Uncertainty of threats and of policy effects
  • U.S. strategy at international summits, including top-down versus bottom-up approaches
Guide Sections
An Introduction to the National Security Council
National Security Council meeting

“The function of the Council shall be to advise the President with respect to the integration of domestic, foreign, and military policies relating to the national security...”

– Title I of the National Security Act of 1947

1.1 Overview

The United States plays a critical role in establishing and maintaining international order in an increasingly globalized world. The range of foreign policy issues that require its attention or involvement is vast: from conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria to tensions with North Korea and Iran; from long-standing alliances with European and Asian powers to complex, evolving relationships with Brazil, China, India, Russia, and South Africa; from the stability of global finance to the promotion of economic opportunity in low-income countries; and from climate to health to nuclear proliferation to terrorism. There is little around the world in which the United States does not have a vested interest. Further, issues such as immigration, trade, and cybersecurity underscore the fading distinction between domestic and international matters.

U.S. leaders use a range of tools to pursue a foreign policy that they believe will safeguard national security and achieve U.S. goals:

  • diplomatic, such as bilateral or multilateral consultations and negotiations, treaties, defense and security agreements, resolutions at global and regional bodies such as the United Nations, and public diplomacy to promote U.S. views and culture
  • economic, such as trade and investment agreements, tariffs, sanctions, embargoes and boycotts, development assistance, loans for the purchase of U.S.-manufactured products, and sales of arms, equipment, and technology
  • military, such as missile strikes, nuclear deterrence, ground force deployments, ship and submarine patrols, blockades, unilateral or partnered military exercises, foreign military training, and special operations forces
  • unconventional actions, sometimes secret, undertaken by the U.S. government and its proxies, such as training and assisting foreign intelligence services, supporting armed nonstate actors, private security contracting, and cyberwarfare

Effective policymaking requires a deft combination of these tools. To accomplish this, policymakers need to clearly define U.S. interests and gauge the interests, resources, and motivations of foreign governments and nonstate actors. The U.S. intelligence community helps policymakers in their work by collecting and analyzing a vast range of information, including satellite images, communications records, documents, data, and personal observations.

Foreign policy successes and failures are often associated with presidential decisions. Less explored is the decision-making system that helps the president make those critical choices and coordinate their implementation. This guide will help you understand the system through which the United States creates and implements its foreign policy.

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National Security Council meeting
CIA Director George Bush discusses the evacuation of Americans from Beirut

“....I envisioned a special role for the national security advisor, who is the manager of the National Security Council. I needed an honest broker who would objectively present to the president the views of the various cabinet officers across the spectrum.”

— George H.W. Bush, “A World Transformed,” p. 18

1.2 The Interagency Process

Whether it aims to respond to an immediate crisis or to advance a long-term objective, a successful foreign policy–making process starts with a clear articulation of interests and goals. Policymakers and their advisors then formulate policy options to meet those goals and consider each option’s strengths and weaknesses. This process is challenging in the best of times. Information may be unreliable or incomplete, an adversary’s intentions may be unclear, and a decision’s consequences may be unknowable. Leaders often have to choose from a list on which every option is imperfect. Adding to this uncertainty is the complexity of the U.S. government’s foreign policy machinery: numerous agencies—each with its own interests and biases—seek to influence how policy is decided and carried out. In these circumstances, it takes considerable effort to run a process capable of producing sound policy decisions.

The National Security Council (NSC) plays a critical role in this effort. Its mission is to help the president effectively use a variety of instruments—military, diplomatic, or otherwise—to forge policies that advance U.S. national security goals.

The NSC was created by the National Security Act of 1947, which defined it as an interagency body intended to “advise the president with respect to the integration of domestic, foreign, and military policies relating to the national security.” Following World War II, in an age of expanded American interests and responsibilities, the NSC was expected to provide a place where the heads of federal departments and agencies could cooperate to develop and recommend to the president policies that would advance U.S. aims. The NSC and its staff were also meant to manage the policymaking process so that the president would receive a full range of advice and opinion from the departments and agencies involved in national security.

The NSC has evolved significantly over the years, adapting to the preferences of successive presidents and the challenges they faced. Variables such as NSC meeting attendees, the frequency of meetings, the amount and format of information passed to the president, the importance of consensus, and the relative dominance of the NSC over other government institutions have changed over the decades.

During this time, the NSC has evolved to comprise various interagency committees and a large staff to prepare analysis and coordinate policymaking and implementation. The NSC is at the center of the interagency process, one through which relevant government agencies address foreign policy issues and help the president make and execute policy choices.

I. National Security Advisor

The national security advisor (formally assistant to the president for national security affairs), a senior advisor to the president, is at the heart of the NSC structure. Ideally, the national security advisor’s role is twofold: to offer advice to the president and to coordinate and manage policymaking. Because they have direct access to the president and do not represent a cabinet department such as the State Department or Defense Department, national security advisors are in a unique position to drive foreign policy decisions, manage the actors involved, and mitigate conflict throughout the decision-making process.

II. National Security Council Staff

The NSC staff consists of individuals from a collection of agencies that support the president, the vice president, and the administration. NSC staff members are generally organized into directorates that focus on regions or issues. The size and organization of the staff vary with each administration.

The NSC staff provides expertise for the variety of national security policy matters considered by the committees and the president. It manages numerous responsibilities, including preparing speeches, memos, and discussion papers and handling inquiries from Congress on foreign policy issues. Staff members analyze both immediate and long-term issues and help prioritize these issues on the interagency agenda.

III. Committee Structure

Committees are at the core of policy deliberation and policymaking in the NSC. They fall into four categories:

  • The highest-level is the National Security Council itself. Formal NSC meetings are chaired by the president and include individuals named by the National Security Act of 1947 as well as other senior aides the president invites.
  • The principals committee (PC) comprises cabinet-level officials who head major government departments concerned with national security, such as the secretaries of state and defense. The national security advisor traditionally chairs the principals committee.
  • The deputies committee (DC) includes the deputy leaders of the government departments represented on the principals committee and is chaired by the deputy national security advisor.
  • Policy coordination committees (PCCs) cover a range of regional areas and issues. Each committee includes officials who specialize in the relevant area or issue at one of the departments or agencies in the interagency system. PCCs are generally chaired by senior directors on the NSC staff. Much of the day-to-day work needed to formulate and implement foreign policy across the U.S. government happens at the PCC level.

This committee structure tackles both immediate crises such as an outbreak of conflict and enduring issues such as climate change. In the normal course of events, PCCs conduct analysis on an issue, gather views on it and its importance from various departments, formulate and evaluate policy options, and determine what resources and steps would be required to carry out those options. The deputies committee, meanwhile, manages the interagency process up and down. It decides what PCCs to establish and gives them specific assignments. It also considers information submitted by the PCCs, ensuring that it is relevant, complete, and clear, before relaying it to the principals committee or the full NSC.

The principals committee is the highest-level setting, aside from the NSC itself, for debating national security issues. It consists of the heads of the NSC’s component agencies—essentially all the members of the NSC except the president and vice president. Formal NSC meetings, which the president chairs, occur whenever the president sees fit. They consider issues that require the president’s personal attention and a direct presidential decision.

The goal of this committee structure is to foster consensus on policy options or highlight where and why consensus cannot be reached. If officials at one level agree on an issue, it may not need to go to senior officials for a decision. This practice reserves the president’s time, and that of the principals, for the most complicated and sensitive debates.

When a crisis erupts, however, issues may not follow the usual path up from the PCCs. In these cases, NSC staff members and officials in government departments and agencies generally draft papers drawing on their expertise, available intelligence, and any existing contingency plans. Policy options are then debated and decided at the appropriate level, depending on the nature and severity of the crisis. The policymaking process may also deviate from this model based on the preferences of each president.

For the purposes of Model Diplomacy’s NSC simulation, you will role-play the NSC meeting with the assumption that the committees described have already done their jobs and passed critical information to the highest-level decision-makers.

Presidential Decisions

When the president makes a policy decision, it may take the form of a verbal instruction recorded in a NSC staff document and shared with relevant departments and agencies. The president may also issue formal decisions in documents that lay out the administration’s policy and explain its rationale and goals. These documents have gone by different names under different presidents. President Donald J. Trump issues national security presidential memoranda, which replace the presidential policy directives and presidential study directives that President Barack Obama issued.

The president may also issue an executive order. In the past, presidents have issued executive orders for such purposes as facilitating sanctions against foreign individuals and establishing new offices in government departments to achieve foreign policy aims. For federal agencies, both national security directives and executive orders carry the full force and effect of law, though the president’s authority to issue these kinds of documents is sometimes questioned.

National Security Council meeting
President Bush leads a meeting of the National Security Council.

“These complex times have made clear the power and centrality of America’s indispensable leadership in the world.”

