COP21 Make It Work Reaches Universal Climate Deal

3 Jun 2015

COP21 Make It Work Reaches Universal Climate Deal

In an extraordinary evening on Sunday 31 May 2015, the delegates of the COP21 Make It Work simulation reached a visionary, last-gasp deal to protect the planet from the most harmful effects of climate change, after difficult and highly-charged, week-long negotiations.

In the “Theatre of Negotiations” at Nanterre-Amandiers outside Paris, some 41 delegations of more than 200 students from across the world overcame deep-seated difficulties and frustrations to achieve consensus among State entities and “non-State” entities.

The new format, bringing the orthodox, sovereign State Parties of the United Nations climate negotiations into direct talks with non-State delegations (such as Forests, Cities, Sahara and Oceans), made for extremely complex negotiations but also a highly valuable and innovative blueprint for future multilateral talks.

Negotiations proved far from straightforward for international delegates. By the penultimate day, prospects of a universal, much less an innovative, ambitious climate deal, looked very bleak. It became painfully clear to delegates and the simulation’s UNFCCC Secretariat that the State-centric UN-type format was unsuited to real progress and that the reach of non-State actors such as Oceans and Forests was causing a politico-administrative headache on the question of sovereignty.

However, last-ditch attempts by utterly determined delegates from all Parties took negotiations through the night before the final day, including painstaking efforts to make complex proposals for final plenary on global environmental governance, ensuring the most vulnerable ecosystems were represented in the global intergovernmental architecture of the modern day.

The final hours of negotiations on the final day saw two plenary sessions and countless, frenetic side negotiations within the four thematic “Contact groups”, which were to form the basis of the final text: Energy consumption and production; Land, air and water; Governance; and Endangered Territories.

The most crucial compromises to reach a final text came within the last hour and even minutes of negotiations. As the final plenary drew to a close, deals had yet to me made on key energy provisions (such as a formula for global energy mix), climate finance and the protection of endangered territories, notably an Arctic region rich in hydrocarbon reserves.

Reservations on climate finance by delegations such as India forced yet more deals, and other dramatic compromises on climate refugees, quickfire deal-making on Arctic exploration and drilling, and the sheer weight of expectation on delegations to deliver climate success produced a final, universal agreement in the dying minutes in the “Theatre of Negotiations”.

Was this a utopian deal? Not so, according to Bruno Latour:

“It is the (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties process which is utopian and that is why it is failing. It is absolutely vital that before 2015 comes to an end, the public understands we have to make the COP negotiations credible and to achieve this we will in any case have to follow such ideas as those delivered by the students (of COP21 Make It Work).”

At the very end of negotiations, the exhausted delegates who had pushed so hard to formulate an ambitious, innovative accord, agreed unanimously on a text which set out key definitions, followed by provisions outlining “visions of the future” and, crucially, pathways to “global solutions”. These visions and pathways formed the basis of true innovation and divergence from the Westphalian orthodoxy in “real” life; an orthodoxy which has, time after time, repeatedly failed to deliver an agreement on climate and sustainability.

But what now for COP21 Make It Work? Over the coming weeks and months in the run up to Paris Climat 2015, the scientific, political and artistic feedback from this experiment of astounding ambition will, as mediatic and political attention suggest, be analysed by an ever-growing list of parties who are asking real questions of the current provisions in place to secure a climate-resilient planet and a sustainable world for future generations; generations already paying the price for the grave mistakes of the past.

Why did Sciences Po, its Programme of Experimentation and Arts in Politics (SPEAP) and their international partners come up with COP21 Make It Work?

French Ambassador for the Climate Negotiations, Laurence Tubiana, provides a stark warning of why this week-long climate “laboratory” was as timely as it was crucial in this COP21 year:

“This idea of an experiment is extremely useful. It has a sense because we need to find new ideas to move forward (in the UNFCCC climate change negotiations), otherwise, objectively speaking, every political analyst says there is no reason to suggest we’ll get there”.

The time has come for global, universal climate action which delivers real protection for all against the most harmful effects of climate change and spurs a new age of sustainable growth. From one group of students from communities across the world, to those international leaders converging on Paris in December, you must Make It Work.

If we don’t find a way to address climate change, no one will do it for us; “simulation” or “real life”, of that we can be certain.


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