How negotiations work at a climate summit
In a nearly two-week-long summit in which punctuation can make or break a deal, the structure and rhythm of negotiations is important, and nearly every day is critical.
It's like seeing an action movie. There's generally a plot, bad guys come to threaten the world. Eventually humanity rallies together and overcomes. That's the kind of thing that happens here.
For the next few days, negotiators will be working to get the less controversial subjects finished and explore possible compromises on the bigger sticking points, all before work gets kicked up to higher levels. The lower-level negotiators have a Saturday noon deadline to come up with language for a new text of a deal that narrows the options to something the big guns start with, according to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who is the president of the climate talks.
Having 185 national plans already filed helps, Fabius said.
The key is for many issues to be settled by Saturday, said Fabius, who has repeatedly mentioned the need to speed up negotiations.
Jennifer Morgan, global climate program director for the World Resources Institute, said the thousands of lower-level negotiators work in small groups that have to narrow options on each issue from, say, six to two for the higher-level officials to consider. Negotiators talk formally and informally, including on the bus rides back to the hotel.
"It's pretty clear that if this level doesn't deliver something that's much more streamlined, it just makes it much more hard for the ministers to negotiate," Morgan said.
The language negotiators are now using is "wonky and acronym laden" said Alden Meyer, strategy and policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "But it's important; without it you couldn't get the ingredient."
Though it is tense, Morgan said it's not time for yelling — yet. That comes later in the higher negotiations, Purvis said.
"It's like seeing an action movie," said former U.S. climate negotiator Nigel Purvis, who is now president of Climate Advisors. "There's generally a plot, bad guys come to threaten the world. Eventually humanity rallies together and overcomes. That's the kind of thing that happens here."