— Obama 2015 National Security Strategy

1.3 Departments and Agencies

Although many executive branch departments and agencies are involved in foreign policy and, depending on the issue, play a role in the NSC process, the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the intelligence community form the core of the foreign policy bureaucracy. The Department of the Treasury, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice often play crucial roles as well.

Department of State

The Department of State conducts the United States’ relations with other countries and international organizations. It maintains U.S. diplomatic presence abroad, issues visas for foreigners to enter the country, aids U.S. citizens overseas, and manages cultural exchanges and other programs to promote American interests. As head of the department, the secretary of state is the president’s principal foreign affairs advisor and has a keen understanding of the United States’ international relations, the relationships between foreign countries, and the behavior and interests of their governments.

Department of Defense

The Department of Defense carries out U.S. defense policy and maintains U.S. military forces. It includes the U.S. ArmyNavyMarine Corps, and Air Force, as well as an array of agencies with missions ranging from advanced technological research to defense cooperation with friendly countries. The department employs more than two million military and civilian personnel and operates military bases across the United States and abroad. The secretary of defense, the head of the department and the president’s principal defense policy advisor, stays up-to-date on the security situation in foreign countries and the possibilities and implications of U.S. military involvement. The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff is the highest-ranking member of the U.S. armed forces and the president’s top military advisor.

Intelligence Community

The U.S. intelligence community consists of seventeen agencies and organizations, including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA), and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which gather and analyze intelligence to help policymakers formulate and implement U.S. foreign policy. Each of these agencies has its own mission; for example, the NSA focuses on signals intelligence (information gathered from communications and other electronic signals) and the Defense Intelligence Agency on military information. The director of national intelligence, the president’s principal advisor on intelligence issues, oversees this network of agencies with the aim of ensuring that they work together and deliver the best possible information to U.S. policymakers.

Department of the Treasury

The Department of the Treasury carries out policy on issues related to the U.S. and global economies and financial systems. The secretary of the treasury, as head of this department, serves as one of the president’s chief economic advisors and is responsible for addressing a range of economic concerns, including growth, trade and investment, and the position of the U.S. dollar. The Treasury’s ten bureaus, which include the U.S. Mint and the Internal Revenue Service, do much of the department’s work, which ranges from collecting tax to printing currency and executing economic sanctions.

Department of Homeland Security

Created soon after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Department of Homeland Security works to counter and respond to risks to American security. It focuses on issues such as terrorism prevention, border security and immigration, disaster response, and cybersecurity. Familiar agencies within the department include U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which checks travelers and goods coming into the United States; the U.S. Secret Service, which protects the president and investigates financial crimes; and the Transportation Security Administration, which ensures security at airports. The secretary of homeland security oversees the department and advises the president on relevant issues.

Department of Justice

The Department of Justice investigates and prosecutes possible violations of federal law, represents the U.S. government in legal matters, oversees federal prisons, and works more broadly to prevent and respond to crime. Agencies such as the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration are part of the department, as are divisions focusing on particular areas of law, such as national security and civil rights. Leading the department is the attorney general, who offers legal advice to the president and the heads of other departments, including on matters under discussion in the NSC.

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Guide Glossary

A

alliance:an official partnership between two or more parties based on cooperation in pursuit of a common goal, generally involving security or defense.
attorney general:head of the Department of Justice and chief lawyer of the U.S. government. Among other duties, he or she offers advice on the legal aspects of proposed policies to the president and other department heads.

B

bilateral:undertaken between two entities, generally countries.
blockade:an act of war wherein a foreign military cuts off access to a specific location, usually a port, to impede deliveries of supplies. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy ordered a blockade of Cuba—calling it a “quarantine” to avoid the implication of declaring war—in response to Soviet missile activity on the island.

C

Cabinet:the group comprising the vice president of the United States and the heads of all fifteen federal executive departments, such as the secretaries of state, defense, commerce, labor, and education. Other officials may also have cabinet rank, depending on the administration.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS):the highest-ranking member of the U.S. armed forces. The CJCS does not exercise command authority over U.S. troops, but instead works with the leaders of the U.S. military services to fulfill his function as the top military advisor to the president and other senior officials.
chief of staff to the president:a close advisor to the president who is responsible for coordinating the implementation of presidential policy and managing the Executive Office of the President (EOP), which includes the national security staff among many other entities.
cyberwarfare:defensive and offensive actions taken by a government or nonstate actor in the realm of information network systems and digital infrastructure. Specific actions include planting computer viruses, mounting denial-of-service attacks to disrupt internet and network activity, and conducting electronic surveillance.

D

deputies committee (DC):the intermediate-level setting, below the principals committee, for debating issues in the National Security Council (NSC) system. Chaired by the deputy national security advisor, it comprises the second- and third-ranking leaders of the departments and agencies represented on the National Security Council. It manages the interagency process up and down, answering to the principals committee and assigning and reviewing the work of interagency policy committees.
director of national intelligence:the president’s principal advisor for intelligence-related matters and the head of the intelligence community, a network of seventeen agencies and organizations, such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), that collect and analyze information to assist policymaking.

E

executive order (EO):a decision issued by the president that carries the full force and effect of law. An executive order usually instructs government departments and agencies to implement or modify particular policies or procedures.

F

foreign policy:a country’s attitudes and actions in the international arena. Foreign policy includes two principal elements: goals or interests as the country defines them, such as peace with one’s neighbors, and the means pursued to advance these interests, such as diplomatic negotiations, trade agreements, and military alliances. A country carries out its foreign policy through its dealings with other countries, international organizations such as the United Nations (UN), and nonstate actors such as corporations and advocacy groups.

I

interagency:involving two or more agencies. The National Security Council (NSC), for example, is an interagency forum, not a forum internal to any one agency.

M

multilateral:undertaken among three or more entities, usually countries. The term frequently describes organizations such as the United Nations (UN).

N

National Security Act:a law signed by President Harry S. Truman in 1947 to reorganize the agencies and processes related to intelligence, foreign policy, and the military. Among its reforms, the act established the National Security Council (NSC) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
national security advisor (NSA):the so-called honest broker of the national security policy process and the president’s principal advisor on national security issues. The NSA manages the National Security Council (NSC) staff, chairs the principals committee, and coordinates and manages policymaking with the goal of ensuring effective policy development and implementation.
National Security Council (NSC):an interagency body that serves as the forum for the president to discuss and take action on the most critical national security issues facing the United States. Its membership has varied since its creation in 1947, and now includes the president, vice president, national security advisor, secretaries of state and defense, and a variety of other senior officials.
National Security Council (NSC) staff:the president’s national security and foreign policy personnel. The NSC staff receives direction from the president via the national security advisor, provides expertise on issues and regions, and collaborates frequently with employees from other government departments and agencies to carry out the interagency policymaking process.
national security presidential memorandum:a type of presidential directive, or official order from the president, on matters related to national security. Called different names by different administrations, these documents may initiate a review of current policy, reorganize the structure of the national security policy apparatus, or lay out new strategies.
nonstate actors:individuals or groups that do not belong to or act on behalf of a state. This may refer to nongovernmental organizations such as Amnesty International, media outlets such as the New York Times, or terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda.

P

policy coordination committees (PCCs):the lowest-level setting for debating issues in the National Security Council (NSC) system and the home of much of the day-to-day work needed to formulate and implement U.S. foreign policy. Often chaired by a senior director on the NSC staff, PCCs develop, coordinate, and carry out policy options in distinct regional and functional areas.
principals committee (PC):the highest-level setting, aside from the National Security Council (NSC) itself, for debating issues in the NSC system. Generally chaired by the national security advisor, it comprises cabinet-level officials who head major government departments concerned with national security, such as the secretaries of state, defense, and homeland security, and other senior officials.

S

sanction:a tool of statecraft, frequently involving economic measures such as asset freezes and trade restrictions, used to exact a certain behavior or outcome from another party. The U.S. and EU sanctions against Russian companies and individuals that aim to encourage Russia to end its interference in Ukraine are an example.
secretary of defense:the principal defense policy advisor to the president and head of the Department of Defense, which oversees the formulation and execution of defense policy and manages U.S. military forces.
secretary of energy:the head of the Department of Energy, which executes U.S. policy on energy, environmental, and nuclear issues and oversees seventeen national scientific research laboratories.
secretary of homeland security:the head of the Department of Homeland Security since its creation after the attacks of September 11, 2001. This department works to protect U.S. security by implementing federal policy concerning terrorism prevention, border security, immigration, disaster response, and cybersecurity.
secretary of state:the president’s chief foreign affairs advisor, the country’s chief diplomat, and the head of the Department of State, which conducts the United States’ relationships with foreign countries and international organizations.
secretary of the treasury:one of the president’s chief economic advisors and head of the department of the treasury, which carries out policy on issues related to the U.S. and global economies and financial systems. The department is home to the U.S. Mint and Internal Revenue Service, among other agencies.
special operations forces:elite U.S. military units, such as Navy Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) teams and Army Special Forces, grouped under U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). They conduct specialized and often sensitive missions that include guerrilla warfare, counterterrorism raids, counterproliferation, and advanced reconnaissance.

