Monday, April 12, 2010

Adjunct Prof. Cecilia Dalupan, an Advisor to the Government of the Philippines, Discusses Copenhagen Climate Change Conference at ADR Session

University of Denver law students, professors and guests recently learned what the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations in Copenhagen in December 2009 were really like at a presentation by Cecilia Dalupan. Ms. Dalupan, an attorney licensed both in the Philippines and Colorado, participated in the climate change negotiations as a legal advisor for the Philippine delegation. Ms. Dalupan’s extensive experience in international law, natural resources law, and alternative dispute resolution contributed to her involvement in the negotiations.

Ms. Dalupan described the vast array of negotiating groups and interest groups present at the negotiations. While each party is entitled to one vote, with the exception of the European Union, whose votes correspond to its 27 member countries, the parties develop negotiating strategies as negotiating groups or blocks, such as the Group of 77 and China (G77 and China), a negotiating group of developing countries which has now grown to over 130 member states.

While China and the U.S. produce the largest percentage of global emissions of greenhouse gases, the world’s least developed countries emit only a small fraction of global greenhouse gas emissions. Statistics such as these, coupled with the fact that the least developed countries have little capital to invest in reduction of greenhouse gases and little to no ability to send representatives to meetings in places like Copenhagen, create immense challenges in the negotiating process. Some developed countries, for example, were able to send hundreds of delegates to the convention, including experts on issues ranging from forestry to use of markets to promote mitigation, while other countries had much leaner delegations that were then faced with a severe disadvantage in negotiations that occurred around the clock in simultaneous meetings.

Hundreds of non-state actors, such as United Nations bodies, nonprofit organizations, and intergovernmental organizations, were admitted to the negotiations, but their representatives were often forced to wait outside the conference building as pressure escalated to vote on an agreement; there simply was not enough room for everyone to be in the building.

The negotiations toward a “Copenhagen Accord” focused on emission reduction targets; verifiable mitigation commitments by all major economies; mitigation and adaptation support for developing countries; measurement, reporting, and verification; and a mandate for a final agreement. Negotiations continued through the late evening and early morning hours, including some positive steps forward, but much blaming, finger pointing and name-calling.

Towards the end of the conference, the exhausted negotiators were left debating over choices of words ranging from “noting” to “have agreed,” that could either stall or solidify the agreement. These final debates became so heated, perhaps exacerbated by pressure from the public and the media to finalize a deal, that the ultimate decision resulting from the conference reads simply as “The Conference of the Parties, Takes note of the Copenhagen Accord of 18 December 2009,” attached to summaries from various ad hoc working groups. Despite the unusual form of this agreement, over 110 countries have responded since then by submitting particular emission reduction targets and related actions to be completed by 2020, including a U.S. commitment to cut 17% from 2005 emissions levels and to enact legislation.* On the other hand, Ecuador, Kuwait, Nauru, Cook Islands, and Cuba have rejected association with the accord.**

Ms. Dalupan expressed that progress in the negotiations will necessitate improved conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms in a setting where the parties have very different ideas about what conflict resolution means. However, without such mechanisms, the negotiations may end in stalemates and blame games rather than produce the trust and innovative thinking required for the parties to provide long-term solutions. Dalupan also advocated for increased transparency in the various bilateral meetings and side negotiations that occur throughout the process so that all parties may share in the process.

Particularly relevant to the event that brought Ms. Dalupan to DU, “Alternative Dispute Resolution Week,” sponsored by the DU ADR Society, was her observation that very highly skilled negotiators and mediators are required for this negotiating process to succeed. Thus, individuals who wish to affect climate change, as in many areas of international and natural resources law, are advised to develop strong negotiation and mediation skills.

To see Ms. Dalupan's PowerPoint presentation, please click here.

Ms. Dalupan is originally from the Philippines. She now works as an Associate Director of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation and a volunteer part time director of Sustainable Development Strategies Group. The week of May 24-28, Ms. Dalupan, attorney Luke Danielson, and University of Dundee Prof. Elizabeth Bastida will be teaching a three-credit, one-week intense course on "National Perspectives Related to Sustainable Natural Resources Development." You can read more about this course, which is part of a four-course series, by clicking here.

--Kristi Disney
J.D./LL.M. Candidate Spring 2011

*Jacob Werksman, "Associating" with the Copenhagen Accords: What does it Mean? World Resources Institute, March 25, 2010.

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