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Discussion: Assessment of Post-2020 Climate Negotiations Against Design, Process and Tactical Factors

The adoption on 12 December 2015 of the Paris Agreement marked the conclusion of a negotiation process which had begun in 2005. In the discussion in this chapter on the 2005-2015 negotiation process, there have been several examples of how countries considered the design of a future climate agreement, such as whether actions to reduce greenhouse gas emission would have to be legally-binding or could be voluntary actions, or whether and to what extent developing countries would undertake climate change mitigation actions next to developed countries. There have also been examples of how negotiation processes were modified a few times, for example when it became clear that the formal continuation of negotiations under the Kyoto Protocol would exclude the USA as key negotiation party. Moreover, at some occasions, negotiation progress was spurred by tactical aspects, such as flexible interpretation by COP-16 President Espinosa of what is meant by consensus, the impact of typhoons in the Philippines on the negotiations atmosphere in Doha and Warsaw and the publication of a new IPCC Assessment Report.

Below follows an assessment of negotiations leading to the Paris Agreement against the design, process and tactics factors, which is summarised in Table 5.1.

Table 5.1 Summary of design, procedural and tactical aspects of post-Kyoto negotiations

Description of negotiations per negotiation factor

Assessment of negotiations per


Design of Paris



Global coverage with NDCs for both developed and developing countries Both mitigation and adaptation


Common but differentiated responsibilities, but less strong as in earlier agreements Precautionary principle


Limit global average temperature increase to 1.5 or 2 °C (compared to pre-industrial times)


Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) NDC communication is mandatory Global Stocktaking to review progress

  • (+) Division between developed and developing country categories has partly disappeared, which has made the Paris Agreement be based on a truly global coalition (+) NCD communication by countries is mandatory and subsequent NDCs much lead to stronger emission reductions than earlier plans
  • (-) Uncertainty remains about implementation of NDCs





Annual COP sessions

Meetings AWG-KP, AWG-LCA and



AWG-KP worked on continuation of Kyoto Protocol; AWG-LCA focused on long-term climate collaboration

AWG-DP was main negotiation track towards Paris

AWG’s enabled small step negotiations


COP chairs annually appointed AGBM chair appointment was longer term Negotiation topics negotiated in working groups

(+) Sufficiently flexible process to enable an ongoing debate on climate change and policies (+) Two separate AWG negotiation tracks enabled bringing the USA back on board during negotiations (-) the several negotiation tracks and small steps could sometime lead to a lower sense of urgency, as there several meetings to go

Decisive tactics and facilitation

IPCC reports—increasing evidence on climate change impacts

UNFCCC Secretariat supported negotiations with several expert workshops Personalities of key negotiators could either halt or spur negotiations Avoid legally binding commitments for countries, so that broader coalition could be achieved, but ensure that NDCs are mandatory Bilateral agreement between US President Obama and China’s President Xi on both countries’ climate policies stimulated negotiations

500 (business) organisations make fossil fuel divestment pledges during COP-21

  • (+) Stronger sense of urgency due to scientific evidence,
  • (-) COP-15 Presidency tried to table own negotiation text (+) Personalities of COP Presidents avoided that individual countries could not block agreements and that negotiations were participatory and inclusive

a+ Means that an aspect positively contributed to successful negotiations and negotiation outcome; - Means that the contribution was negative

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