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Scope and Structure of This Book

From the above it can be concluded that climate policy negotiators face the challenge of achieving a globally supported policy package which is in line with the UNFCCC precautionary principle and recommendations derived from best available scientific knowledge. As explained, this challenge is complicated by the potential trade-off that stricter climate policy measures (higher envisioned greenhouse gas emission reductions) with accompanying socio-economic costs may reduce the number of countries willing to join the climate policy coalition. As the next chapters will show, since the late 1980s, climate policy makers have spent considerable time on the design and structure of climate policy negotiation packages in order to deal with the game-theoretical negotiation aspects (as introduced above and specified in more detail in Chap. 2), such as limiting free riding and achieving a broad international climate coalition despite the absence of an overarching disciplinarian (such as an international government).

Next to these design aspects (including choice of policy instruments), it is also important that the negotiation process enables taking the steps to move from points A to D via B and C as in Fig. 1.1. As the examples in Chaps. 3, 4 and 5 will show, negotiations under the UNFCCC have, for instance, been characterised by attempts to make progress by taking several small steps when necessary followed by larger steps when feasible. The resulting agreements, the UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement, have all been the result of gradual, multi-year negotiation processes.

Moreover, as the examples discussed elsewhere in this book will show, there have been situations where the direction of negotiations was influenced by, a.o.:

  • • Publication of scientific reports on climate change patterns and their consequences (e.g., IPCC 1995),
  • • Personalities of important negotiators (e.g., US Vice President Gore at Kyoto), the chair of a negotiation process (e.g., the President of a COP session), as well as,
  • • Ability of the UNFCCC Secretariat to facilitate negotiation processes (e.g., formulating negotiation texts, preparing background papers, organising expert meetings, etc.).

Such tactical and facilitating aspects can change the course of negotiations (e.g., at points B and C in Fig. 1.1), so that the negotiation process becomes more effective with an improved negotiation result.

Therefore, this book analyses for a number of key climate negotiations processes since the late 1980s how successful climate policy negotiations (in terms of climate policy measures leading to lower greenhouse gas emissions and stronger climate resilience about which UNFCCC Parties reach consensus) have been driven by the following three negotiation factors:

  • 1. The design of the overall policy regime must acknowledge that:
    • (a) International cooperation can lead to more effective outcomes than individual country actions, as it, among others, helps to avoid free riding behaviour (Tulkens 1998),
    • (b) States are sovereign and their national self-interests need to be reflected by the policy agreement, which leads to a tension that proposed greenhouse gas emission reduction measures may have to be mitigated in order to keep all countries on board, and
    • (c) Coalition building by groups of countries may be an effective way to have a balanced assessment of countries’ varying economic and social backgrounds.
  • 2. The process of negotiations needs to reflect that reaching a global climate deal takes times, that trying to accelerate negotiations may at some points be counterproductive and that taking small steps at a time can be relatively productive. As illustrated in Fig. 1.1, the process must have the flexibility to change the course of negotiations when necessary for achieving a broader support from countries for a climate policy package.
  • 3. In order to change the course of negotiations, such as at points B and C in Fig. 1.1, the process needs to be responsive to tactical and facilitating aspects, such as: does the President of the COP have the personality to bring parties closer together? As explained above, an important facilitating factor is the input from science to negotiations, such as IPCC assessment reports or the UNEP Emissions Gap reports (e.g., UNEP 2015), as well as the support from the UNFCCC Secretariat in terms of background papers, synthesis reports and draft negotiation texts, etc. Negotiations also require careful balancing of the positions of various (groups of) countries, which includes that negotiation outcomes need to reflect their positions (e.g., exemption of developing countries from commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, inclusion of carbon credit trading, etc.). Finally, availability of general information sources such as newsletters, policy briefs, blogs and project report dissemination can be mentioned as a facilitating factor for negotiations, particularly when they aim at providing balanced information about the pros and cons of politically delicate issues.

These key factors for progressing negotiations are not exhaustive but follow from the discussion in this chapter about addressing game theoretical aspects of climate negotiations, and facilitating implementation of the precautionary principle and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, as in the UNFCCC. They will be further elaborated on in Chap. 2.

The three factors are not only important individually for negotiation success, but in particular their combined effect can be decisive for the success of climate policy design and implementation. For instance, without the review of adequacy of agreed measures under the UNFCCC in 1995, the Berlin Mandate towards a Kyoto Protocol would have been less likely or even unlikely (see also Chap. 4). Moreover, to give another example, the negotiation process towards ‘Copenhagen’ (in 2009) showed an increasing agreement on mitigation actions by developing countries too and the establishment of a Green Climate Fund and a Technology Mechanism to support developing countries on climate change mitigation, adaptation and technology transfer (see Chap. 5). However, the negotiation process at ‘Copenhagen’ could never build the momentum that characterised the negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. This contributed to the lack of consensus to adopt the Copenhagen Accord.

These examples indicate the importance of the three key factors for successful climate policy negotiations simultaneously: e.g., even with a good overall structure and with good support from scientific sources, negotiations may fail if the process does not allow Parties to exchange points of view and bridge gaps between their positions.

In this book three negotiation ‘dossiers’ will be analysed to see whether and to what extent international climate negotiations have been facilitated by the factors design, process and tactics. The first dossier covers the process of establishing the UNFCCC as an overall framework for a climate regime during 1988-1994 (Chap. 3 ). Second, the negotiation process leading to the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and its entry into force in 2005 is explained, with a view to how formal (negotiations at UN climate sessions) and informal (national and international political developments taking place outside the UN climate sessions) negotiations shaped the eventual protocol text (Chap. 4). Third, the negotiations about a successor of the Kyoto Protocol, leading to the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015 are analysis (Chap. 5). The findings for these dossiers will be summarised in Chap. 6.

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