Climate Action, Climate Talks, Negotiation Process, Youth Empowerment

In 2016, are simulations of climate negotiations still relevant?

Written by Clément Métivier

CIMC logoThe organization of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris at the end of 2015 was seen as the pinnacle of an historic year for the fight against climate change, culminating with the adoption of a universal climate agreement, and pushing climate negotiations into the spotlight and into mainstream medias.

The publicity made for COP21 and climate negotiations in 2015 provided great opportunities to educate young people and civil society in general about international conferences on climate change. One tool is interesting to consider here: simulations of climate conferences. In 2015, those simulations empowered thousands of young people playing the role of decision-makers negotiating on the COP21 agreement, thus informing them about climate change and climate-related policies, but also improving their decision-making and public speaking skills.

The “Make It Work” project, in which CliMates was involved, gathered more than 200 students from all over the world, who negotiated on an innovative agreement, after months of preparation and a six-day final exercise taking place in May 2015. Under the supervision of Laurence Tubiana, French ambassador for COP21, students became delegates from states, but also from non-states actors, such as forests, oceans, youth or endangered species. They produced an agreement, negotiated on shared visions of the future, and brainstormed on how to redefine climate negotiations.

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The “Theater” of negotiations Discussions among some “Make It Workers”

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In addition to large-scale events mobilizing dozens of students and requiring important logistics, smaller COP simulations took place all over the world in 2015, such as the “COP in MyCity” simulations. The “COP in MyCity” project, led by CliMates, ambitions to bridge the gap between climate negotiations and young people throughout the world, by creating an international community of young change-makers, called the “COP’leaders”. “COP in MyCity” consists in three steps: a training part, an action component, but also a COP simulation where young people negotiate on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, on forests, and on climate finance. In 2015, “COP in MyCity” simulations knew a great success, since more than 110 simulations gathering some 3,500 participants were organized in around 30 countries.

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Results of a COP in MyCity simulation

What about now?

With a climate agreement that was described by many as a “milestone”, a “landmark” and ambitious text, it appears crucial to move on, from climate negotiations to the concrete implementation of policies that will help us mitigate global warming and adapt to the negative consequences of climate change. In that perspective, is it still relevant to organize “serious games” where young people negotiate on climate change?

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The “World Climate Agreement” signed at the end of each COP in MyCity simulation

I believe that it is still very important to focus on simulations, even though concrete actions are needed everywhere. Climate negotiations have not disappeared with the conclusion of COP21, and all members to the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will gather in November in Marrakesh, Morocco, for COP22, and then the next year for COP23, and for COP24 in 2018, and so on. Issues of utmost importance are still left to discuss, and educating young people about those issues is more than ever needed.

In April 2016, a simulation of COP22 was organized at the Sciences Po institute in Paris. Students from the Paris School of International Affairs negotiated on two issues: finance and national contributions. At the end of the exercise, a new finance goal for 2025 was established, with states pledging to gather US$200 billion by 2025. Finance, national contributions, but also decarbonization pathways and shared visions of the future, all those topics are still relevant to address during simulations.

A COP in MyCity simulation in Hamburg, Germany
A COP in MyCity simulation in Hamburg, Germany

In a situation where there is a major gap between countries’ commitments to limit their greenhouse gas emissions and the current temperature pathway we are taking, simulations may also be useful tools. Simulations can help us understand how to bridge this gap, and they can also remind everyone that a lot has still to be done, in order to limit the global temperature increase to 2°C or to well below 2°C compared to preindustrial level. Last but not least, simulations remain a powerful educational tool that empowers young people by providing them with skills and knowledge.


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About the author: After being COP in MyCity co-director in 2015, Clément Métivier is COY12 and COP22 officer for CliMates. He completed a Master degree in international affairs and environmental policy, and is working for the French government on climate negotiations.

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