Leading actors in the negotiations

In close collaboration with the Department of Government at Uppsala University, the INS has examined the preferences for leading actors in climate change negotiations every year from Poznan in 2008 to Warsaw 2013. Initially, we examined who the major leading actor contenders were (Karlsson et al. 2011) and whether the outcome of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009 (COP15) could be understood through the patterns in preferences and changes in preferences for leading actors (Parker et al 2012). The INS has also explored factors determining leading actor support (Karlsson et al. 2012, Parker et al. 2014).
For the near future, one publication is being prepared on the role of emerging coalitions in climate change negotiations as is an examination of factors explaining the temporal trends in leading actor recognition.


This figure presents the preferences among participants at United Nations Climate Change Conferences for the four leading actor contenders. The four major leading actor contenders are: the EU, China, the USA and the Group of 77 and China (Karlsson et al. 2011, Parker et al. 2012). Overall, the pattern reveals that three leading actor contenders in different combinations are identified in climate change negotiations. In Poznan 2008 clearly the EU was viewed as the main contender, but already next year in Copenhagen, two contenders were added: the USA (who entered the negotiations after Poznan) and China (who was already seen as the major leading actor together with the EU by negotiators already in Poznan).


This figure presents the preferences for leading actors according to geographic regions from COP14 to COP18 (Karlsson et al. 2011, Parker et al. 2012).  Both European and North American respondents clearly see all three major contenders as leading actors; indicated by 45% of higher degree of recognition. Both regions see their “own” contender as the main leader – the EU and the USA respectively – , followed by the other two about ten %-units below. African respondents recognize all the three major contenders at about 40% degree of recognition. Asian and South and Latin American respondents see the EU and China as the two major contenders, followed by the USA on third place. The degree of recognition among Oceanian respondents has varied considerably, and the number or respondents is limited and, thus, these results should be interpreted with caution. Overall, they have seen the USA as the major leading actor contender, but before Copenhagen, it was the EU.


This table/figure illustrates the preferences for leading actors according to the respondents’ primary role at the United Nations Climate Change Conferences (Karlsson et al. 2012). The data covers COP14 to COP16. In Poznan negotiators identified the EU and China are the major leaders in climate change negotiations. The year after, the recognition of EU fell back and increased dramatically for the USA. Consequently, the USA and China was seen as the major leaders. In Cancun, all three leading actors were recognized to a similar extent. Among government respondents the pattern is similar to the negotiators although lagged in time, for instance the degree of recognition of the EU and China came a year later than for the negotiators.


For three years, data on the preferences for different factors for determining leading actor support that have been put forward in the research literature were collected. This figure shows the percentages of the responses according to how strongly the respondents agree that they determine the selection of climate change leaders. (Ranked from 1 strongly disagree to 7 strongly agree.) The findings have been published in Karlsson et al. (2012) and Parker et al. (2014). Overall, our data suggest that contrary to what was expected from theory, directional leadership rather than self-interest and structural leadership (measured as the ability to provide resources was seen as the major determinant for the selection of leaders. Moreover, our data indicates that determinants do not vary considerably across geographical regions even if the leading actor contenders do.