Climate Simulation: Role Playing Exercise that Feels Like the Real Thing
The room was set up differently than it was before we went for lunch. A quick glance around showed that the section marked USA and European Union (EU) seemed lavishly set compared to the section marked other Developing Nations.
We learnt that we were to do the World Climate Simulation exercise. The role-playing exercise of the UN Climate change negotiations for groups uses an interactive C- ROADS computer model that provides participants with real time science-based feedback on the implications of their proposals for atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, global mean surface temperature, sea level rise, and other impacts.
The set up consisted of six UN Climate negotiating nations/blocs. This included the United States of America (USA), European Union (EU), other Developed Nations, China, India and other Developing Nations.
Our UN Secretary-General was Dr Ayub Macharia, Director, Environmental Education and Awareness, Ministry of Environment and Forestry while the delegates including myself were participants at the Environment Bloggers Sensitization Workshop on Climate Change at the Masada Hotel, Naivasha from March 26-28, 2019.
I had heard of the World Climate Simulation exercise, however, I had not taken part in one before. I wanted to join either the USA or European Union negotiating bloc. I was, however, directed to the other Developing Nations bloc. We sat on cushions! We were angry! We kept wondering if other Developing Nations were this disadvantaged during climate negotiations.
We voiced our complaints! We murmured loudly! We felt dehumanized! How could negotiators from other blocks enjoy themselves while we sat on cushions? We learnt that most of the times during the World Climate Simulations, delegates from other Developing Nations usually sit on the floor. The unequal distribution of facilities and refreshments is intentional as it shows the power dynamics of international negotiations. We vowed to ensure the best possible deal for other Developing Nations.
Our task was to negotiate a global climate agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that achieve the best outcome for global economies whilst factoring in our respective national interests as well.
After our complaints, we felt the weight bestowed on us. We had to make decisions that would affect the world and the countries we represented. What we decided on would determine whether we would reduce emissions to less than 2.0-degree Celsius or continue with business as usual scenario which would see emissions increase to 4.2 degree Celsius by 2100.
We had to develop appropriate actions to reduce carbon emissions, make commitments towards the reduction of deforestation, increase reforestation or afforestation’s, and further contribute to the Green Climate Fund which is intended to provide at least USD 100 billion per year to developing countries to reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change.
After introductions, each negotiation bloc had a few minutes to review background information for their block and formulate their goals. Discussions quickly became heated, with delegates taking their new roles seriously.
As delegates representing the other Developing Nations negotiating bloc, we agreed that we needed more time to grow our economies. We would not peak our emissions until 2050 and we would commit to a decline from 2060. In addition, we would not contribute to the Green Climate Fund. However, we expected to use a high percentage of the fund to develop our economies. We tasked our leader to present our pledge and to inform other negotiating blocs that this was our irreversible minimum.
At the end of the first round of negotiations, a representative from each group presented their bloc’s initial pledge. This included the year they would peak their emissions, when their emissions would start to fall and how rapid of a decline they would commit to. In addition, we had to pledge to reduce deforestation by some percentage and to contribute to the Green Climate Fund.
After recording the six pledges, the model showed that the world will still warm by 3.4 degree Celsius by 2100. I was surprised as I thought the pledges would reduce emission to below 2.0-degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. It was clear that reducing the impacts of climate change requires concerted efforts from everyone.
After demonstrating the mapped impacts of projects sea level rise on major cities in the world, we went for the second round of negotiations. Intense negotiations ensued. The consequences of pledges spurned us into action. We approached other negotiating blocs, we made promises, we pledged different things, we played hardball and we massaged other Nations’ ego.
Finally, the US, EU, and China increased their contribution to the Green Climate Fund. Other Developed Nations and other Developing Nations also pledged to contribute to the Green Climate Fund and to reduce their emissions.
We felt happy with ourselves, we knew that we made it and we would have a greener world. However, after tabulating the six negotiating Nations pledges, we had only reduced emissions from 3.4 to 2.7 degree Celsius. After further negotiations, we agreed on a 2.1-degree Celsius emission reduction by 2100.
The exercise provided us with an opportunity to explore the risks of climate change and the challenges of negotiating international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Ms Sheila Shefo Mbiru, of the Low Emission and Climate Resilient Development (LECRD) Project noted that the World Climate Simulation helps to build climate change awareness and enables people to experience some of the dynamics that emerge in the UN climate negotiations.
“It is important for people to find out how their proposed policies impact the global climate system in real-time. The simulation enables us to learn the importance of taking strong collective action to address the effects of climate change,” said Ms Mbiru.
For participants in the World Climate Simulation role-play, the exercise provided hands-on experience on what goes on during climate negotiations. We were able to learn about climate and climate policy interactively, in a realistic, multidisciplinary context that integrates issues including the dynamics of climate change.
Bob Aston works at the Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) as a Project Officer. He can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org