T

tariff:a tax on goods arriving from a foreign country, generally used as a tool of trade and foreign policy to penalize adversaries or favor allies or domestic producers.

U

U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations (UN):the ambassador-level official who advances U.S. foreign policy interests in the bodies and forums of the UN system.
unilateral:undertaken by only one entity, generally a country.

V

vice president:the second-highest-ranking official of the U.S. government and first in line to assume the presidency if the president dies, resigns, or becomes unable to serve. Though given only one responsibility in the Constitution—to serve as president of the U.S. Senate, with the power to break ties—the vice presidency has become a visible part of the modern White House. Today’s vice presidents undertake a variety of functions, from serving as an all-purpose presidential advisor to carrying out diplomatic trips abroad. The personality of the individual who occupies this post and his or her relationship with the president define the scope of the role.
Case Notes Sections
Climate protester
smoke stacks emitting greenhouse gases

“Climate change does not respect border; it does not respect who you are—rich and poor, small and big. Therefore, this is what we call global challenges, which require global solidarity.”

—UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, December 6, 2011
 

2.1 The Issue

Developed or industrialized countries, including the United States, have been releasing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for more than a century by burning fossil fuels for power, heat, transport, and industrial activity. In recent decades, rapid economic growth in major developing countries such as Brazil, China, and India has led to significant increases in their greenhouse gas emissions as well. Greenhouse gases trap the sun’s heat close to the earth, causing the planet to warm. Some of these gases occur naturally, which is why the earth is warm enough to sustain life as we know it. But increasing the concentration of these gases in the atmosphere causes more heat to be trapped, raising average global temperatures and changing the planet’s climate—a phenomenon known as global warming or climate change. 

Although some people claim that the rise in the earth’s average temperature is primarily a natural phenomenon, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and other organizations have concluded that much of the warming observed in recent decades is a consequence of human activity. 
 

Climate change poses risks not only to the environment but also to the security and livelihood of people in the United States and around the world. These effects include rising sea levels, more extreme weather patterns, and significant damage to the earth’s ecosystems. If current trends continue, growing plentiful and affordable food for a rising global population could become more difficult; low-lying areas, including many of the world’s major cities, could be forced to build expensive flood defenses; and more extreme weather could threaten the safety of millions of people.

Rising greenhouse gas emissions could be addressed through policy at both domestic and international levels. But reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide will not be easy. Modern economies depend on fossil fuels. Output from alternative sources such as solar energy and wind is growing but not enough to fully replace fossil fuels yet, and currently available measures to increase energy efficiency are costly and time-consuming. Climate change, moreover, is a difficult issue for policymakers. The questions of whether, how, and how fast emissions should be cut; who should bear the costs of doing so; and how those harmed by both climate change and climate change mitigation should be compensated have few simple answers.

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smoke stacks emitting greenhouse gases
iceberg floating off the coast of Greenland

“We underline that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. We emphasise our strong political will to urgently combat climate change in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.”

Copenhagen Accord, December 18, 2009
 

2.2. Background

Carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases heat the planet through a process known as the greenhouse effect. When sunlight reaches the earth’s atmosphere, some of it is reflected back into space. Greenhouse gases absorb the heat from the sunlight that passes though the atmosphere and release some of that heat to-ward the earth. Energy from the sunlight that makes it to the earth’s surface—both on land and in the water—heats the surface. Some of that heat is also released into the atmosphere. This is how the atmosphere is warmed. Most greenhouse gases are released during the burning of fossil fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas. However, human activity is not the only source of greenhouse gases; CO2 is also generated through volcanic eruptions, animal respiration, and the decay of plants. Methane is generated by certain kinds of bacteria and in the digestive systems of ruminant animals, such as cattle. The concentration of these gases, primarily CO2, in the earth’s atmosphere, has also changed naturally in the past. High concentrations of CO2 have been associated with warmer temperatures and higher sea levels; lower concentrations have been associated with ice ages. 

Both the magnitude and the pace of the present changes to the climate, however, are more significant than any other change in at least the last two million years. Scientists estimate that if average global temperatures rise by 5 degrees Celsius by 2100 (at the higher end of current projections), the earth will have experienced in a few hundred years the same amount of warming it did in the five thousand years after the last ice age.

Policymakers have agreed that temperature increases by 2100 should be limited to 2 degrees Celsius relative to global average temperatures at the start of the Industrial Revolution, because higher temperatures will likely lead to more severe climate patterns and more difficult adaptations for people. Yet there is little agreement on how to achieve this goal. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), staying below the 2 degree threshold would likely require dramatic global emissions cuts over the next three decades and emissions that are near zero by 2100. Many policymakers and climate negotiators doubt this can be achieved. Instead, they focus on securing significant emissions reductions rather than working toward a specific CO2 or temperature goal.

Many countries are concerned that making the major, rapid reductions in emissions required to reach the 2 degree target will be expensive, politically controversial, or both. Moreover, agreement over who should bear the most responsibility for achieving that target has not been reached. Governments of developing countries point out that developed countries bear the most cumulative responsibility for climate change mitigation because they have been emitting at high levels for the longest time. Governments of developed countries, on the other hand, note that emissions from developing countries are rising fast, and the majority of future emissions are likely to come from the developing world. (Indeed, China has already surpassed the United States and Europe in CO2 emissions.) These concerns have made it difficult to agree on how to achieve substantial global emissions reductions.

Despite these challenges, addressing climate change has been a prominent international concern since the 1980s. In 1992, the United States and 164 other countries signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the goal of which was to stabilize greenhouse gases at a level that would prevent dangerous changes in the climate. The convention did not set specific targets for countries; in-stead, it established the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” among countries, placing higher expectations on developed countries. Those countries pledged to voluntarily reduce emissions and make regular reports on their progress. These reports showed little progress, in subsequent years, toward meeting the voluntary reductions. 

The UNFCCC also established a Conference of the Parties, which called treaty signatories to an annual meeting at which they would discuss the agreement’s implementation and make any changes they thought necessary. In 1997, the parties agreed on a change in the agreement, known as the Kyoto Protocol, which mandated that thirty-seven industrialized countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by a specified amount—5 percent below 1990 levels—between 2008 and 2012. The protocol had limited results: developing countries faced no required emissions cuts, and the United States, the largest green-house gas emitter among developed countries, never ratified the treaty. The treaty failed to decrease reli-ance on fossil fuels and brought about only modest cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Despite its limita-tions, however, the Kyoto Protocol laid the framework for other, more robust climate agreements, in-cluding the Paris accord.

In December 2015 in Paris, the UNFCCC convened a major summit. The goal was to negotiate a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol. Over the course of 2015, countries were asked to submit pledges to the UNFCCC, known as intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs). (Now that the deal has come into force, these are referred to as nationally determined contributions [NDCs].) These documents were requested from all member countries, rich and poor, and outlined what each country intend-ed to do to reduce its current emissions or limit future emissions growth. Most pledges involved reducing CO2 emissions; some also addressed issues such as adopting renewable energy sources, reducing the use of coal or storing related emissions underground through a process known as carbon capture and sequestration, and preserving or restoring forests. Independent assessments of the pledges found that, collectively, they would reduce emissions significantly if fulfilled, but not by enough to reach the 2 degree Celsius target recommended by the IPCC. 

At the summit, negotiators sought agreement on whether and how to monitor progress toward national pledges, whether and how to make pledges more stringent over time, and whether and how to provide financial support to poor countries struggling to adapt to the changing climate and reduce their own emissions. The final agreement called on countries to make new emissions reduction pledges every five years, beginning in 2023, with the hope that they would increase their reduction targets each time. Wealthy countries also pledged additional money to help poor, vulnerable countries adapt to the effects of climate change. The degree to which the agreement is successful in mitigating climate change will only be seen over time, but most analysts agree that the Paris summit produced the most important global climate agreement since the Kyoto Protocol. 

The Paris Agreement came into force on November 4, 2016, after more than fifty-five countries, which together emit 55 percent or more of global emissions (the necessary threshold), ratified the accord. Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the accord on June 1, 2017. Under the terms of the deal, however, the earliest date the United States can officially withdraw is November 4, 2020. In the wake of Trump’s announcement, China, India, the European Union, and many other signatories reaffirmed their commitments to the Paris accord. 

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smoke stacks emitting greenhouse gases
sign at U.S. climate change protest that reads "There is no Planet B"

“If there is ever a challenge where the U.S. can shine and provide leadership, it is the challenge of climate change.”

