Negotiating Climate Change

The materials here were developed for use in an Aberystwyth University ESRC-funded Festival of Social Science event for secondary school pupils. This was held in November 2012, and comprised 45 students taking part on a mock climate change summit. Students received the attached briefing materials prior to the event and were asked to prepare an opening statement. There were 8 negotiating teams of 5 pupils each, and a media team who conducted interviews, asked questions, and released stories via twitter.

These materials are freely available for educational purposes. Please acknowledge the source if you use or modify them. Copyright remains with the author, Dr Carl Death (Aberystwyth University).

In this negotiation a small number of key players have been gathered together to talk about ‘the way forward for international action on climate change’ to try to break though the current deadlock in talks.

Preparation: Before the day

Please read the enclosed briefings and familiarise yourself with any unfamiliar terms or issues using the websites provided at the back.  In particular you should think about your country’s position on:

  • Mitigation (reducing greenhouse gas emissions)
  • Adaptation (coping with and preparing for climate changes already happening)
  • Governance (how to organise climate cooperation between countries and others)

Briefing Documents for Download

Briefing materials by country: AOSIS, China, EU, G77, India, OPEC, Russia, USA

Negotiation Outcomes: adaptation, mitigation, governance

On the day

You have half an hour with the rest of your team to discuss your position on issues of mitigation, adaptation, and governance. You will need to carefully prepare a short statement to open the discussions, and a poster summarising the main issues for your country.

The negotiations will then begin. They will tackle issues of mitigation, adaptation and governance. You will need to explain your position in more detail to the others, and you will have the chance to ask them questions. You can make offers to other parties, or threats, or promises. You can try to persuade, or play hard to get.

Your aim is to protect your country’s interests. This might mean reaching an agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It might mean protecting your economy. It might mean ensuring you make smaller promises than your competitors. It might mean bowing to public and environmental pressure from lobbyists. At the end of the negotiations all countries will be asked to vote on a set of outcomes. The outcomes ‘on the table’ are listed on the sheet provided in the briefing pack titled ‘Negotiating outcomes’.

There is no ‘right’ answer and there are no easy solutions. But a scenario like this should help you to understand some of the difficulties in reaching international agreements on tough issues – but also the importance of doing so fairly.

At the end of the negotiations parties can vote on the outcomes listed in the ‘Negotiating outcomes’ document – or propose their own outcomes.


The media team will produce a record of the day’s events, as well as live updates on your progress. You can use the material produced during the day – the poster, the interviews, the statements and speeches, etc – to communicate the issues involved in negotiating climate change with your friends, families, teachers and classmates.

To stay involved with climate change issues why don’t you consider contacting one of the following organisations?

You can contact your MP and AM to ask what they are doing to address climate change at:

Many degree courses at Aberystwyth University discuss the social science of climate change, including those run by:


2 Responses to Negotiating Climate Change

  1. Dear Ryan, that is great news. Congratulations on a successful simulation. All the best from Aberystwyth, Wales.

  2. Ryan says:

    I recently used Dr. Death’s briefing documents with a high school class in Manitoba, Canada. The negotiation outcomes helped structure students’ preparations, they were quick to get into the necessary mindsets to role-play, and they definitely learned how tough it is to try to achieve unanimity on climate change action. I strongly recommend this activity. Thank you!

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