UNFCCC as an arena for climate change governance

Over the years, researchers and policy makers alike have acknowledged that the UN Climate Change Conferences themselves provide a place for a wide range of actors to interact in matters related to climate change. Interest from both national delegations and from different kinds of NGOs and IGOs to participate in these meetings is high and still on the rise. From the very beginning, the INS has examined the role of this site in climate change governance. For example Hjerpe and Linnér (2010) found that side-events fulfiled their broader official objective of benefiting COP participants through providing a process for forming a shared conceptual basis, building institutional capacity and legitimacy. All participant groups, particularly from Africa, G77, and less-developed countries, found these events useful for their work. As a venue for information dissemination, side-events provide an important opportunity for capacity building and, historically, new items for negotiations have been introduced at COP side-events before being discussed in the formal negotiations. In an INS-spinoff, Hjerpe and Buhr (2014) have examined how the contents of 2214 side events held at these meetings have evolved from Kyoto to Durban.

Ongoing studies examine purposes of UN climate change conferences and reasons for attending these conferences. The INS also examines participants’ preferences on what forums outside the UNFCCC they believe are needed to effectively tackle climate change, the results of which can be found in Hjerpe and Nasiritousi (2015).




PURPOSES OF UN CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCES

In view of the debate about the effectiveness and functions of global environmental conferences and the turn towards more fragmented environmental governance, the INS is currently gauging the participants’ views on seven different purposes for the UN Climate Change Conferences. The purposes we examine are:

  • Exchange views among governments
  • Exchange views between governments and non-state actors
  • Foster cooperation
  • Negotiate an agreement on mitigation
  • Negotiate an agreement on adaptation
  • Raise public awareness
  • Share best practices

As the figure illustrates, the data suggest negotiating an agreement on, foremost, mitigation and, to a slightly lower degree, on adaptation as the two primary purposes of the UN Climate Change Conferences. Subsequently, participants are view foster collaboration on climate change to a high degree. The lowest degree of recognition is found for exchanging views among government representatives.

At the recent UN Climate Change Conference in Lima, the INS continued to collect data on this survey item and a publication is planned for next year.




REASONS TO ATTEND UN CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCES

For similar reasons as the purpose of UN Climate Conferences survey item above, the INS is currently measuring why side event participants attend UN Climate Change Conferences. The reasons we examine are:

  • Inform oneself about climate change
  • Report from the conference to a wider audience
  • Represent one’s own organisation
  • Establish contacts
  • Spur action on climate change
  • Influence international climate negotiations
  • Influence domestic climate policy
  • Show the work of one’s organization.

The data suggest that side event participants primarily attend UN Climate Conferences in order to inform themselves about climate change followed by report to a wider audience and representing their own organization and establish contacts. Side event participants participate to a lower degree to influence both international and domestic climate change policy as well as to demonstrate the work of their own organization.

At the recent UN Climate Change Conference in Lima, the INS continued to collect data on this survey item and a publication is planned for next year.




THE VALUE AND FUNCTION OF SIDE EVENTS

Every year, about 200 official side events are held at the UN Climate Change Conferences. Endorsed by the UNFCCC Secretariat, the INS has gauged the value and function of side events since COP13 in Bali.




SIDE EVENT PARTICIPATION DATA

Based on INS data, we have examined the roles and geographies of side event participants. Side events have, indeed, proven to be a rewarding arena for scientific study (e.g. Hjerpe and Linnér 2010, Stevenson and Dryzek 2012, Schroeder and Lovell 2012, Buhr and Hjerpe 2014, Nasiritousi et al 2014). Besides geographies of side event participation, the INS can be used to analyse the issues that attracts attention from different categories of COP participants and, on the whole, as a separate sample that enables comparisons between results obtained by the overall COP participant. So, who is participating?

These figures illustrate, in turn, the number of side event participants according to their primary role at the UN Climate Change Conferences as well as in what regions they reside. Each circle represents one attendant. Based on our studies at the UN Climate Change Conferences in Bali and Poznan, the overall attendance was estimated to 83 in Bali and 88 in Poznan. Adding about 15 side events to our sample every years, the INS has seen an increase in overall attendance. The figures reported here are average numbers, both the number of participants and the compositions varies considerably among individual events.




