The Helicopter View

I wrote a Cheat Sheet to COP21.  I thought I’d explain what inspired it. A recurring phrase in the negotiations is “nothing is decided until everything is decided”. The COP President even suggested that phrase yesterday [@18:30] as one of the three principles of the main plenary sessions (the other two are inclusiveness and transparency).

This inter-connectedness arises in part because every section of the draft text contains options that are favourable to some countries and unfavourable to others, and true compromise positions may unacceptable to everyone, suboptimal, or be just practically unworkable. Real progress can’t be made on issues in isolation – there have to be tradeoffs across different elements of the whole agreement (and potentially political tradeoffs regarding issues not even directly related to climate change).

[photo: superubo]

Back on Thursday the EU talked about [@25:00] the need for a “helicopter view” in the negotiations to get a sense of how different issues inter-relate. At the half-way point in my journey of following the negotiations online, I tried to take a pause and get a helicopter view for myself – to identify the main areas of contention, and try to imagine what we would see in a final document that would suggest who has given ground and who has gained ground on any particular issue.


How to binge-watch the Paris negotiations online.

Paris has begun. This blog will be full of great insights. And there’s the incomparable work of IISD. You could follow the twittersphere, or the good coverage on sites like the Guardian. But don’t you want to actually hear or read what leaders and officials are saying for yourself? I like supplementing my analysis with some live-and-direct. First, there’s a sense of atmosphere and context that the live (and on-demand) webcasts convey. Second, any reporter, even IISD, will be adding their own slant to the proceedings. Following it myself, I reduce the biases colouring my perception to my own! Third, I can find press briefings, special events,  speeches and documents that speak directly to my interests.

So how do you get to the primary material?  Your google fu may lead you the UNFCCC landing page which is often more fluffy than helpful. But you can get closer to heart of the negotiations by clicking on a tiny link in the top right corner that says “Click here for information on UNFCCC process and meetings


Incidentally, this more process-based site is where any new draft texts will appear, if some get released during the COP, and is your portal to finding official submissions by parties. And, the topic of today – videos!

Once on the UNFCCC process page, you can scroll down or click on Webcasts .  If something is being webcast live, you can check it out, or select “on-demand” where There’s a whole bunch of stuff you can watch. They’ve indexed the “Leaders Event” statements  so you can select a 3minute-speeches from any of the countries at the COP. If it’s not in english, you might need to toggle the button to EN. PDFs of leaders statemenwebcaststs will gradually populate this page

As the negotiations themselves become less open, and hence drop off the webcasts, special events and press briefings will probably be our best access to the mood and developments at the COP. And they are super interesting! Pro tip: skip through the first half of a briefing – which is usually just important folks reading easily available reports or press releases –  and instead watch said important folks try to deal with curly questions from reporters.

Enjoy bingeing on COP-21!

3 things that surprised me at the Bonn Intersessional last week.

The complexity

Sure, I knew climate change was complex, but attending this ADP session felt like walking into the sticky, intricate web of the human side of climate change. 195 delegations, each with a mandate to pursue the self-interest of their countries as perceived by their current governments. Since climate change touches on almost every important issue of this century, from IP law to human rights, biodiversity to sustainable development, each delegation has a unique position. Add to this the numerous nested and overlapping negotiating blocs, with their own internal dynamics, a lack of formal hierarchy in the international system and consensus decision-making, the resulting dynamic is very, very complex. I have a new appreciation for why this process is so slow moving.

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Mitigation and the Differentiation Chameleon

A central part of the upcoming climate negotiations in Paris (and even sooner, Bonn) is the question of “differentiation”. How should the responsibilities for dealing with climate change be differentiated among countries with vastly different levels of development and contribution to the problem?

It’s been determined since the Durban COP in 2011 that the new agreement as a whole should be “applicable to all parties”. However, the agreement itself will undoubtedly involve  differentiation, probably in a complex form. As a report from C2ES puts it “the most feasible solution to differentiation in the 2015 agreement is likely to be a hybrid approach that tailors the manner of differentiation…to the specific elements of the agreement”.  Hybrid is a good metaphor, but I prefer to think of differentiation as a chameleon. Although it is one concept, it will probably appear one way in the context of mitigation, another way in the context of adaptation, a third in the context of finance, and so on. C2ES calls this the “most feasible solution”, but I think it is also can be compatible with fairness.  To help explain the details, I’ll focus on the element of mitigation.

File:Chameleon 2006-01.jpg

(image: Ridard/Wikimedia Commons)

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