—U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, January 7, 2015
 

2.3 Role of the United States 

Although climate change has been a prominent political issue since the 1980s, the U.S. government has failed to agree on or implement comprehensive climate change legislation. Congress’s most recent at-tempt to pass a comprehensive bill was in 2009. The American Clean Energy and Security Act sought to establish a nationwide cap-and-trade system to limit CO2 emissions. The bill was not passed in part due to fears of its effect on the economy and uncertainty about the origins of climate change among some policymakers.

This is not to say that the United States is doing nothing to address climate change. Since 2012, about $10 billion per year has been directed to climate-related programs across eighteen federal agencies— (a relatively small amount compared with what other governments spend). On June 25, 2013, President Barack Obama issued a presidential memorandum that instructed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop regulations for reducing CO2 emissions from power plants, the country’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA released the Clean Power Plan a year later, a set of standards for existing power plants that aimed to reduce national power-sector emissions by approximately 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. According to the plan, each state is to be given individual targets based on its existing emissions and capacity for reduction, but states will be allowed to choose the tools with which to meet those standards. For example, states can decide to increase their reliance on renewable or zero-carbon energy sources, reduce the use of coal and oil in favor of natural gas, or develop other policies that better suit their circumstances. However, these regulations face legal challenges. The Trump administration has also sought to weaken or repeal many of these regulations, a move that could itself be challenged in the courts. 

Despite these steps, the United States is often seen as a straggler among developed nations in establishing comprehensive national climate policies. France, for example, currently relies on nuclear power for 75 percent of its electricity. By 2050, Denmark plans to source 100 percent of its electricity from renew-able sources; Iceland already does so. Japan has substantially reduced its oil imports over the past few decades through significant improvements in energy efficiency. This relative lethargy makes it difficult for the United States to lead calls for concerted international action in multilateral negotiations. Finding a way to achieve significant, sustainable emissions reductions at home could give the United States great-er credibility in negotiations abroad.

The task of the National Security Council (NSC) is to determine the strategic goal of the United States at the upcoming summit. The decision requires attention to both environmental and economic concerns, and to the interests of domestic U.S. political groups as well as those of the other countries at the summit.

Three potential strategic goals have been presented to the NSC for decision: 

1. Renegotiate the Paris Agreement. During his speech announcing his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, Trump indicated that he was open to renegotiating the accord if terms more favorable to the United States could be reached. Although virtually all legislation addressing climate change faces an uphill battle in Congress, market-based approaches have previously been considered there and continue to garner some political support. These could form the basis of U.S. proposals for a new international agreement. Two main options are discussed in this regard:

  • Cap-and-trade system: A cap-and-trade system directly limits emissions and creates a market price for them. It caps emissions at an agreed-upon level and issues or sells emissions permits adding up to that cap to major emitters. Those emitting less than their allotted amount can sell their extra permits to others emitting more, creating a financial incentive to emit less. Over time, the cap is lowered, increas-ing the value of the ever-scarcer permits and ensuring that emissions decline. A global cap-and-trade system would set national limits on emissions and establish an international market for permits. Un-der such a system, wealthy countries unable to meet their targets could also fund an emissions-reduction project in a developing country as compensation. This practice is known as offsetting.
  • Carbon tax: A carbon tax does not directly limit emissions, but by setting a price on CO2 emissions (usually per ton), it creates a financial incentive to reduce them. To the extent that the tax is factored in the price of consumer goods and electricity, it would make these items more expensive. This option could, however, encourage individuals to consume goods associated with lower carbon emissions, or to consume fewer goods and less energy overall. A tax would also raise revenue that governments could use to lower deficits, provide new services, or decrease other taxes. A global tax could be agreed to at the international level, but in most cases, including in the United States, imposition of such a tax would also need to be approved by national legislatures.

Under either option, a binding, international agreement would be the most ambitious potential goal. It could have the greatest chance to mitigate climate change, but it also faces the most obstacles. Developed and developing countries often differ on who should bear the main responsibility for mitigation efforts, making an agreement that binds countries to specific steps difficult to achieve. Both cap-and-trade sys-tems and carbon taxes are also politically controversial in many countries, including the United States. 

2. Remain in the Paris Agreement and do not attempt to change it. The Paris Agreement does not require parties to take any specific action to reduce emissions. Instead, countries promised, through their NDCs, to make their own climate-related changes, agreeing to certain procedures to monitor progress toward pledges and to increase the ambition of the NDCs over time. The NSC could decide to continue this approach using the requirements and arrangements agreed to in Paris. This strategy would offer the benefits of continuity and stability for other countries and U.S. industry. It could, however, disappoint those who hoped that the United States would pull out of the accord and renege on its emissions reduction pledge. Others have raised concerns that policies pledged in countries’ NDCs could prove difficult or expensive to implement. 

A variant of this option entails remaining in the Paris Agreement but weakening the United States’ NDC. Nothing is stopping the United States from scaling back what it promised to do under the Paris framework. This would be less disruptive than a U.S. withdrawal and could preserve some credibility and goodwill for Washington in future negotiations. However, as a compromise, it could also spark criticism from groups favoring ambitious measures and those favoring a total break from the Paris framework.

3. Prioritize other climate initiatives. This strategy entails pursuing Trump’s planned withdrawal while focusing on steps to encourage good climate practices and provide climate-related assistance to developing countries. These steps would not rely on international agreements to encourage or require compliance. 

This option encompasses a range of potential steps. The United States could provide financial, techno-logical, or professional assistance to poorer countries to help them mitigate their emissions, develop or adopt new technology, or adapt to climate change. Wealthier countries could, for example, directly finance mitigation projects in developing countries, including renewable power plants and anti-deforestation initiatives. Many countries and institutions, including the United States and international financial institutions, have already been doing this through climate funds. Adaptation assistance likewise takes many forms, such as sharing better climate information and weather forecasting technology, providing drought-resistant seeds and techniques for farmers, and assisting with coastal defenses to protect against rising seas and natural disasters. 

The United States could adopt the goal of building one or more of these initiatives into a binding inter-national agreement or a set of voluntary pledges. It could also make such initiatives a stand-alone goal. An additional variant would put greater onus on private companies, universities, cities, and states to collaborate on policies and technologies to mitigate and adapt to climate change. U.S. cities and states have recently announced their intention to work together on climate issues. The federal government could encourage these kinds of domestic and international collaborations without taking significant additional action.

Climate-related assistance, whether pursued alone or as part of a broader approach, is subject to debate. Advocates often argue that it is morally necessary because many poor countries have done little to con-tribute to climate change but are likely to suffer some of its worst effects. Such assistance could also have practical political effects. It demonstrates that industrialized countries are willing to address the concerns and needs of developing countries, which can increase the latter’s willingness to join global mitigation efforts. However, questions have been raised about whether the United States would be helping its economic rivals by funding public works projects in those countries.
 

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Case Notes Glossary

A

adaptation:modification of human structures, systems, or activities to accommodate a changing environment. In the context of climate change, this means adjusting to new environmental conditions as opposed to trying to prevent their occurrence (an approach known as mitigation).
alternative energy:energy derived from biofuels, solar, wind, geothermal, or tidal power. This is contrasted with energy derived from fossil fuels (e.g., oil, coal, and natural gas).
Annex I Countries or Parties:a group of forty-two countries plus the European Union included in Annex I of the Kyoto Protocol, a 1998 amendment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. These parties, comprising industrialized economies such as the United States and transitional economies such as Russia, agreed to binding emissions cuts. By default, other countries that signed the convention are referred to as Non-Annex I countries.
anthropogenic:resulting from human action. For example, anthropogenic climate change refers to effects on the climate believed to be a result of human activity, such as industrial production, and not of naturally occurring phenomena.

B

biofuel:liquid fuel derived from plants. A prominent example is ethanol, a product of sugarcane or corn.
bottom-up/top-down:two potential structures for an agreement in international negotiations. In the context of climate change negotiations, a top-down approach refers to a process in which countries determine a collective goal, and roles for fulfilling that goal are assigned to individual countries or parties to the agreement. Under a bottom-up approach, each country decides on its own actions within a broader framework.