NUMBER OF SIDE EVENT PARTICIPANTS AT UN CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCES ACCORDING TO PRIMARY ROLE AT COP 13 AND 14

With regards to primary role, the INS has established that 53 or about 60% of the side event attenders are observers, whereof 32 were NGO representatives, 14 researchers and eight business representatives. Around 25% of the side event participants were either negotiators or representatives of government agencies. Our data have demonstrated that when side events take place close to the negotiations, the number of negotiators and government representatives attending side events rises. About 10% of the side event attenders were representatives from various UN organisations and Intergovernmental Organizations. Every side event was also attended by 2 to 3 media representatives, on average.



NUMBER OF SIDE EVENT PARTICIPANTS AT UN CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCES ACCORDING TO GEOGRAPHICAL REGIONS AT COP 13 AND 14

In terms of geographical composition, the INS has established that the geographic location of the COP has a significant impact on side event participation from neighboring or proximate countries in general and from the host country in particular. The figure shows how the shares of European attenders rose from about a quarter in COP13 in Bali (Asia) to 45% in COP14 in Poznan (Europe) as well as Asian attenders halved from about a third in COP13 in Bali (Asia) to about one sixth in Poznan (Europe). Likewise the shares of attenders from Oceania also dropped. At the same time, the shares of North American and African side event participants did not change. The spread in location, thus, is likely to spur and has spurred regional capacity building on climate change.

Overall, side event participation is characterized by a large geographical heterogeneity, reflecting the heterogeneity the of the COP participants. Based on data from COP13 and COP14, about one third of the side event attenders were Europeans, about 20% Asians, 16% North Americans, 15% Africans about 5% from South and Latin America and Oceania, respectively.




VALUE OF SIDE EVENTS

Side event participants were asked to rate the value of side events for their professional work from no value (1) to a very high value (4). Overall, 56% of the side event participants rated side events as having very high value. This figure has been remarkably stable over the years, indicating permanence of the value of the side event programme. This table contains the average values broken down according to primary roles at the COP, geographical regions, and party coalitions.

Based on their own rating, the value of side events is evenly spread across primary roles and geographical regions, with the notable exception of side event participants from Africa and South and Latin America, who rated side events as more valuable than the average.

Party coalition affected more significantly. Here, side event participants from countries belonging to the Environmental Integrity Group and the Umbrella Group indicated a lower value of side events than other participants from the other party coalitions and without party coalition.

At COP-13 participants at the main conference venue were also asked to rate the value of side events, if they intended to take part. The respondents indicated a similar value (55% rated side events as very valuable). Only 15% of the responding negotiators and a few percent of other participant categories did not intend to attend any side event.




WHY ATTEND A SIDE EVENT?

Share indicating most important reason to participate in side events according to party sub-groupings at COP 14, (%).

The INS has also gauged why side event participants attend them by ranking the three most important reasons from 1 to 3. The following reasons have been examined:

  • Inform oneself of international climate policy
  • Establish contacts
  • Influence international climate policy
  • Influence national climate policy
  • New ideas in my work
  • Inform oneself of scientific research
  • Gather material
  • Monitor the work of competitors.

Overall, side event participants attend to inform themselves about climate change policy as well as to get new ideas for their work. The table below contains the shares of the respondents that indicate a certain reason as the most important reason for participation divided into selected party sub-groupings at COP 14. Here, we see that participants from the Alliance of Small Island States and from the Least-Developed Countries to a significantly higher extent attend to influence national climate change policy, to get new ideas and to inform themselves about climate science. In view of that, Hjerpe and Linnér (2010) argued that the side event programme functions as an essential part in capacity building in climate change governance.




WHY ORGANIZE A SIDE EVENT?

Side event organizers’ expected outcomes according to type of organizer, (%)

The INS has also asked side event organisers about the reasons for hosting an event. This table contains the percentages of side event organizers by their expected outcomes and divided according to the type of organizer. Party organizers were relatively more interested in reporting on progress than the average of all side event organizers (inform other). UN and IGO organizers expected to raise awareness, and to some extent to gain political support, and less to stimulate dialogue (one-way). Research organizers less raise awareness, and more develop research agenda. Business more gain political support (two thirds). NGO less develop research agenda, report on progress (inform other) and more stimulate dialogue (two-way). Interestingly, however, more than half of the organizers expected to gain political support by organizing the side event in all organizer types.




TARGET AUDIENCE. SIDE EVENT ORGANISERS’ EXPECTED TARGET AUDIENCES OR PRIMARY ROLES (THREE AND SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT, %)

Organizers of side events were also asked to select and rank the most important target audiences (Table 3). Negotiators were by far the most important target audience in all categories of side events in both COPs followed by representatives of UN organizations and representatives from environmental NGOs, which was slightly different compared to at COP 13 where researchers were rated as the third most important target audience by side event organizers.