Climate Negotiation Diary #4: Finding a Common Line

So the second part of simulation ended this Tuesday and my attitude as I represented China changed dramatically. Going in, I had prepared as much I could with various government documents and a good read of China’s plans. I was ready to bombard with all the technical I had learnt and I thought best way to pass a resolution was keep the momentum of general consensus maintained. But this also meant being blunt about what I do not think suits China’s interest such as monitoring enforcement and energy cuts in specific sectors. I was more enraged that United States delegate presented a resolution the minute plenary opened. We already had a pre-negotiation meeting where any plans of such resolution should have been mentioned and a productive dialogue should have been made with the transitioning economies that included China, India and Brazil. Yet United States decided it was better to leave it till the formal plenary begin. The morning before I had spent the whole night going through each delegates opening statements and formatted their views in a common framework in a table. This was supposed to be used as a tool to ease negotiation and add clarity to communications. This was China’s display of enthusiasm and effort to direct a smoother session. However, this tool was not used and really played nothing more than a role as an unchecked and unread post on the online forum. Due to the introduction of the resolution right away, where instead of beginning with what our positions were, we began to dispute the specific articles. We did not begin a discussion on what countries wanted and what delegates did not want to push forward. It was a straight jump to the resolution. Was that the best way to go?

By the end of the second and last simulation, the end result and my professor’s attitude indicate that yes introducing the resolution the minute plenary began was the best way forward. We finished 10 minutes early which has never happened before. I was enraged at the first simulation, thinking okay we have skipped over the raw debate on the different position each country held; we were missing out on an important part of negotiation. But, once I had an opportunity to point my finger toward the flaws of the resolution from a China’s perspective, I was able to calm myself. Throughout the first simulation, China understood to protect its right to economic growth and sovereignty with all its diplomatic might. United States or the signatories are not going to get a successful resolution because other than the article on the market incentives of Emission Trading System, in my view the general resolution played against the emerging countries. But after a break between plenaries of a week, my sentiments changed and I was thankful for this.

I hoped being a power like China; I would be able to dominate the discussion. I understood China shared a common economic fate with few countries where my sentiments would have some following, but China has its own path and important interest that no other could protect. However, my agenda to dominate did not play out. The model simulation of UN Climate Negotiation, regardless of who you are and what country you represent, superpower like America or Tuvalu (an island nation for whom climate negotiation hinders their physical territorial existence), the fact is voting weight of either states is one. What each country has to say will matter, if they are sharing their thoughts and views -everything is taken into consideration. No country is left out really. Not even Saudi Arabia who did a fabulous job of showing stubbornness, considering its economy and prosperity depends on oil and fossil fuel. Saudi Arabia opposed any binding resolution even if it is only applicable to other countries and not imposed on Saudi Arabia because it would mean fewer revenues from exporting oil. In other words, climate negotiation was cutting Saudi’s life line and the delegate made sure we realized this.

The end of simulation, China and other delegates wanted an agreement. We were down to twenty minutes to go. United States proposed great suggestions that injected flexibilities into the resolution so that emerging countries would be on board. This was made a reality with the proposition of banking and borrowing that led china to weigh on their own what percentage of emission could be cut according to the economic conditions of the year. While for Saudi Arabia, there was a constant back and forth of, if you don’t bind to this resolution then what are you going to do to protect the climate change? At the end Saudi Arabia was given a ten year time slot to consider binding to the resolution. As China, I felt calmer and over the fact we missed out on some part of negotiation with a resolution being introduced too early. Heck, we were negotiating and part of this meant dealing with everything unexpected. Negotiation is a process where considering delegates come with inherited differences due to their national background and which they must pursue, as diplomats thankfully we have developed a diplomatic culture we all share with dialogue and communication with a purpose to gap the differences – most importantly this requires heart. It demands connecting with colleagues on a human level, because whether you are United States, Saudi Arabia, or China we have a common goal to prevent anthropogenic interference. Climate negotiation then comes down to state economy and energy where all states have a stake at sustainable development. Regardless of their nature of economy, no state can deny the negative changes hindering their well-being in long term due to global warming. At a forum such as UN, I believe through negotiating mitigation of antrhopengic interference is to be shared instead of catalyzing a competition. This is understood best when taking into consideration negotiation is not a race between states, rather its adjusting to where each state stands by a consistent dialogue that has all sides invested at a personal level to reach a common line – that in real world is victory. This requires some countries to come out of high horses of being superpowers. It can be a myth, and at the UN that is definitely the case.


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