C

cap-and-trade:a policy framework in which a government caps the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted in the country or region during a given period. Emissions permits, which allow companies to emit a specific amount of greenhouse gases, are issued or sold to companies, up to the national or regional cap. These permits can be traded among companies—sold by companies that emit less than their targets and bought by those that emit more—creating a financial incentive to lower emissions and providing flexibility for companies that cannot or do not wish to do so. Over time, the cap on emissions is reduced to ensure emissions go down. Cap-and-trade programs exist at the state, regional, national, and international levels.
carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e):a measure of the combined warming effect of all greenhouse gases, expressed as the amount of carbon dioxide that would be required to achieve the same effect.
carbon tax:a policy in which entities such as companies pay the government a fixed fee for each ton of greenhouse gases emitted. The purpose is to encourage firms to pursue technologies and practices that will reduce their emissions.
Clean Air Act:a federal law that regulates airborne emissions from stationary sources (such as factories) and mobile ones (such as cars). Among other things, this law authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency to establish air quality standards to protect public health and welfare, and to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants.
Copenhagen Accord:a nonbinding accord resulting from a 2009 climate change conference at which countries put forward national plans for reducing emissions; agreed to raise money to help developing countries both mitigate and adapt to climate change; and set long-term goals for capping the global rise in temperatures to two degrees Celsius.

D

deforestation:the destruction or loss of forests. Deforestation increases greenhouse gas accumulations in the atmosphere because it eliminates trees, which naturally absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, and releases carbon from the soil.

E

emissions intensity:a calculation of greenhouse gas emissions relative to an economic measure such as gross domestic product, usually expressed as tons of CO2 per unit of GDP.
European Union (EU):a supranational organization composed of twenty-eight European countries, formally established by the 1992 Maastricht Treaty. The EU’s objectives include the economic, political, and security integration of its members, accomplished through such methods as removal of trade barriers; free circulation of EU citizens among certain member countries; and use of a common currency, the euro, by nineteen members. The EU is the largest U.S. trading partner and many of its members are among the most important U.S. allies.

F

fossil fuel:a hydrocarbon energy source such as oil, coal, or natural gas.

G

greenhouse effect:the buildup of heat in the atmosphere near Earth’s surface, driven by the concentration of greenhouse gases.
greenhouse gas:any gas that absorbs heat in the atmosphere and re-emits it back toward Earth, causing a warming effect. The greenhouse gases regulated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulphur hexafluoride. Water vapor and ozone are also greenhouse gases but are not covered by the UNFCCC.
Group of Twenty (G20):a multilateral forum created in 1999 for officials from the largest advanced and developing economies to jointly address global economic concerns. Finance ministers and central bank governors of member countries meet several times a year; in 2008, in response to the global financial crisis, the G20 began hosting annual meetings for the leaders of its member economies. The G20 exists solely to coordinate policy and has no enforcement mechanisms.

I

Industrial Revolution:a transition, beginning in the eighteenth century, from small-scale, largely agricultural economies to more industry-intensive ones. It began in England and extended to other parts of Europe, the United States, and beyond. Propelled by technological advances that enabled vastly more efficient production, this process raised living standards dramatically but also boosted the use of fossil fuels and, therefore, the emission of greenhouse gases.
intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs):a form of voluntary national emissions reduction pledge established at the 2014 Lima climate summit. Countries were asked to publish INDCs ahead of the 2015 Paris climate summit outlining their intended national policies to mitigate climate change.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):a group formed in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Program and the World Meteorological Organization to evaluate the scientific literature on climate change and provide reports to international policymakers. Several thousand experts from 195 member countries contribute to IPCC analyses. IPCC reports are perhaps the world’s best known studies on climate change.

K

Kyoto Protocol:a 1997 agreement reached in Kyoto, Japan, that amended the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It mandated emissions cuts by thirty-eight developed economies while encouraging (but not requiring) developing countries to follow suit, and was renewed in 2011 for an additional five years.

M

Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF):an Obama administration initiative launched in 2009 whose membership consists of sixteen major developed and developing countries, plus the European Union. Responsible for 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, these parties use MEF to discuss climate issues, including international negotiations and new technologies. The MEF is the successor body to the Major Economies Meeting, which was begun in 2007 by President George W. Bush for the same purpose.
mitigation:action taken with the purpose of limiting or preventing climate change due to greenhouse gas emissions. The term encompasses increased use of energy-efficient goods or renewable energy sources, and the reinforcement of natural processes, such as reforestation.
multilateral:undertaken among three or more entities, usually countries. The term frequently describes organizations such as the United Nations (UN).

N

natural gas:a fossil fuel primarily composed of methane and other gases. Burning it produces substantially fewer greenhouse gas emissions than burning coal, but more than produced by renewable energy sources. It also remains controversial in the United States due in part to the effects of the extraction process sometimes used to access it.

O

offsetting:an action taken as compensation for other activity. Carbon offsetting involves a country’s funding emissions reductions projects abroad instead of reducing its own emissions.

P

Paris Agreement:an international agreement reached in 2015 that requires signatories to offer concrete emissions reductions pledges (see intended nationally determined contributions), establishes rules to monitor their performance against those pledges, and sets up a process to review and increase the ambition of the pledges over time.
parts per million:a measurement of the concentration of a material, such as a greenhouse gas, in one million parts of another substance, such as water or air.

R

renewable energy:energy derived from sources such as sunlight, wind, and water, which have a steadily replenishing supply. These sources stand in contrast to fossil fuels, which regenerate only over enormous lengths of time. See also alternative energy.

S

sink:a system that absorbs and holds CO2 from the atmosphere. Oceans and rainforests are two examples of a carbon sink.

U

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC):a 1992 agreement for the facilitation of intergovernmental negotiations on climate change, specifically the containment of greenhouse gas emissions. Signed by the United States and 164 other countries and ratified by 196 (countries may ratify without signing it), the convention mandates no emissions reduction targets, but it provides for voluntary emissions limits from the developed countries listed in the document’s Annex I.
Role Play Sections
Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.
Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.
Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.

3.1 Role

Welcome to your role as a participant in the National Security Council (NSC)! You should have received an email with your role assignment, but if you did not, you can view your assignment by clicking on the “My Simulations” tab on your account page. At this point, you should have reviewed essential background information about the NSC, read the case, watched the accompanying videos, and perused some of the additional reading. Whether you have been assigned a specific role as an individual or part of a group, or as a general advisor to the president, we suggest you read the case once again to identify material that is particularly relevant to your role or that requires further investigation. After that, you will conduct independent research as you write your position memo and prepare for the role-play.

There are four subsections that follow. Research and Preparation (3.2) will aid your research for the position memo and provide additional reading to guide your research; the Guide to the Memoranda (3.3) provides information about position memos and an example; and the Guide to the Role-Play (3.4) provides more information on the in-class role-play.

You can learn about your role by reading the information provided on your role sheet, which can be found in the Guide to the Role-Play section (3.4).  Review this information thoroughly and often, as your objectives and strategy in the position memo and role-play will be shaped by the institutional perspective of the role you have been assigned (unless you are playing a general advisor). After you finish the role-play and subsequent debrief, you will have an opportunity to share your personal thoughts and recommendations on this case in a policy review memo (Section Four, Wrap-up).

Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.
Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.
Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.

3.2 Research and Preparation

Your role sheet contains three parts: a description of your role, issues for consideration, and research leads. The role description details the position you will portray in the role-play. The issues for consideration will guide your thinking and assist you in approaching the case from the perspective of your assigned role. Most relevant, however, are the research leads. Going beyond the reports and articles linked to throughout the case and in the reading list, these research leads provide suggested materials and topics for further research specifically relevant to your assigned role. Below are some tips to review as you prepare for the role-play exercise.

Research and Preparation

  • Draw on the case notes, additional case materials, and your own research to familiarize yourself with

    • the goals of the NSC in general and of this NSC meeting in particular;
    • the U.S. interests at stake in the case and their importance to national security;
    • your role and your department or agency, including its purpose and objectives in the government and on the NSC;
    • the aspects of the case most relevant to your role;
    • the elements that a comprehensive policy proposal on the case should contain; and
    • the major debates or conflicts likely to occur during the role-play. You need not resolve these yourself, of course, but you will want to anticipate them in order to articulate and defend your position in the NSC deliberation.
  • Set goals for your research. Know which questions you seek to answer and refer back to the case notes, additional readings, and research leads as needed.
  • Make a list of questions that you feel are not fully answered by the given materials. What do you need to research in greater depth? Can your classmates help you understand these subjects?
  • Using the case materials, additional readings, and discussions with your classmates, weigh the relative importance of the U.S. interests at stake in the case. Determine where trade-offs might be required and think through the potential consequences of several different policy options.
  • Conduct your research from the perspective of your assigned role, but be sure to consider the full range of U.S. interests at stake in the case, whether diplomatic, military, economic, environmental, moral, or otherwise. This will help you strengthen your policy position and anticipate and prepare for debates in the role-play.
  • Consider what questions or challenges the president or other NSC members might raise regarding the options you propose and have responses ready.

