The Politics of Climate Change Negotiations
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The Politics of Climate Change Negotiations

Strategies and Variables in Prolonged International Negotiations

Christian Downie

The Politics of Climate Change Negotiations describes the successes and failures of long international negotiations and most importantly, examines the lessons they hold for the future.
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Chapter 2: Histories and theories of international negotiations

Strategies and Variables in Prolonged International Negotiations

Christian Downie


In 2008, I attended my first international climate negotiation, in the old German capital, Bonn. As negotiators whispered to one another and raised motions and objections, it was difficult to know what was going on, and why. Why did some countries raise the same point repeatedly, or others refuse to move on to the next issue, until some seemingly minor piece of negotiating text was removed? I was not sure at the time. But what did interest me, was what motivated these countries and their representatives? Why did they sometimes seek to cooperate and at other times obstruct progress? Did this reflect their interests? And, how and why did their behaviour change from Bonn to Bangkok and on to the next negotiating round? Fortunately, I am not the first to ask these questions and there is much we already know about negotiations. There is an abundance of theories that seek to explain how and why international negotiations matter in world politics. Most are connected to the field of international relations, which in the post-war era has sought to explain international outcomes by looking at the interaction of nation states. Realists first inquired into the motivations and strategies of states to explain international outcomes. Neo-realists asked about the structure of the international system and how this could constrain states. Later, liberals and then constructivists, observing greater patterns of cooperation between states in economic and security affairs, focussed on state preferences to understand why states cooperate.

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