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Dickinson to Durban » Carbon Markets, Climate Change, Key COP17 Issues, Mosaic Action » From Friend to Foe

From Friend to Foe

By: Christine Burns ’14

On September 15th the Mosaic students and a first-year seminar participated in a climate change negotiations simulation.  Each student was given a country to represent and we were placed into three categories: developing (EU, US), rapidly developing (China, India), and other developing (Sub-Sahara Africa, Bangladesh) countries.  We then attempted to negotiate a climate change agreement between the three groups. I now have an understanding for how difficult climate negotiations truly are.

I always get annoyed when global negotiations do not produce results, but after heatedly arguing with my friends and peers for three hours, I have a much better appreciation for how complex international negotiations are.  Countries come from very different backgrounds making it difficult for them to see eye-to-eye and therefore come to a consensus that incorporates everyone’s goals.  Everyone did a great job of getting into character and fighting for his or her country despite the fact that we have far more in common than any of the countries in the actual negotiations.  Unfortunately, we were not as well educated in our respective countries and the world as we really should have been to make the simulation more accurate.  One aspect of the ignorance had to do with national policies, but another aspect had to do with other factors like the value of a dollar.  When the developed countries offered the other developing countries 100 billion dollars, we were very excited. After giving it a second thought with some guidance from our professors, we, the other developing countries, realized that although 100 billion dollars sounds like a lot, on the global scale it is practically pocket change for those countries and we were being duped.  Our lack of this kind of knowledge made it difficult to negotiate terms realistically.

It was fascinating to see how polarized we started off, and how after a just few rounds of negotiation, we had actually made up a lot of ground and come fairly close to a compromise.  The negotiations were always self-interested as would be expected, but as time ran out, people worked harder for a compromise.  There were also very different strategies.  One coalition of countries started off asking for way more than they knew they could reasonably get, while another grouping of countries tried to be extremely reasonable in hopes of instigating cooperation.  It is hard to say which strategy worked best, but a relative compromise was reached.  Unfortunately, according to the model, the compromise was not enough to mitigate destructive climate change.  In that sense it was frustrating, because we worked so hard for a compromise to find out that, although better than business as usual, it would not be enough.

CO2 levels are still not within the "safe" range

In the end, the simulation was a great tool, but it was only partially representative of reality. In actuality, countries would not have been grouped so simply into three categories, but instead delegates deal with many layers of negotiations.  It is not all about the environment, but also retaining economic stability and preserving alliances with other countries. These levels are not represented in this simulation.  It also is a lot easier for like-minded friends who do not have to answer to a nation to come to a compromise than it is for delegates from very different background who are making decisions for their entire nation, to do so.  Despite the unrealities, the exercise showed the challenges that the delegates faced, and it showed that international cooperation is extremely difficult when everyone has their own country to worry about.

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