Strange Bedfellows – Negotiating Groups at the Climate Change Talks

The complexity of the climate talks occurring now in Cancun, Mexico makes for some unusual alliances to be formed among parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and parties and non-parties to the Kyoto Protocol, which is the agreement that sets actual targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions in developed countries. The U.S., a party to the UNFCCC, is nevertheless not a party to the Protocol. I’ll attempt to break down the politics and negotiating groups:

• G77 and China – The developing countries that are not considered to be among the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change. China aligns with this group because of its somewhat unique status as both a developed and developing country.

• LDC’s – Nations considered the Least Developed Countries economically, and among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
• SIDS – Small Island Developing States have formed a coalition called the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), a group of nations facing unique climate change challenges, also considered the most vulnerable.

• BASIC – Brazil, South Africa, India, and China at times band together as semi-developing countries with huge populations and large economies and that both emit large amounts of greenhouse gases country-wide but lower amounts per person than Western developed countries.

• Umbrella Group – The group of hesitant parties or non-parties to the Kyoto Protocol among developed nations, including at times Australia, Russia, Canada, Japan, Norway, Iceland, Ukraine, and New Zealand, and the U.S.

• Africa Group – Continental negotiating group including African nations, many of which are also among other groups (BASIC, LDC’s, etc.), also considered to be among the most vulnerable countries.

• European Union – The EU negotiates as a formal group at the Convention as with most other multilateral processes.

In addition several other topical or geographic groups exist related to ecology, funding, position on emissions targets, adaptation, language, and mitigation in order to further positions or regional emphasis within the talks, which makes for a complicated negotiating and political process.

At this point in the negotiations, these groups are meeting regularly behind closed doors and then bringing their viewpoints into contact groups and drafting groups on various issues, some of which are open to observers and some of which are not. New drafts of text should begin to emerge this weekend as higher level ministers arrive to negotiate on final contentious points next week.


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