26 November 2012

Inequity Among Nations in the Climate Negotiations: A Guest Post

Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Heike Schroeder, University of East Anglia, and Max Boykoff, University of Colorado, who along with Laura Spiers of PwC have co-authored a new piece in Nature Climate Change on the international climate negotiations (available here in PDF). Please feel free to comment on their paper or the climate negotiations more generally, as this is likely to be the only post here on them. Thanks!

Another round of climate negotiations is starting today. On the agenda are two main objectives: the implementation of a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol to start right away – on 1 January 2013 – and to make progress toward a new climate agreement to be finalised by 2015. Issues to be discussed include, among others, adaptation finance, strengthening mitigation efforts by developed countries and reducing deforestation.

While it may be viewed as good news that the Kyoto Protocol is moving into a new phase, only the EU countries, Australia and likely Norway and Switzerland will take part in this second commitment period, covering only some 10-12 percent of global emissions. Thus, Kyoto raises the age-old conundrum between focusing on a few willing countries to lead, even if their efforts are wiped out by massive emission rises elsewhere, and waiting until a critical mass of countries is ready to mitigate seriously.

Our study in the current issue of Nature Climate Change (PDF) looks into embedded questions of who represents the interests of a global populace, by way of considerations regarding who attends and participates in climate negotiations. Based on our results, we argue that a restructuring of UN rules and practices around state representation at UN climate conferences is urgently needed. Current practice that give countries a free hand at sending as many delegates representing mainly vested national interests to the COPs results in serious differences in negotiating power between rich and poor countries. Overall participation increased from 757 individuals representing 170 countries at the first Conference of the Parties (COP) in 1995 in Berlin to an all-time high of 10,591 individuals from 194 countries at COP-15 in 2009 in Copenhagen (a 14-fold increase).

Because there are so many parallel negotiating tracks and so much technical detail, small delegations cannot participate in every session while larger delegations can. We also find significant difference in terms of delegation composition across countries. Moving forward we recommend that countries consider capping national delegations at a level that allows broad representation across government departments and sectors of society while maintaining a manageable overall size. We also argue for a stronger role of constituencies in the UNFCCC (e.g. business, environmental non-governmental organizations, local government, indigenous peoples, youth and so on). Finally, formal and informal arenas – negotiations and side events on specific topics at COPs, for example adaptation finance or addressing drivers of deforestation – could be joined up in innovative ways to facilitate exchange of ideas and foster dialogue among various stakeholders.


  1. Where I come from, only those with money in the pot get to play the game. If poor countries are asked to vote on how much rich countries are going to give them, we know where this is going.

    As for this:

    "We also argue for a stronger role of constituencies in the UNFCCC (e.g. business, environmental non-governmental organizations, local government, indigenous peoples, youth and so on)."

    Youth? Good God. One can only imagine what 'and so on' would include. This kind of thinking (indigenous peoples, in their quaint costumes) is exactly what makes this kind of meeting a cluster... fudge. You're trying to choke off the master resource of modern civilization, and you're fulfilling a wet left ideological check-list.

    If those countries that emit a large amount of CO2 need to do something, then they should meet and talk about it. The rest is a puppet show.

  2. It's time to exit UN climate negotiation efforts. 70% of energy emissions are coming from developing nations and by 202 the USA will represent less than 10% of global emissions. This doesn't include the land use CO2 emission equivalent of roughly 40Gt also coming from mostly developing countries. According to CIDAC conversions lugged into IPCC models the USA will add .26 degreesC of cumulative warming to the globe by year 2100 with current emissions. With continued decreasing emissions it will be less.

    I would rather see the USA spend money not on foreign countries to prevent deforestation but rather building forests here with artificial trees that absorb 1,000 times more CO2/year than an organic tree. This way the USA can reduce CO2 in spite of what China does.


    Giving money to the UN has led to no viable solutions and resulted in the corrupt/failed Kyoto nonsense.

  3. Fundamentally we are talking about transfer of wealth - tax payers money - working peoples' money. In democracies (supposedly) the people elect a government to contract on their behalf, so any mention of non-governmental involvement in decision making would/should not come into play. Indeed I would guess any contract involving non-government agencies could be declared ultra vires.

    Secondly, once again, we have a whole issue that starts from the assumption of "CO2 is bad" meme.
    I suggest now most western countries have encountered a large dose of reality, vis their financial position, the Eco/PC posturing and grandstanding that was de rigueur amongst the political coterie over the past decade or two is gradually unwinding as the voters, who are now being asked to pay the bill, are starting to ask awkward questions.

  4. Amazing that anyone even attends these farcical social COP events anymore and totally hilarious anyone thinks Kyoto is moving into a new phase.

    Well maybe a new phase of a death spiral.

    Europe is broke, America is Greece on the Potomac, Japan is in debt up its wazoo and the Eco Greenie Carbon Grifters think another UN group meeting to try and shake the money tree is going to work.

    Dreams are wonderful things.

  5. All I can say about these climate negotiations comes from the experience of my home country of Canada. In the first Kyoto agreement, the Canadian government deliberately made a reduction commitment that was larger than that of the United States. This was for domestic political purposes and fulfilled the need to show that Canadians are better and more virtuous than Americans. The exact amount of the commitment was immaterial since there was absolutely no intention of doing anything. The compliance data of 2012 was at that time far in the future and not the problem of the then current government. The government proceeded to do exactly nothing and continued to do nothing while still being able to point to the Kyoto treaty as the indicator that Canadians were better and more virtuous than Americans.

    Multinational climate negotiations are quite irrelevant to Canadian behavior and that appears to be so for most countries on the world. Lots of talk and then avoidance of any action.

  6. [Qatar] has become one of the region's wealthiest states due to its enormous oil and natural gas revenue - Wikipedia.

    Highly appropriate location for a climate conference. It's great to the oil and global warming industries working side so openly side by side.

    Qatar is also famous for being the command headquarters for the US slaughter of Iraq. It is also the home of Al Jazeera, the radical, Islamic TV station, previously known as the BBC Arabic Service !! It is an absolute dictatorship.