 

Sources

  • Consult a wide range of sources to gain a full perspective on the issues raised in the case and on policy options. Seek out sources that you may not normally use, such as publications from the region(s) under discussion, unclassified and declassified government documents, and specialized policy reports and journals.
  • Remember: Wikipedia is not a reliable source, but it can be a reasonable starting point. The citations at the bottom of each entry often contain useful resources. 
  • Just as policymakers tackle issues that are controversial and subject to multiple interpretations, so will you in your preparation for the writing assignments and role-play. For this reason, evaluate your sources carefully. Always ask yourself:
    • When was the information produced? Is it still relevant and accurate?
    • Who is writing or speaking and why? Does the author or speaker have a particular motivation or affiliation that you should take into account?
    • Where is the information published? Determine the political leanings of journals, magazines, and newspapers by reading several articles published by each one.
    • Who is the intended audience?
    • Does the author provide sufficient evidence for his or her analysis or opinion? Does the author cite reliable and impartial sources?
    • Does the information appear one-sided? Does it consider multiple points of view?
    • Is the language measured or inflammatory? Do any of the points appear exaggerated?
  • Take note of and cite your sources correctly. This is important not just for reasons of academic integrity, but so that you can revisit them as needed.  
  • Ask your teacher which style he or she prefers you use when citing sources, such as Modern Language Association (MLA), Chicago Manual of Style, or Associated Press (AP).

Reading List

 

2.1 The Issue

James McBride, “The Consequences of Leaving the Paris Agreement,” CFR Backgrounder June 1, 2017, https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/consequences-leaving-paris-agreement.

New York Times, “Global Warming & Climate Change,” http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/globalwarming/index.html.

Vox, “Global Warming, Explained,” Vox.com anthology, https://www.vox.com/2014/10/22/18093054/global-warming-explained.

 

2.2 Background

CFR.org Issue Brief, “The Global Climate Change Regime,” June 19, 2013, http://www.cfr.org/climate-change/global-climate-change-regime/p21831.

Brookings Institution, “Trump’s Paris Agreement withdrawal: What it means and what comes next,” June 1, 2017, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/planetpolicy/2017/06/01/trumps-paris-agreement-withdrawal-what-it-means-and-what-comes-next/.

Jonathan Ellis, “The Paris Climate Deal: What You Need to Know,” New York Times, June 1, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/climate/paris-climate-change-guide.html.

 

2.3 Role of the United States

Kevin Liptak, and Jim Acosta, “Trump on Paris accord: ‘We're getting out,’” CNN Politics, June 2, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/01/politics/trump-paris-climate-decision/index.html.

Brad Plumer and Blacki Migliozzi, “How to Cut U.S. Emissions Faster? Do What These Countries are Doing,” New York Times, February 13, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/02/13/climate/cut-us-emissions-with-policies-from-other-countries.html.

Council on Foreign Relations, “Leaving the Paris Climate Agreement” (Podcast), June 9, 2017, https://www.cfr.org/podcasts/leaving-paris-climate-agreement.

 

Further Reading

Michael Barbarro, “When We Almost Stopped Climate Change,” The Daily, New York Times, August 31, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/31/podcasts/the-daily/climate-change-losing-earth.html.

Neil Bhatiya, “Turning Up the Heat on a Hot India,” ForeignPolicy.com, November 14, 2014, http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/11/14/turning-up-the-heat-on-a-hot-india.

Daniel Bodansky, “The History of the Global Climate Change Regime,” in International Relations and Global Climate Change, Urs Luterbacher and Detlef F. Sprinz, eds. (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2001), 23, http://graduateinstitute.ch/files/live/sites/iheid/files/sites/admininst/shared/doc-professors/luterbacher%20chapter%202%20102.pdf.

Jason Bordoff and Michael A. Levi, “Bittersweet Achievement on Climate,” New York Times, June 25, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/26/opinion/bittersweet-achievement-on-climate.html?_r=2&.

Keith Bradsher, “The Paris Agreement on Climate Change Is Official. Now What?”, New York Times, November 3, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/04/business/energy-environment/paris-climate-change-agreement-official-now-what.html.

John M. Broder, “Climate Change an Extra Burden for Native Americans, Study Says,” New York Times, August 3, 2011, http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/03/climate-change-an-extra-burden-for-native-americans-study-says.

Joshua Busby, “Warming World: Why Climate Change Matters More than Anything Else,” Foreign Affairs, July 2018, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2018-06-14/warming-world.

Council on Foreign Relations, Confronting Climate Change: A Strategy for U.S. Foreign Policy, Independent Task Force Report No. 61, June 2008, http://www.cfr.org/climate-change/confronting-climate-change/p16362.

Coral Davenport, “A Climate Accord Based on Global Peer Pressure,” New York Times, December 14, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/15/world/americas/lima-climate-deal.html?_r=0.

———, “Deal on Carbon Emissions by Obama and Xi Jinping Raises Hopes for Upcoming Paris Climate Talks,” New York Times, November 12, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/13/world/asia/deal-on-carbon-emissions-by-obama-and-xi-jinping-raises-hopes-for-upcoming-paris-climate-talks.html.

Coral Davenport and Marjorie Connelly, “Most Americans Support Government Action on Climate Change, Poll Finds,” New York Times, January 30, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/31/us/politics/most-americans-support-government-action-on-climate-change-poll-finds.html?_r=0.

Coral Davenport and Campbell Robertson, “Resettling the First American ‘Climate Refugees’,” New York Times, May 3, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/03/us/resettling-the-first-american-climate-refugees.html.

Council on Foreign Relations, “Energy and Environment,” https://www.cfr.org/energy-and-environment.

Brian Deese, “Paris Isn't Burning,” Foreign Affairs, June 16, 2017, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2017-05-22/paris-isnt-burning.

Steven Duke, “Has the Kyoto Protocol Failed Africa?” BBC World Service, December 2, 2011, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-15989873.

Economist, “Fuelling Controversy,” January 11, 2014, http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21593484-economic-case-scrapping-fossil-fuel-subsidies-getting-stronger-fuelling.

European Commission, “Climate Action,” http://ec.europa.eu/clima/.  

European Commission, “Paris Agreement,” February 16, 2017, https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/international/negotiations/paris_en.

European Parliament, “U.S. Climate Change Policy: Domestic and International Dimension,” http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/note/join/2013/507470/IPOL-ENVI_NT(2013)507470_EN.pdf.

Peter Folger, “Carbon Capture and Sequestration: Research, Development, and Demonstration at the U.S. Department of Energy,” Congressional Research Service, February 10, 2014, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42496.pdf.

David A. Graham, “Can Global Agreements Survive Without the US? Climate Change Offers a Test Case,” Defense One, June 25, 2018, https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2018/06/can-global-agreements-survive-without-us-climate-change-offers-test-case/149251/.

Linda Greenhouse, “Justices Say E.P.A. Has Power to Act on Harmful Gases,” New York Times, April 3, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/03/washington/03scotus.html?pagewanted=all.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report: Summary for Policymakers,” http://ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/AR5_SYR_FINAL_SPM.pdf.

International Energy Agency, “Tracking Clean Energy Progress,” http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/tracking-clean-energy-progress-2017.html.

Helle Jeppesen, “Denmark Leads the Charge in Renewable Energy,” Deutsche Welle, February 5, 2014, http://www.dw.de/denmark-leads-the-charge-in-renewable-energy/a-17603695.

Keith Johnson, “Coke Brothers,” ForeignPolicy.com, July 22, 2014, http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/07/22/coke-brothers.

Toni Johnson, “The Debate Over Greenhouse Gas Cap-and-Trade,” CFR.org Backgrounder, November 3, 2011, http://www.cfr.org/climate-change/debate-over-greenhouse-gas-cap--trade/p14231.

Mark Landler, “Obama Seeks New U.S. Role in Climate Debate,” New York Times, July 2, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/03/us/politics/obama-seeks-to-reassert-us-role-in-climate-debate.html?pagewanted=all.

Jane A. Leggett, “Climate Change: Conceptual Approaches and Policy Tools,” Congressional Research Service, August 29, 2011,https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R41973.pdf.

———, “A U.S.-Centric Chronology of the International Climate Change Negotiations,” Congressional Research Service, February 8, 2011, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40001.pdf.

Michael Levi, “Beyond Copenhagen: Why Less May Be More in Global Climate Talks,” ForeignAffairs.com, February 22, 2010, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/65985/michael-levi/beyond-copenhagen.

Michael A. Levi, “The Flaws in a Global Climate Treaty Fixation,” Financial Times, November 29, 2011, http://www.cfr.org/climate-change/flaws-global-climate-treaty-fixation/p26612.

Jake Lucas, “Traveling to the Ends of the Earth to Document Climate Change,” New York Times, August 4, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/04/insider/photographing-climate-change.html.

Oliver Milman, “What Happened to Winter? Vanishing Ice Convulses Alaskans’ Way of Life,” Guardian, April 21, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/apr/21/alaska-climate-change-winter-way-of-life.

