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Organising Climate Negotiation Processes

In Sect. 2.2 climate policy making has been described with help of game-theoretical and economic concepts such as ‘prisoners’ dilemma’, ‘tragedy of the commons’ and the ‘public good’ nature of benefiting from greenhouse emission reductions. In addition, basic characteristics of building an international climate policy coalition without an overarching disciplinarian have been discussed. Due to these factors, climate negotiation outcomes have often developed towards outcomes where a broad international coalition can only be achieved by watering down the required climate actions of individual countries (IISD 2015, p. 44). In this section, the importance of the negotiation process itself is discussed as a factor enabling negotiators to consider the above-mentioned game-theoretical aspects in their discussions.

Integrated Versus Distributive Negotiations

The literature distinguishes two main approaches to negotiations (Fisher and Ury 2011; Nierenberg 1978; Wertheim n.d.; Sprangler 2012; Meerts and Postma 2005).

The first approach is called ‘integrative’ or ‘cooperative’ and is recommended in circumstances where clear potentials for win-win situations exist. The second approach is called ‘distributive negotiations’ and is generally applied in so-called win-lose situations where parties have to compete with each other because of strongly differing interests (e.g., a customer negotiating the price of a product with the potential seller). The outcome of distributive negotiations is generally referred to as a zero-sum game—one party wins what the other one loses—although also lose-lose outcomes are possible if a party realises that it cannot win and cancels the negotiations.

In cases of ‘integrative’ (win-win) negotiation circumstances, negotiations are focussed more on striking creative deals which could result in negotiation outcomes where for each party the advantageous aspects outweigh the disadvantageous aspects. A typical characteristic of ‘integrative’ negotiation circumstances is that a party which ‘loses’ on one issue can be compensated by winning on another issue, so that both parties benefit from negotiations. Awareness of such a situation among the negotiation parties creates an incentive for both sides to strive for maximisation of the joint outcome. These circumstances also make it easier for parties to solve mutual problems, to share information, and to prevent decentralised behaviour with a focus on individual optimisation (Barrett 1999, p. 2).

Of the approaches described here, the ‘integrative/cooperative’ negotiation approach has the largest potential of offering a way out of the ‘prisoners’ dilemma’ situations described in Sect. 2.2, as it limits or prevents decentralised action (Barrett 1999, p. 3). During ‘integrative’ negotiations it is important for negotiators to consider the interests of opponents so that mutually satisfactory solutions can be found. Such an approach generally increases the flexibility of parties to find compromises that do not conflict with one’s own interests. This could even lead to ‘ Pareto efficient’ outcome whereby no options remain on the table that could make at least one party better off without making the other parties worse off (Wertheim n. d., p. 12).

The Kyoto Protocol negotiations in 1997 (as discussed in Chap. 4) could be considered an example of how an initially ‘distributive’ negotiation approach turned towards an ‘integrative’ approach. During the first week of the ‘Kyoto’ negotiations countries mainly defended their own positions, but this changed during the second week when industrialised countries eventually adopted quantitative emission reduction commitments because their developing country negotiation partners agreed that these could be achieved flexibly, including via international carbon credit trading based on emission reduction projects. As a result, the ‘Kyoto’ negotiations could be completed successfully, because the protocol text reflected the national priorities of the several countries, such as “binding targets for the EU, flexibility for the U.S., success in Kyoto for Japan, no commitments for developing countries, financial pay-off for Russia, and good terms with the EU for Eastern Europe” (Wijen and Zoeteman 2004, p. 31).

Finally, Fisher and Ury (2011) and Wertheim (n.d.) conclude that the ‘integrative/cooperative’ negotiation approach is often used when negotiations take place as a series of subsequent rather than isolated events.[1] Therefore, it is important that negotiators take into consideration that they will meet again and keep in mind that the negotiation atmosphere during one session may have an impact on the atmosphere in a next session, i.e. parties may harden their position if another party formerly did not want to cooperate, or show willingness to compromise if former negotiations resulted in a true win-win situation (Fisher and Ury 2011).

With a view to the climate change talks, this negotiation aspect can be illustrated by the opposition of developing countries, prior to the COP-1 (Berlin 1995), to Joint Implementation (JI) as an official instrument for helping industrialised countries stabilising their greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2000 at 1990 emission levels. This opposition was strongly motivated by developing countries’ point of view that industrialised countries should invest in emission reduction measures ‘at home’, rather than setting up lower-cost project investments (through JI) abroad. However, simply rejecting JI as a policy instrument at COP-1 would likely have frustrated climate negotiations for the next couple of years. Therefore, at COP-1, in order to continue the climate negotiation progress, a pilot phase for JI called activities implemented jointly was established, as a compromise (see also Chap. 4).

With this compromise, the JI concept remained ‘alive’, but industrialised countries could, for the time being, not use it for compliance with their UNFCCC objectives.

With a view to these examples and assuming on-going relationships between the negotiation parties in most of the cases, “the key to successful negotiations is to shift the situation to a ‘win-win’ even if it looks like a ‘win-lose’ situation. Almost all negotiations have at least some elements of win-win. Successful negotiations often depend on finding the win-win aspects in any situation” (Wertheim n.d., p. 2).

  • [1] It must be noted that a strict distinction between ‘integrative/cooperative’ and ‘distributive/competitive’ may not exist in practice and parties, although aiming at a long-term cooperation andacting with an incentive to strive for a win-win outcome, could still to some extent try to introducesome elements of competitive negotiation in the talks (Wertheim n.d.; Barrett 1999, p. 2).
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