On The Road To Paris: Changing modes of negotiations

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Eden Caceda on Paris COP21 and how experimental negotiation methods can change how the United Nations discusses climate change.

In December this year, Paris will welcome the 21st United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP21) on Climate Change. This will also be the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol – an important moment in the fight to reduce global warming. However, despite the objective of the conference to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, it has come to the attention of many that the modes of negotiation employed by the United Nations may not be as useful as originally hoped.

In an effort to re-evaluate modes of negotiation, France’s Sciences Po is holding a simulation of the climate change negotiations with over 200 participating students from around the globe attending. The “Paris Climat 2015 Make it Work” program, to be held at the Theatre des Amandiers in Nanterre, intends to discover new modes of negotiations through the lens of disciplines within the social sciences. Through extensive research, experimentation and unconventional practices such as theatre, cinema and the visual arts, the project will seek critiques, alternatives and interpretations for negotiations.

Next month, four University of Sydney students, including myself, will be attending the simulation to imagine other forms of representation and test a new format of future negotiations at Sciences Po. By not viewing climate change as solely an environmental issue, the new negotiation model will reformulate the original hypotheses, stakes and protagonists.

Changing modes of negotiations means moving away from the funnel design of the current United Nations framework and democratising the negotiations by expressing the voices of as many stakeholders as possible. In the lead up to Paris COP21, finding new modes of negotiation that work and provide the best outcome for all those affected by climate change is imperative.

Making the Paris convention work relies on analysis and alternate perspectives being uncovered and shared. Combining with students from Beijing’s Tsinghua University, London’s School of Economics and Political Science, New York’s Columbia University and Brussels’ Universite libre de Bruxelles, we will send strong signals to diplomatic representatives of our findings and endeavour to change how COP21 is conducted in December.

Ultimately in these critical moments of climate change discussions around the world and the uncertain future of how governments will achieve lower numbers of greenhouse gas emissions, how the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change unfolds will undoubtedly change the course of how international powers deal with global warming in the future and where we go from here. If anything, this is the time to discover more experimental negotiation methods.

Originally published on the Sydney Environment Institute website, May 5, 2015.

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