Negotiations Reflections

December 18, 2013

Before taking a class about environmental negotiations, I had a different (or vague) idea of how negotiations are conducted. I had assumed that it is a large gathering of countries, where they state their positions or beliefs and argue over the numbers of targets, but I had no idea how the negotiations are much more than simply arguing over setting the targets.  Here are the few things I’ve came across that are interesting or what I’ve learned throughout the negotiations process and from the Warsaw COP19:

1)Layers of Complexity

Negotiations on important issues that affect billions of people around the world are much more complex than one think, so imagine trying to find a solution that satisfies everybody! There are many layers to negotiations than simply setting emissions target for each country. I could see how history and politics play roles in negotiations, especially that developing countries want the developed countries to recognize their past “environmental sins” and adhere to the “polluter pays principle”. Economic and development issues add more complexity to negotiations. Every country has their own country’s economic interests in mind, so they would try to avoid setting any targets that would harm its development.

For example, the Warsaw COP19 clearly shows the divide between the developed and developing countries when it comes to the matter of financing, which the whole negotiations eventually boil down to. The developing countries are asking the developed countries to help them to pay for their projects for loss and damage, adaption, and mitigation approaches.

Before the start of the COP19, I wasn’t too optimistic about the developed countries stepping up their game and taking action or doing something on the issue of loss and damage. The Haiyan hurricane had brought the attention to loss and damage, but even so, the developed countries such as the U.S weren’t planning on compensating. The discussion on loss and damage broke down when 133 developing countries walked out. But all countries agreed to create a Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage and create further plan or discussion in Paris 2015. 

2)Finance = Thorn of Climate Negotiations

The negotiations are much more than setting targets and making concessions. The negotiations are really about changing the core of the political and economic structure of all countries involved. To enact such changes, financing is particularly one of the most important and discussed issues at the COP19 since there can’t be action without money involved. Financing will bring in further political and economic changes to the developing countries receiving the funds. The Warsaw COP19 reveals that developing countries are showing their anger at the lack of financial support and mitigation ambition from richer nations.

Interestingly, all countries recognize the threat of climate change, but it is a matter of how we address the threat, especially if everyone is trying to protect their country’s interests.

--Sheila Xu