Call to modernize antiquated climate negotiations

November 18, 2012, University of East Anglia

The structure and processes of United Nations climate negotiations are "antiquated", unfair and obstruct attempts to reach agreements, according to research published today.

The findings come ahead of the 18th UN , which starts in Doha on November 26.

The study, led by Dr Heike Schroeder from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Tyndall Centre for Research, argues that the consensus-based decision making used by the (UNFCCC) stifles progress and contributes to negotiating deadlocks, which ultimately hurts poor more than rich countries.

It shows that delegations from some countries taking part have increased in size over the years, while others have decreased, limiting poor countries' negotiating power and making their participation less effective.

Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, Dr Schroeder, Dr Maxwell Boykoff of the University of Colorado and Laura Spiers of Pricewaterhouse Coopers, argue that changes are long overdue if demands for climate mitigation and adaptation agreements are to be met.

They recommend that countries consider capping delegation numbers at a level that allows broad representation across government departments and sectors of society, while maintaining a manageable overall size.

Dr Schroeder, of UEA's School of International Development, will be attending COP18. She said: "The UN must recognize that these antiquated structures serve to constrain rather than compel co-operation on international climate policy. The time is long overdue for changes to institutions and structures that do not support decision-making and agreements.

"Poor countries cannot afford to send large delegations and their level of expertise usually remains significantly below that of wealthier countries. This limits ' negotiating power and makes their participation in each session less effective."

The researchers found that attendance has changed in terms of the number and diversity of representatives. The number of delegates went from 757 representing 170 countries at the first COP in 1995 to 10,591 individuals from 194 countries attending COP15 in 2009 – a 1400 per cent increase. At COP15 there were also 13,500 delegates from 937 non-government Observer organisations.

Small developing countries have down-sized their delegations while G-7 and +5 countries (Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa) have increased theirs. The exception is the United States, which after withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol started to send fewer delegates to COPs.

The study, Equity and state representations in , also looked at the make-up of the delegations and found an increase in participation by environmental, campaigning, academic and other non-Governmental organisations.

"Our work shows an increasing trend in the size of delegations on one side and a change in the intensity, profile and politicization of the negotiations on the other," explained Dr Schroeder. "These variations suggest the climate change issue and its associated interests are framed quite differently across countries. NSAs are well represented on national delegations but clearly the government decides who is included and who is not, and what the official negotiating position of the country and its level of negotiating flexibility are."

Some countries send large representations from business associations (Brazil), local government (Canada) orscience and academia (Russia). For small developing countries such as Bhutan and Gabon the majority of government representatives come from environment, forestry and agriculture. The UK has moved from mainly environment, forestry and agriculture to energy and natural resources. The US has shifted from these more conventional areas to an overwhelming representation from the US Congress at COP15.

Explore further: US inaction on climate troubles global talks

More information: Equity and state representations in climate negotiations, by Heike Schroeder, Maxwell T Boykoff and Laura Spiers, is published online in Nature Climate Change (Vol 2, December 2012) on November 18.

Related Stories

US inaction on climate troubles global talks

August 1, 2010

(AP) -- The failure of a climate bill in the U.S. Senate is likely to weigh heavily on international negotiations that begin Monday on a new agreement to control global warming.

New Zealand won't sign 'Kyoto 2' climate treaty

November 9, 2012

(AP)—New Zealand's government said Friday that it would not sign on for a second stage of the Kyoto Protocol climate treaty, a stance that angered environmentalists and political opponents.

Climate talks appear to slip backward

August 6, 2010

(AP) -- Global climate talks appeared to have slipped backward after five days of negotiations in Bonn, with rich and poor countries exchanging charges of reneging on agreements they made last year to contain greenhouse ...

Recommended for you


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Nov 18, 2012
The rich have, and the poor have not.
not rated yet Nov 18, 2012
These international climate negotiations will never succeed because fossil fuels are cheaper than green energy. (Cheaper to the user, though not necessarily cheaper to the world.)
In my opinion the world will not switch to green energy until it is cheaper than fossil fuels. The best way the developed world can make green fuels cheaper is through massive support of Research, Development, and Demonstration of clean energy. Every week Physorg details a few more steps that reduce the cost of Biofuels, Solar, Wind, Geothermal, etc. There should be a vast international effort to greatly accelerate scientific progress in green energy to make it cheaper than fossil fuels. Once green energy is cheaper, the world will voluntarily, eagerly switch away from burning fossil fuels.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.