Climate Talks, Negotiation Process, The Climate Nerd Chronicles

Are the ADP co-chairs rather Hufflepuffs or Slytherins?

This article is part of the Climate Nerd chronicles.Bannière CN

ADP co-chair, what a job to do! The co-chairs are the two persons in charge of creating the best negotiation environment  to achieve an ambitious agreement in Paris at the end of 2015. Here we bring a little bit of our favorite psychology test:

The Hogwarts Sorting hat


What’s the matter with the climate negotiations? At the end of the year, 195 countries, called Parties, should sign the Paris agreement, which will replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and define the international climate policy starting in 2020. However, the negotiating text is still too long and full of very different options. And the process to shorten that text is painstakingly slow.

How did we get there?  A 37-pages-long text came out of COP20 that was held in Lima, Peru. It was supposed to serve as a basis for the Paris agreement this year. But this text was heavily criticized by Parties because they felt that the co-chairs pretty much wrote it instead of them. There was therefore a clear lack of trust between the former co-chairs and the Parties. When new negotiations were held in Geneva, two new co-chairs were nominated: Ahmed Djoghlaf, from Algeria, and Daniel Reifsnyder, from the U.S. At the same time, a new approach of the dynamics between co-chairs and Parties was established. The latter were invited to add all the paragraphs they wanted to the text so that every possibility would be in the text coming out of Geneva. This process went smoothly with a clear gratitude from the Parties to the co-chairs for this new way to take into account what they had to say. Then came the difficult part: streamlining. What is streamlining? The Geneva text was 90-page long. The final text agreed upon in Paris should be around 15-page long. In between, negotiators need an intermediary text with different options in order to go back and forth between their national decision-makers and the negotiation room and actually choose the most satisfying options. This intermediary text should have been the outcome of the negotiations in Bonn held in June 2015. Easier said than done.  For anyone who has already been in the large plenary room of an UNFCCC negotiation, in Bonn, it was quite impossible to achieve an efficient streamlining process during the negotiations in June: only 5% of the text was trimmed in two weeks.

So, have the co-chairs failed in their approach to streamlining?  The co-chairs are not as out of tune as they may seem to be. They are not newcomers in the climate change microcosm, neither to negotiations. Ahmed Djoghlaf has been Executive Secretary of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) until 2012. Daniel Reifsnyder has been involved in the US national climate policy for a while. One can argue that they are probably driven by the fear that the Parties would turn against them. They are loyal to the Parties, caring and ready to listen to what everybody has to say, looking for consensus, and not willing to create oppositions, like true Hufflepuffs.


Or, are they? Maybe the co-chairs have planned long ago that the Parties will have lots of issues with the negotiations, and will be forced to give the co-chairs the mandate to propose a new negotiating tool. This happened in June, since Parties gave their full support to the co-chairs so they could manipulate the text in the next few days to a lot more accessible negotiation draft. With that new mandate, the co-chairs produced in late July 2015 a new text. That new tool divided the Geneva text in 3 parts. Part 1 proposed elements that could be included in the final Paris agreement. Part 2 contained options that could be adopted as COP decisions (with less legal force compared to the agreement). Part 3 included all the remaining propositions from the Parties, which had to be clarified, in order to be moved to Part 2 or Part 1.  When nominated, both co-chairs knew how difficult it was to earn the trust of the Parties. Thus, it is not impossible to argue that they have played a brilliant, twisted, Slytherinesque strategy to get the Parties in a position where all they could do was to give a clear mandate to the co-chairs. And in the September session of negotiations, the tool from the co-chairs was the very basis of the negotiations, thus confirming their influence…



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