When I was a freshman in high school I used to sit the bench during varsity basketball games. I would play my heart out at practice throughout the week and come game-day observe how my time and efforts would pay off. Even without playing a minute all year, I contributed to the outcome of every game through my hard work on the practice courts and my encouragement of the other players during games. This type of participation and mindset will be shared by various NGOs at the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC.

Football Series

In varying degrees, we are all stakeholders of global climate change.  Yet not everyone can be an elected government official or a leader in industry to have the influence or power to negotiate for change (After all, only five players per team can play at once during a game of hoops). So where does that leave the rest of us? Well, one option is to remain inactive while the threats of climate change continue to rise. A more preferred option, however, is to get involved with the various organizations that exist at the local, national, and international level to fill this void! Luckily for us, we are doing precisely that as a Research and Independent NGO (RINGO), one of the five NGO constituencies recognized by the COP climate change regime.

But our purpose and mission at the conference in Copenhagen will be much different than that of the other NGO constituencies (Environmental NGOs [ENGOs], Business and Industry NGOs [BINGOs], Local Governmental and Municipal Authorities [LGMAs], and Indigenous Peoples Organizations [IPOs]). Instead of conducting research they will be concerned primarily with:

(Yasmin and Depledge 2004). But the way in which each constituency does so differs based on the particular interests of each NGO making up the constituency.

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ENGOs active in the climate change regime, for instance, are more often than not a part of the Climate Change Action Network (CAN). CAN’s members present a common front in aiming to “promote government and individual action to limit human-induced climate change to ecologically sustainable levels.” To this end, ENGOs are able to intervene more during formal debates as they share similar sentiments. BINGOs, on the other hand, can be separated into two broad categorizes. First, green businesses are corporations that are concerned with the impact businesses have on climate change and can view the threat of climate change as a business opportunity. Conversely, gray businesses fear that cuts in greenhouse emissions will have devastating impacts on their businesses. These industries, such as automobile, oil, and coal, promote scientific uncertainty and economic costs in efforts to slow down negotiations.

No matter what the NGO is founded on, each and every NGO seeks a greater involvement in the negotiation process. Sometimes this is best achieved by presenting themselves as a single constituency (despite the differences highlighted above) for the sake of being heard. But this is often a difficult thing to accomplish due to the sheer number and diversity of NGOs concerned with climate change negotiations (approximately 985 NGOs representing a broad spectrum of interests from those described above to faith groups, labor unions, women’s organizations, and youth groups). Not to mention the other groups of parties and observers recognized by the convention. Nevertheless, while the five NGO constituencies recognized by the climate change regime are not actively involved in the negotiations they do have the opportunity for their voice to be heard. And, similar to my perspective of sitting on the bench, these observers ultimately have an impact on the game.

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