Having finally experienced first hand the difficulties of negotiations, I understand why the process is a slow one.
On Friday I watched a negotiation on the point of gender in the agreement. As the final negotiation, it was meant to run smoothly with all parties having a previously ironed out issues in private, informal chats. After having applauded the hard work of the negotiators for overcoming differences to agree on a text in the spirit of commonality, negotiators began adding words. This was to the surprise and anger of the facilitator who reminded the group there was only 10 minutes left before the text had to be submitted to the plenary. In the end, the EU had to give up its position to allow the changes. Had that not happened there would have been no text agreed.
This complexity was on the issue of gender, hardly a pivotal aspect of the agreement in terms of countries’ positions but still it took hours to nut out a position agreed by the world.
In order to come to such agreement, many compromises were made, and it is with experience that negotiators learn to pick their battles- it is not always wise to follow the instructions of one’s own negotiators when they aren’t in the room.
The process of negotiations is not straight forward.
There are opening, catch up and closing plenaries for the different parts of the treaty, different treaties and sub-parts of treaties. The plenaries are meetings of all 192 parties, far too many to agree on anything.
Instead, countries put themselves into blocs of like-minded groups. These groups discuss general positions, which they put forward in negotiating sessions.
Even still, it is not easy to find consensus among countries. Outside of the formal negotiations are informals. These are emails, dinners and hotel room discussions are to iron out differences within broader coalitions and between groups, in order to come to a conclusion.
Once informal and formal negotiations are settled, a report of the discussion is given to the relevant body and is discussed (but mainly agreed to) in the plenary.
What is even going on in Marrakech?
This conference is a meeting of the parties for not only the Paris Agreement, but also the Kyoto Protocol, the Warsaw Mechanism of Loss and Damage, and other climate discussions.
The Paris Agreement was the Treaty created by the parties at COP21 in Paris, last year. It aims to keep the effects of global warming “well below 2 degrees”. It includes clauses on how developed countries will help fund the developing to industrialise and also work to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
109 countries have now ratified (adopted the agreement in domestic law) and it has officially come into force. Once a party to the Treaty, countries must submit what they plan to do to cut emissions. As the treaty is legally binding, states must stick to their plans or find themselves in an awkward position internationally.
Discussions in Marrakech over the past week have covered varying topics from climate finance to including indigenous knowledge and women’s inputs in decision making.
The Warsaw Mechanism is a hot topic here. Discussion of common but differentiated responsibility has been the argument pushed by the developing nations. Developing countries contribute the least to climate change but are affected the most. Everyone has different responsibilities to act on Climate Change. Those that have been polluting since the industrial revolution (UK and US) have a much higher responsibility to invest, encourage ambition and be global leaders.
The discussions on the Paris Agreement started on the second Tuesday of the conference, but the other discussions have wrapped up, without issue.