All or Nothing

Last semester, much of what we learned in Climate Change Science, Politics, and Policy culminated in the mock negotiations.  It was through this process that I further developed my problem solving skills. We were each assigned a country, and throughout the semester we studied both domestic politics and our individual country’s involvement in international negotiations regarding climate change.  We then took on the role of our country as we participated in a simulation of the 2014 United Nations Conference on Climate Change.

The one requirement during the negotiations was that, in order for the text to be adopted, every country had to agree.  It was all or nothing.  Some of the issues that the delegates faced included: nations not agreeing upon binding or voluntary pledges for mitigation targets and contributions to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).  Countries who were potentially large donors to the GCF wanted to ensure that the countries receiving money were held to mitigation targets, but were unwilling to take on mitigation targets themselves.  Nations that were most vulnerable also wanted binding commitments for both mitigation targets and contributions, language that the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries were simply not willing to accept without the promise of financial compensation.

Prior to the formal simulation, we had time to interact with the other twenty or so countries during informal discussions.  It was during this time that I tried very hard to gain support for my own proposal.  Brazil’s oil company, Petrobras, accounts for a significant portion of their GDP.   I  planned to put forward a proposal stating that countries with oil could partner with countries to procure clean oil extraction technology. During the informal negotiations, I first approached Japan, a country with clean oil extraction technology.  The delegate from Japan agreed to supply countries with the technology requested, provided the receiving country donated some of the profits from the oil extraction from the GCF.  Other countries that had oil reserves were quick to endorse my proposal.  The next problem was that Germany did not want to be bound to this proposal and wanted nothing to do with oil.  Thus, the language was added “individually determined contracts” in order for it to be an opt-in proposal.  As a result, the proposal that I submitted during formal negotiations read:

“Agrees that developing Parties with oil revenue would donate a percentage to the GCF, contingent on individually determined contracts for green oil extraction technology.”

During the formal negotiation, this proposal was unanimously agreed upon.

Through this simulation, I experienced first-hand that international environments are extremely complex and often frustrating.  Although the need to find a solution is universally recognized, because each country brings with it so many different needs and ideas about how to solve the problem, it is hard to find universal common ground regarding the right approach. Through this process, I am now able to look at a problem with seemingly no easy solution and start to unravel the components that contribute to the issue. The skills I learned from this class are applicable to many of my classes this semester.  In particular, in my Roots of Racism class where we are tasked with trying to understand how race, a social construct, affects how people relate to each other and how we as a society can start to shift how we view race, these problem solving skills will be imperative.

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