Conducting Global Climate Change Negotiations

Harnessing the Power of Process

May 14, 2015

Process itself — over and above the issues at stake — is a key determinant of negotiation success across all levels of climate change negotiation groups in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Negotiation success in lower-level negotiation groups in the UNFCCC contribute to the overall success of the climate summit. Drawing on the latest research in this field and interviews with former chairs of climate negotiations, the author offers six axioms for chairs of negotiation groups that may lead to finding common ground and avoiding deadlocks. Successful chairs will use tactics that include the following: brokering compromise while remaining as transparent and inclusive as possible; enhancing influence by acting impartially and recognizing cultural differences; managing the agenda to create momentum while clustering, prioritizing and linking issues; focusing debate using the chair’s information advantage; steering individual negotiation sessions in a time-efficient way; and building trust by creating sheltered negotiation spaces that allow for frank and constructive dialogue.

Part of Series

Fixing Climate Governance Series

Climate scientists agree that human activity has been changing our planet’s climate over the long term. Without serious policy changes, scientists expect devastating consequences in many regions: inundation of coastal cities; greater risks to food production and, hence, malnutrition; unprecedented heat waves; greater risk of high-intensity cyclones; many climate refugees; and irreversible loss of biodiversity. Some international relations scholars expect increased risk of violent conflicts over scarce resources and due to state breakdown. Environmentalists have been campaigning for effective policy changes for more than two decades. The world’s governments have been negotiating since 1995 as parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) . Their 2015 Paris Agreement created a new regime for joint action; among other things, it is the first UN climate agreement to oblige all parties to make some contribution. Each party made a pledge pertaining to the period 2020 to 2025 or 2030. But it is widely agreed that if they are all implemented, together these 2015 pledges will still fall far short of what is needed to meet the collective goals and avoid widespread catastrophes. Important details of the Paris Agreement itself also remain to be negotiated. Nor is the UNFCCC the whole of international climate governance. Many initiatives have also been launched by smaller sets of countries, national governments, provinces, cities, civil society, and private investors and companies.   This project was designed to generate improved ideas for both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process and other possible sites of climate governance. In 2015, we published nine policy briefs and papers, which can be found below. The ideas in two of them appeared in Paris during COP21. Several offered original recommendations for more effective action outside the UNFCCC. A new series of publications appeared in 2016-2017.  

About the Author

Kai Monheim undertakes research on negotiations and international cooperation. He is the author of How Effective Negotiation Management Promotes Multilateral Cooperation: The Power of Process in Climate, Trade and Biosafety Negotiations (Routledge, 2014), which won the German Mediation Scholarship Prize for 2014, awarded by the Center for Mediation in Cologne.