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Negotiation Factor 3: Tactical Aspects Influencing the Course and Outcomes of Negotiations

‘Paris’ was in several ways different from earlier decisive COPs. The negotiation process turned out to be a study book example of how important negotiation tactics are for a successful outcome. COP-21 illustrated, among others, the importance of the personality of the COP President. While in Kyoto in 1997, the personalities of US Vice President Al Gore and negotiation leader Raul Estrada (see Chap. 4) were decisive for an agreement on the Kyoto Protocol, this time it was the leadership of COP President Fabius to direct the negotiations towards success. Other examples of the (positive or negative) role of personalities at COPs are the conclusion by Ms Espinosa, President of COP-16 in Canchn, that no single country can prevent consensus reached by other, and how COP-18 President Al-Attiyah neglected or missed the Russian request for speaking time at the final plenary of the COP.

A particular tactical move, with a view to future ratification of the agreement, was to avoid legally binding targets for individual countries and new financial commitments in the Paris Agreement. Without these, the COP-21 decision can be adopted by the US President alone, without the need for congressional approval. With this manoeuvre a withdrawal by the USA from the Paris Agreement, as happened in 2001 with the Kyoto Protocol, could be avoided.

The final stage of the 2005-2015 negotiations were characterised by important bilateral agreements, such as between US President Obama and Chinese President Xi in October 2014. Such bilateral meetings provided strong signals to the rest of the world that these major emitters were willing to formulate much more ambitious targets then they had done in the past. With this personal involvement, Obama repaired the damage that he was partly responsible for during the final days of the Copenhagen negotiations when several negotiators had to learn from media that the Copenhagen Accord was ready.

Finally, an important facilitating factor during the 2005-2015 negotiations was the rapid build-up of scientific knowledge of climate change and its impacts on the world’s ecosystems. Contrary to Kyoto negotiations under the Berlin Mandate, when scientific insights were still much less developed, the 2005-2015 negotiations could strongly rely on concrete evidence of how people, through emissions of greenhouse gases, can influence global climate systems. Perhaps even more impressive were the emotional opening statements by the Philippine negotiator at the COP, shortly after his country had been hit hard by two typhoons in a row. It is not that negotiations immediately changed directions, but it showed the world that climate negotiations are not only technical discussions about targets, money and technologies, but increasingly address real world problems. This was precisely what the Paris COP and all the NGO and business initiatives in Paris tried to emphasise: climate change has become a real, existing and observable problem, which requires actions, by all countries. Negotiations are ‘only’ a vehicle for that.

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