Edward L. Morse, “Welcome to the Revolution: Why Shale Is the Next Shale,” Foreign Affairs, May/June 2014, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/141202/edward-l-morse/welcome-to-the-revolution.

Todd Moss, Roger Pielke Jr., and Morgan Bazilian, “Balancing Energy Access and Environmental Goals in Development Finance: The Case of the OPIC Carbon Cap,” Center for Global Development, April 2014, http://www.cgdev.org/sites/default/files/balancing-energy-access-case-opic-carbon-cap_0.pdf.

NASA, “Climate Q & A,” http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/blogs/climateqa/browse-categories.

Dana Nuccitelli, “Can a Carbon Tax Work Without Hurting the Economy? Ask British Columbia,” Guardian, July 30, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2013/jul/30/climate-change-british-columbia-carbon-tax.

Alexa Olesen, “Why Is Beijing Downplaying the Supposedly Huge Climate Change Deal?” Foreign Policy, November 12, 2014, http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/11/12/why-is-beijing-downplaying-the-supposedly-huge-climate-change-deal.

Norimitsu Onishi, “Climate Change Hits Hard in Zambia, an African Success Story,” New York Times, April 12, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/13/world/africa/zambia-drought-climate-change-economy.html.

Stewart M. Patrick, “Trump's Catastrophic Climate Decision Imperils the Planet-and Hastens American Decline,” Council on Foreign Relations, June 1, 2017, https://www.cfr.org/blog-post/trumps-catastrophic-climate-decision-imperils-planet-and-hastens-american-decline.

PBS Frontline, “Timeline: The Politics of Climate Change,” October 23, 2012, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/environment/climate-of-doubt/timeline-the-politics-of-climate-change.

Varun Rai and David G. Victor, “Identifying Viable Options in Developing Countries for Climate Change Mitigation: The Case of India,” International Association for Energy Economics, 2010, http://fsi.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/Rai_Victor_IAEE_Identifying_Viable_Options_in_Developing_Countries_for_Climate_Change_Mitigation.pdf.

Robert E. Rubin, “How Ignoring Climate Change Could Sink the U.S. Economy,” Washington Post, July 24, 2014, http://www.cfr.org/climate-change/ignoring-climate-change-could-sink-us-economy/p33290.

Frances Seymour and Jonah Busch, “Why Forests? Why Now? A Preview of the Science, Economics, and Politics of Tropical Forests and Climate Change,” Center for Global Development, October 11, 2014, http://www.cgdev.org/publication/why-forests-why-now-preview-science-economics-politics-tropical-forests-climate-change.  

Ken Silverstein, “Obama’s Clean Power Plan Getting Dirtied But It Has Key Business Support,” Forbes, December 4, 2014, http://www.forbes.com/sites/kensilverstein/2014/12/04/obamas-clean-power-plan-getting-dirtied-but-it-has-key-business-support/.

Caleb Stevens, Robert Winterbottom, Jenny Springer, and Katie Reytar, “Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change: How Strengthening Community Forest Rights Mitigates Climate Change,” World Resources Institute and Rights Resources Initiative, August 21, 2014, http://www.rightsandresources.org/publication/securing-rights-combating-climate-change-how-strengthening-community-forest-rights-mitigates-climate-change.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, “Kyoto Protocol,” http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/items/2830.php.

USAID Climate Change Team, “10 Ways the U.S. Government is Fighting Global Climate Change (That You’ve Never Heard About),” April 22, 2014, http://blog.usaid.gov/2014/04/10-ways-the-us-government-is-fighting-global-climate-change.

U. S. Department of Defense, “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap,” http://www.scribd.com/doc/242845848/Read-DoD-report-2014-Climate-Change-Adaptation-Roadmap.  

U. S. Department of State, “United States Climate Action Report 2014,”https://unfccc.int/files/national_reports/annex_i_natcom/submitted_natcom/application/pdf/2014_u.s._climate_action_report%5B1%5Drev.pdf.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Climate Change: Basic Information,” https://19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/climatechange/climate-change-basic-information_.html.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Causes of Climate Change,”https://archive.epa.gov/epa/climate-change-science/causes-climate-change.html.

———, “Fuel Economy,” http://www.epa.gov/fueleconomy.

---------, “The Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act,” https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-08/documents/peg.pdf.

U.S. National Climate Assessment  2014, http://nca2014.globalchange.gov.

White House, “Presidential Memorandum—Power Sector Carbon Pollution Standards,” June 25, 2013, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/25/presidential-memorandum-power-sector-carbon-pollution-standards.

World Bank, “Climate Change Overview,” http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/climatechange/overview.

Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, “Politics & Global Warming, Spring 2014,” Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, http://environment.yale.edu/climate-communication/article/politics-and-global-warming-spring-2014.

———, “We are Conservatives and We Believe Climate Change is Real,” New York Times, April 21, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/21/opinion/conservatives-climate-change.html.

 

Quotation Sources

Ban Ki-moon, “Remarks at ‘Momentum for Change’ Initiative,” December 6, 2011, https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/speeches/2011-12-06/remarks-momentum-change-initiative.

Copenhagen Accord,” United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, December 18, 2009, http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2009/cop15/eng/l07.pdf.

Jason Samenow, “EPA Chief on Climate Change: ‘The Scary Thing is Doing Nothing’,” Washington Post, January 9, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/wp/2015/01/09/epa-chief-on-climate-change-the-scary-thing-is-doing-nothing.

Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.
Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.
Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.

3.3 Guide to the Memoranda

A major goal of the Model Diplomacy program is to strengthen your ability to write concise, articulate, and persuasive documents that busy colleagues can absorb quickly. In completing this section and Section Four, you will write two memoranda, or memos. These assignments will improve your writing skills and give you a taste of how U.S. foreign policy is conceived, coordinated, and executed.

What is a memorandum?

  • A memo is a formal, succinct written message from one person, department, or organization to another. It is an important form of formal, written communication in the workplace. A memo is generally short, to the point, and free of flowery language and extraneous information. A memo is typically informative or decision-oriented and is formatted in a way that helps readers quickly grasp the main points.
  • In the National Security Council (NSC), memos consider, coordinate, and articulate policy options. They help analyze, evaluate, advocate, and channel those policy options and decisions within the bureaucracy.
  • Memos also function as historical record. Many memos related to NSC discussions and presidential decisions are filed in government archives. Some are later declassified and released to help people understand how policy was devised at a given time in U.S. history. You can access historical examples of memos online. One such resource is maintained by the Federation of American Scientists and offers links to memoranda and directives that various U.S. presidents have issued.

Position Memo

  • The first memo everyone (except the president) writes is called a position memo. It is written from the perspective of your assigned role. It presents a set of policy options for consideration by the NSC and recommends one of them to the president. The recommendation, or position, outlined in this memo is the one you will present during the role-play. (Keep in mind you may change your position as a result of the role-play discussion.) 
  • The position memo will help your fellow NSC members consider the issue efficiently and facilitate decision-making by the president. Equally important, it will help you clarify your understanding of the case by forcing you to identify the essential facts and viable policy options.
  • If you have been assigned a specific role, remember that you are writing from the point of view of the department, agency, or office you represent. Using your institutional position as a lens, you will outline a set of options to address the crisis. Make sure you take into account the pros, cons, and ramifications of each option as it pertains to your role and as it is informed by your reading of the case materials and further research. Also, anticipate critiques of your proposed policy and incorporate your response into the memo. Doing so will help you prepare for the role-play.

Note: If you are assigned the role of president, you will not write a position memo. Instead, you will write a two-page presidential directive, or PD, at the conclusion of the role-play. You will address the PD, which will follow a memo format, to the NSC members and inform them of your final decision regarding the policy option or options to be implemented (see below).

If your teacher has chosen to assign everyone the role of general advisor to the president, you will not need to write the position memo from a particular institutional position. Instead, you will have the flexibility to approach the issue from your own perspective, incorporating a comprehensive assessment of the crisis into your argument.

 

Position Memo Guidelines 

Total length: approximately one thousand words 

  • Subject and background (two short paragraphs): Summarize in the first paragraph the significance of the issue in the context of U.S. foreign policy and national security. Identify in the second the central policy question or questions to be decided. Provide just enough information about the crisis so that the reader understands your memo’s purpose and importance; do not attempt to discuss the case in any depth.
  • Objectives (bullet points): Succinctly state your department’s objectives in the current crisis. These can be general national security objectives (such as preventing war) or more specific goals tied to your department’s mission (such as protecting U.S. citizens). They should be important to U.S. national security, directly tied to the case, and feasible. These objectives should guide the policy analysis and recommendation that make up the rest of your memo.
  • Options and analysis (one paragraph for each option): Present and analyze several options for U.S. policy. Discuss their costs, benefits, and resource needs where possible. To illuminate the trade-offs inherent in complex policy decisions, be sure to acknowledge the weaknesses or disadvantages of each proposed option. No option is likely to be perfect.
  • Recommendation and justification (several paragraphs): Identify your preferred policy option or options and describe how you think it or they could be carried out. Explain your reasoning, keeping in mind that you aim to convince the president to follow your recommendation. Addressing the weaknesses or disadvantages you identified in the options and analysis section can help strengthen your argument.

