Copenhagen summit strategy: How to make an impact

Ensuring you get what you want out of an international negotiation is a tricky business. As Copenhagen begins, each country’s delegation will be preparing for battle. Experienced summit-goers have honed their success strategies over the years.

Here are some of their tips:
1. There’s safety in numbers. So make sure you’re part of a big gang. Negotiators for small countries will be at an automatic disadvantage with fewer people to cover all the negotiating sessions. It’s a recognised strategy to win people round by wearing the opposition down through exhaustion. Large delegations can operate like a wrestling tag team. But small delegations just have to stick it out to the early hours when all the important decisions are likely to be made. Wary of this tactic, African groups imposed a 6pm curfew in Barcelona. In Copenhagen there will be a strictly imposed cut-off time for negotiations once the world leaders arrive. But until then expect lots of late night meetings.

2. Learn the lingo. The official language of the negotiations is English so being a fluent speaker can give you an advantage. But no one in climate summits actually speaks English. They speak in a mixture of acronyms and numbers that are utterly impenetrable to the layperson. You had better learn what all the articles in the convention and Kyoto protocol refer to to stand a chance of knowing what’s going on. Be warned that some acronyms take longer to say than the thing they describe — like LULUCF (loo-loo-see-eff) which just refers to land use.

3. Make yourself hard to ignore. Achieving consensus is a tricky business so inevitably some shortcuts occasionally need to be employed. If you are from a big, important or troublesome country then your objections will be listened to, but interventions from smaller countries can sometimes get overlooked if consensus is tantalisingly close. If you don’t want to risk being ignored by a vexed chair desperate to reach a conclusion, make friends with big countries and get them to make your point.

4. Strike a pose. The Earth Negotiation Bulletin and ECO are the daily newspapers of the conference. If you want to become a summit celebrity be sure to strike a pose whenever you see the ENB photographer approaching. Favourites include the ”pre-occupied huddle” if in a group or the ”talking urgently into your mobile” if on your own.

5. Get yourself a laptop and get on Facebook It is now possible for delegates to communicate with one another in real time as the negotiations are going on. Status updates on Facebook are a useful way to talk to your friends and distract yourself from the tedium of arguing for hours over a single word.

6. Don’t be afraid to cry Something about climate negotiations brings emotions to the surface. The world may be watching but if you have to let it out, let it out. Who knows — it may just help to remind people that things would be a lot better if we were just a bit nicer to one another. It is after all the fate of human society we’re talking about here. –

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