Call to modernize antiquated climate negotiations

Posted By News On November 18, 2012 - 6:30pm

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 Climate Change Summit, 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 Climate Change Research, argues that the consensus-based decision making used by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) stifles progress and contributes to negotiating deadlocks, which ultimately hurts poor countries 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 poor countries' 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 climate negotiations, 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.

COP18 may turn out a bit differently than many think, with the USA opening the door wide to the voices of others who have become skeptical of the quality and integrity of current climate science .

President Obama has always said that the policies of his administration will be "guided by the science". The fact is that for the past 20-30 years climate science has been hijacked by environmental alarmists with another agenda, most being on payrolls funded directly or indirectly by the government. As always, elitist media stars and academics jumped on the feel-good PR bandwagon. Obama knows all this, as evidenced by the almost total lack of mention of the global warming issue in major presidential addresses during his first term.

As it attempted with very modest success to drive the 'party line' home, an obedient corporate media messed its britches by flagrantly ignoring the traditional ethical responsibilities of the 4th estate. The US public did not fall for it and neither has most of the world’s public, thanks in no small measure to the raw courage and stubborn skepticism of real climate scientists.

It is important to understand that Corporate America and the International Corporate World in general is driven by the real market, by what really works, and not by somebody's party line. So corporate media is quickly cleaning up its sky-is-falling climate science message to match reality. The bad science promoted by many is being thrown under the bus, along with the reputations of those who promoted it .... in the USA, for example, Gore, Hansen, Jackson et al. Lower level heads in the global warming’s false technocracy everywhere are facing a choice of off-with-your-heads or resign-while-there's-still-time.

In his first term US President Obama was constrained by the need to be able to deliver the campaign funding needed for his party's 2010 and 2012 elections, not to mention his own. Now President Obama is in his 'legacy' term. He is calling for a 'national discussion'. What that means is the debate is not over after all. This is precisely what seasoned members of the science community have been wanting to hear for a long, long time. Furthermore it appears that Obama is saying a US carbon tax is not even on the table, which is sending seismic political shocks around the world (California included).

We should not be shocked. Rational thought and economics usually always rule. Fracked natural gas is going to be a big player in everybody’s near term energy future, and coal is even getting back in the game with a little cleaning up. And to top it off, the rumor is IPCC head honcho Pachauri isn't even invited to COP18.

Skeptics are no longer in such a hurry to sell Obama short. Black guys who get elected President of United States are by definition very astute, very intelligent politicians. COP18 is a global decision point, and the USA's stance can make a big difference. Now Obama's challenge is to deeply engrave the word 'statesman' under his name. My reading of the smart money says he'll do it.

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