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Paris Climate Meeting: Would We Be Able to Influence the Negotiations While Being just Observers?


There exists a clear division between COP Participants: either you are a party of the convention (a distinguished delegate from a state that has ratified the mandate of the UNFCCC) or you are an observer, or a media rapporteur. I believe it is worth mentioning that I am from the second group.

As an observer your freedom of movement is restricted and so it is your capacity of influence. This is the case because, although in the last UN high-level summit in September 2015 heads of state filled their mouths defending the need to pursue open and inclusive processes, the COP21 final negotiations were closed-doors meetings, vetoed to observers, and, of course, to media.

A group of observers from the UPC took part in the Summit to advocate for environmental justice and highlight the concept of Global Carbon Budget

Therefore, when the option to mediate bilateral talks between nation-states and presidency was disregarded, what could we do to advocate for environmental justice and influence the Paris text?




Anticipating the events, the team I work with, the Group of Governance of Climate Change (GGCC) from the Univeristat Politècnica de Catalunya, decided that among all the options possible the best choice was to create a Group of Friends. This idea worked for the treaty against landmines, so why not to try it with climate change?

So, in June 2015, in the negotiating sessions previous to COP21, we created the “Group of Friends for Strong Mitigation, Distributing Global Carbon Budget under Climate Justice Criteria”. The aim of this group was influencing the Paris text and the decisions beyond. The group shared the goals of maintaining the concept of Global Carbon Budget in the final agreement and distributing it following the proposal developed by the GGCC, its secretariat.

Being a small group from a technical university, national negotiators were our only way to influence the final text

Our Group of Friends, formed by Armenia, Bolivia, Ethiopia, and El Salvador, worked together to push forward the concept of Global Carbon Budget, which was introduced in the text by Bolivia. This concept makes reference to the total number of emissions that can be launched into the atmosphere without exceeding the 2 degrees target. To have Carbon Budget in the agreement would have led to a much more ambitious text with a long-term goal, moving from Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to a global numerical target that would have ensured that the warming of the Earth stayed below 2ºC. This would have been a revolutionary paradigm shift, as it represented a top down approach to the common good that is our climate.

Being a small group from a technical university, national negotiators were our only way to influence the final text. Breaking a bit the non-written rules of the UN, we contacted national delegates from all around the world approaching them in the corridors. To increase our visibility as Group of Friends, we organized side-events and open dialogues, and used them as a space to introduce to other national delegates the importance of the concept of the Global Carbon Budget.

Up until which point our job influenced the negotiations is unclear. The fact that the last meetings were not open to observers makes it even more difficult to track our degree of success. Despite of being almost unknown to the negotiators in the sessions previous to the COP, the truth is that the concept of Carbon Budget made its way through: Its importance was recalled by Nicaragua in the Final Plenary. Therefore, although not included in the Paris Final Agreement, Carbon Budget was present till the very end of COP21.