Click here to see a sample position memo. 

Presidential Directive

The format of the presidential directive is simpler than that of a position memo. A directive contains a record of the policy option or options that the president has chosen as well as the accompanying orders to various parts of the government with details on how to carry out these decisions. 

  • Start with a short paragraph describing the purpose of the memo. Everyone you are writing to was in the NSC meeting, so only brief context is needed.
  • Explain in numbered paragraphs the decisions you have made, why you have made them, and any details regarding how you want the decisions carried out.
  • Explain the communications strategy for the decision, considering both relevant foreign governments and the public. Also, consider that you may wish to keep certain elements of the decision secret from the public.
  • Include any additional details before you sign. 
  • Be sure to include all the information necessary for NSC members to understand and carry out your intentions.

Click here to see a sample presidential directive. 

Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.
Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.
Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.

3.4 Guide to the Role-play

During the simulated NSC meeting, you will meet to debate and discuss U.S. policy options in response to the issues outlined in the case. Consistent with the NSC’s mission to advise the president, you should raise the issues that are most important for the president to consider. This will enable him or her to make the most informed decision on policy options. Though you may or may not agree with this decision, your responsibility as an NSC member is to provide the best possible analysis and advice from the perspective of your role.

Role-play Guidelines

  1. Stay in your role at all times.
  2. Follow the general protocol for speaking.
    1. Signaling to Speak

      1. The National Security Advisor (NSA) will administer the meeting and should decide on a speaking order. Wait to be called on by the NSA.
      2. If you would like to speak out of turn, signal to the NSA, perhaps by raising a hand or a placard, and wait until the NSA calls on you.
    2. Form of Speech
      1. Address the president as Mr. or Madam President and your fellow NSC members in the same fashion (for example, Madam Secretary).
      2. Do not exceed predetermined time limits. If you exceed these limits, the NSA will cut you off.
      3. Frame your comments with a purpose and stay on topic. Remember that you must advise the president so that he or she can reach a decision on a precise policy question.
    3. Listening
      1. Take notes while others are speaking.
      2. Refrain from whispering or conducting side conversations.
      3. Applause and booing are not appropriate. Your words will be the most effective tool to indicate agreement or disagreement.

 

Role-play Tips

  • There is no right or wrong way to participate in a role-play, but the better prepared you are, the more likely you will be able to advance a position effectively, and the more you and your classmates will get out of the experience.
  • Be patient during the role-play. Do not hold back from sharing your perspective, but be sure to give others a chance to do the same.
  • Where there are competing interests, make the judgment calls that you would make if you were a government official, as informed by your earlier consideration of potential trade-offs. Ensure that the consequences of various decisions are carefully weighed.
  • Where appropriate, find common ground with other members of the NSC during the role-play. With whom might you work in advocating your proposed policies? You may find that combining several policy ideas into a new proposal with broader support is an effective strategy if the debate is at an impasse.
  • Think critically about the strengths and weaknesses of your approach as the discussion continues. It is important to subject your own arguments to the same scrutiny that you apply to those of your fellow students. Rethink your arguments as appropriate to take into account the feedback and counterarguments that other NSC members present.
  • You cannot win or lose the role-play. Instead, you should aim to offer a well-reasoned articulation of your position while making concessions and adjustments where you believe they are warranted.
Line Item
Round
One
Timing
2 to 3 minutes per participant
Objectives
  1. Present initial positions to the president.
  2. Investigate the nuances of the positions through questioning.
  3. Clarify the central questions to be debated.
Procedural Notes

Each participant presents his or her position statement. If time permits, the president may ask questions to understand each NSC member’s position and bring out the essential questions he or she wishes to debate.

Round
Two
Timing
30 to 60 seconds per participant
Objectives
  1. Clarify the obstacles, risks, opportunities, and threats.
  2. Evaluate the various positions on their merits.
Procedural Notes

This is the debate portion of the role-play, when participants can defend their recommendations against others’ and identify potential areas of compromise or agreement.

Round
Three
Timing
30 to 60 seconds per participant
Objectives
  1. Narrow the options to a few comprehensive and well- focused strategies that the president prefers.
  2. Provide the president with clear recommendations (from NSC members), perhaps as a consensus or through a vote.
  3. Arrive at a final presidential decision. 
Procedural Notes

This round should start with the president’s stating one to three preferred options to be fleshed out.

Wrap Up Sections
Obama, Xi Jinping, and Ban Ki Moon.
The UN Security Council
JFK.

4.1 The Debrief

After the debate and deliberation close, the president will announce his or her decision, to be later finalized in the form of a written presidential directive (PD). If time permits, you will participate in a debrief following the president’s announcement.

Be active in this debrief. The role-play might seem to be the most challenging part of the experience, but the debrief is equally important. It will reinforce what you learned during the role-play exercise and refine your analytical skills. It will also force you to step out of your role and to view the case from a personal perspective. You will have the opportunity to discuss any challenges you encountered and how you felt about the final presidential decision. The debrief will close with a reflection on the complexities and challenges of crafting foreign policy. This should help clarify your understanding of what you learned and answer any lingering questions. This exercise will also assist you in completing your final assignment, the policy review memo.  

Obama, Xi Jinping, and Ban Ki Moon.
The UN Security Council
JFK.

4.2 Reflecting on the Experience

The following questions are proposed to guide the discussion in the in-class debrief. This is not an exhaustive list and may vary depending on how your role-play exercise unfolded.  If your class does not hold a debrief, these questions will nonetheless help you reflect on the role-play and write your policy review memo: 

  • Which issues received adequate attention during the role-play? Which, if any, received excessive attention or were left unresolved?
  • Did the group consider long-term strategic concerns, or was it able to focus only on the immediate issue and the short-term implications of policy options?
  • Which U.S. interests did the group or the president prioritize in the PD and why? Were you comfortable with this prioritization?
  • Did time constraints affect the discussion and influence the policymaking process?
  • What techniques did you use to convince others that your policy position was the best option? What were successful strategies employed by others?
  • What were the most significant challenges to your position? Did any make you rethink or adjust your position?
  • Did your points cause anyone else to change his or her arguments or position?
  • What political, economic, and other issues arose that you had not previously considered?
  • How did the simulation change your perspective on foreign policy decision-making?
  • If you could go back, what would you have done differently in presenting and advocating your point of view?
Obama, Xi Jinping, and Ban Ki Moon.
The UN Security Council
JFK.

4.3 Policy Review Memo

The policy review memo is your final assignment in the Model Diplomacy simulation. In the debrief discussion after the role-play, you and your classmates went beyond the role you played and thought about the issue from a variety of perspectives. Now that the National Security Council discussion and debrief are behind you, you can consider whether you personally support your recommended policy given the full spectrum of arguments and considerations that arose. Shedding your institutional role and writing from a personal point of view, you will craft a policy review memo that outlines and reflects on the policy options discussed, incorporating and critiquing the president’s decision where appropriate.

If you played the role of president in the simulation, your memo should still reflect your personal opinion. You can comment on the course of action you ordered as president, further justify it, write more extensively on the options you dismissed, or suggest and support alternate options.

No matter which role you played originally, take into account all you have learned. Your instructor will want to see whether and how your understanding of the issue and of the policymaking process has evolved from that expressed in your position memo.

As for the position memo, a sample policy review memo is provided for your reference.

Policy Review Memo Guidelines

  • Subject (one short paragraph): Offer a brief statement about the significance of the issue as it relates to U.S. foreign policy and national security. Provide just enough information about the crisis so that the reader can understand the purpose and importance of your memo. Be sure to include an initial statement of whether you agree or disagree with the president’s decision.
  • Options and analysis (one paragraph per option): Present and analyze the options discussed during the debate, deliberation, or debrief. Discuss their drawbacks, benefits, and resource needs. Be sure to acknowledge any weaknesses or disadvantages of the proposed options.
  • Recommendation and justification (several paragraphs): Identify and explain your preferred policy option or options in more detail. Here, you can explain why you personally favor one or more of the recommendations that you initially presented or the president chose, or different options entirely. If you choose to support the options you presented in your position memo, make sure to justify why you feel yours is still the best position.
  • Reflection (one to two paragraphs): Discuss how your position and the presidential directive are similar; if they are not, discuss how they are different. Use this section to give your thoughts on what the president should have included in his directive, or what you would have done differently. Remember, this is from your point of view; you are no longer advocating on behalf of a department or agency.

Click here to see a full example of a policy review memo.