Abstract International climate negotiations are complex as they address a global environmental problem which affects and requires collaboration between all countries. At the same time, countries may have different interests and abilities to contribute climate policy solutions. This chapters identifies three factors for achieving climate negotiation success: design of the climate agreement, the flexibility of the negotiation process and decisive tactics and facilitative negotiation support to enable changes in the course and/or direction of negotiations.
Climate Change as an Emerging Policy Issue
The international climate conference held in Paris in December 2015 has clearly shown how big and important climate change has become as a topic of international collaboration. During the two weeks in Paris, the world could see how world political leaders but also business leaders gathered to express their concerns about how a changing climate has become visible, both in developing and developed countries. After that, negotiation texts could be downloaded from the Internet so that everyone could see how seemingly simple terms were thoroughly discussed and compared with, perhaps, politically more balanced alternatives. Negotiation ‘outsiders’ who tried to read these texts, usually soon gave up because of all the words and phrases in brackets and options still to be decided on. Eventually, after two weeks of intense negotiations, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laurent Fabius, in his role as President of the Conference, closed the meeting with the adoption of a new international climate policy agreement, called the Paris Agreement.
‘Paris’ was by far the biggest United Nations (UN) climate summit since climate negotiations began in the late 1980s. Already before that, at the end of the 1970s, a series of governmental meetings and conferences had been held, even though human-induced global warming was in those days mainly considered a theoretical possibility, insufficiently backed by scientific evidence and surrounded by relatively large uncertainties (Arts 1998, p. 102; Gaast and Begg 2012). In 1985, the Villach © Springer International Publishing AG 2017
W. van der Gaast, International Climate Negotiation Factors, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-46798-6_1
Conference (9-15 October 1985, Villach, Austria) presented new scientific insights (WMO 1986) which increased awareness of the topic among a wider audience. At the level of the UN, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988, which brought together international leading scientists to assess the latest scientific insights and inform policy makers about their conclusions.
Since the late 1980s, UN-led climate policy negotiations have resulted in several milestones, such as the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992, the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and the Paris Agreement in 2015. Initially, climate negotiations, despite the participation of (almost) all countries in the World, received relatively little attention in non-specialist media sources. Climate negotiations were done and followed by climate specialists and climate change was generally not considered among core socio-economic issues. By the time of the UN Climate Conference in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, climate change had drawn attention from more interest groups, both groups expressing their concerns (such as environmental non-governmental organisations or concerned scientists) about the IPCC findings (IPCC 1995) that people could actually influence climate systems, and groups, such as business lobby groups, for whom greenhouse gas emission reductions would imply the need to make costly changes of their business operations. Especially, the latter group had an interest in highlighting uncertainties about the IPCC findings.
Climate change had become really big as an international political topic when negotiations moved to Copenhagen in 2009. First, there was increased scientific evidence on climate change patterns, risks, possible social, economic and environmental damage from changing climate systems and related costs, such as documented by the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC 2007). Second, the initiative of former US-Vice President Al Gore to launch the documentary An Inconvenient Truth with a best-selling book (Gore 2006) helped to visualise climate change and its possible consequences. Third, in 2007, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Al Gore and the IPCC for their efforts to disseminate knowledge of climate change. With these developments, climate change had becom ‘hot’. Perhaps, ‘Copenhagen’ was too big to handle for negotiators at that time, but in Paris, around 25 years after the start of international climate negotiations, negotiation tactics, processes and knowledge of what are effective climate policies had developed to a level that enabled reaching a global agreement on future climate policy making.
In this book, the process of international climate negotiations since the late 1980s is looked at in more detail in an attempt to understand the complexity of finding a global solution for a global problem and identify a number of key factors that contribute to the success of negotiations. This is done by focusing on three main negotiation files—the adoption of the UNFCCC in 1992, the agreement on and eventual ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and 2005, and the 10-year process leading to the Paris Agreement of 2015.