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Climate Change Politics & Policy
ENVS 4100/3521

Collaborative Activities

Activity #1 ~ Qatar COP18 Negotiations (10 points)

In this activity, we are looking forward to the 18th Conference of Parties (COP18) meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This meeting will be held in Doha, Qatar. It will seek to further develop the successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol. Among the negotiations, (we) participants will seek to codify the goals and proposals outlined at the last COP meetings.

Each of you will represent a key country in the negotiations, situated in a voting bloc. The objective of this activity is to successfully agree to commitments that most closely align with your nation’s interests, as situated in your specified voting blocs (below).

You will play the role of that country’s high-level climate envoy and negotiator as you work to strategically and diligently achieve the ‘best deal’ for your country and its constituents. By studying and arguing for your adopted country’s perspective and stances in climate negotiations, you will find ‘success’ in the international negotiations.

Negotiations will take place along two of many dimensions of the ‘Seoul Protocol’ or ‘Doha Protocol’:

  1. Mitigation – emissions reductions commitments along a negotiated timeline to begin at the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol at the end of 2012
  2. Adaptation – agreements on how to disperse US$30 billion over the calendar year 2013, as agreed by the ‘Climate Green Fund’ at COP16; who gets what, when and how?

For the purposes of the role play, I am Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres. In this role, I will move between in-class caucuses to mediate negotiations and offer short and neutral comments as solicited by you as climate envoys.

On February 21 each voting bloc will present their 3-minute arguments. First, arguments will open on mitigation. Second, arguments will be heard regarding the ‘Climate Green Fund’ for adaptation.

On February 28, final arguments and negotiations will take place. In these final discussions, two envoys deemed ‘lead discussants’ will have the opportunity to ask one question or make one statement directed to each voting bloc in the main forum, traversing both elements of the negotiations. These will be limited to 5 minutes total. All members of the voting blocs must help these discussants prepare optimally effective strategies. After these questions/statements, final agreements must be reached on both issues by the parties by the end of class.

A few additional comments from the Executive Secretary:

  • while these voting blocs may represent similar mitigation and adaptation interests, it is a mistake to expect that everyone in your voting bloc is your ally; ultimately you have been charged with the remit of getting the ‘best deal’ for your own country: so trust can be fleeting, ephemeral
  • frame your arguments in the strongest terms politically and diplomatically palatable/appropriate
  • ordering of arguments will be announced by me on the day of each set of negotiation sessions
  • parties to the negotiations may not walk away from negotiations or from an agreement; all envoys recognize that an agreement must be reached in some form by the conclusion of negotiations
  • “may the goddess of Ixchel inspire you”


  1. In class on January 24, each of you will draw the name of a participating country out of the hat; you will briefly caucus with your voting blocs to begin to better understand common interests that may be present within the groupings.
  2. Between January 24 and February 2 you will study up on the positions that your country has taken relative to these aspects of mitigation and adaptation in the UN Conference of Parties negotiations – this will involve looking into how your country representatives have moved through previous negotiations, and what are priorities that they have articulated for the successor climate treaty; also, you will develop a one-page fact sheet/position paper to share with your voting bloc (as well as turn into me) on February 2 (I will provide the template of prompts for this on January 26)
  3. You will bring to class on February 2 a one-page position paper along these two dimensions, with copies for each member of your voting bloc (also with a copy for me); in class, your group will then take turns briefly sharing the main points and positions that you’ve identified from each of your countries, also noting intersections between countries in your voting bloc.
  4. Between February 2 and February 14, you will communicate with other members of your voting bloc (before/after class, by email) to start preparing a group strategy for upcoming negotiations;
  5. In class on February 14, you will appoint two lead negotiators to present a 3-minute argumentation on your position on mitigation; you will appoint two other lead negotiators to present a 3-minute argumentation on your position on adaptation.
  6. Between February 14 and February 21 you will communicate with other members of your voting bloc to prepare these arguments.
  7. In class on February 21, each voting bloc will present their two sets of arguments in 3 minutes each, working to convince the other voting blocs of their position while identifying ‘common interests’ between groups.
  8. Between February 21 and February 28, voting blocs will be able to negotiate with each other (before class/after class, by email) in order to improve possibilities for one’s ‘best deal’ in the final negotiations.
  9. In class on February 28, final negotiations on these two aspects of mitigation and adaptation will take place; two ‘lead discussants’ (different from the negotiators if possible) will ask one question or make one statement directed to each voting bloc in the main forum; final negotiations will take place and proposals will be brought to a final vote by the end of class.
  10. I will hand out ‘confidential peer assessments’ that you will each individually (and confidentially) complete and turn in when you take your midterm exam on March 1.



European Union   AOSIS
Denmark   Dominican Republic
Netherlands   Tuvalu
Portugal   Malta
Germany   Fiji
United Kingdom   Group of Eight (minus EU members)
(Spain)   Canada
African Group   Japan
Kenya   United States of America
Democratic Republic of Congo    
Ghana   Asia/Oceania
(Angola)   Australia
Egypt   South Korea
+ Five   Bangladesh
(South Africa)   (Pakistan)
Brazil   OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries)
People’s Republic of China   Saudi Arabia
India   Algeria
ALBA (Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América)   Nigeria
Venezuela   (Libya)


Activity #2 ~ climate commercials: moving between climate science/policy & the everyday (10 points)

“All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances…” ~ William Shakespeare in ‘As You Like It’

Today people are faced with a multitude of media messages that shape their everyday interpretations and decisions about climate science and policy. Media representations – from news to entertainment – are powerful and important links between people’s understanding and choices concerning climate (friendly) practices and choices. A dynamic mix of influences shape what become ‘climate stories’. Within the spaces where people make climate change meaningful reside questions regarding how to more accurately and effectively translate many complexities and nuances surrounding climate science and policy.

For activity #2, you will divide into groups of three to four students and play the role of climate communicators. Connecting the dots between course materials and your outside knowledge of climate policy and politics, you will develop plans for a 30-60 second commercial. The serendipitous feature of this task is that you and your group will connect these issues of ‘climate policy and politics’ to the theme of zero waste/waste reduction practices right here on the CU-Boulder campus.

The goals for this assignment are:

  1. To devise a media artifact that effectively translates formal climate science/policy into language people/students on campus will pay attention to and understand;
  2. To scale down information from the ‘global’ levels of climate change to fit within the ‘local’ spaces of campus activities; and
  3. To gain awareness of the challenges involved in presentation about climate issues to the target audience (e.g. the everyday person on campus). This will also help to prepare us for Component IV of the course, and visits from Dave Newport and Eban Goodstein (discussing campus climate activism/activities).

A key factor in the success of your “film” will be your ability to be both instructive and engaging.

Your project product will be a film script of no more than 2000 words (roughly the equivalent of a 30-60 second spot), due Thursday, April 5th. This script needs to be broken down as follows:

  1. up to 500 words summarizing the main point(s) of the commercial, paying explicit and particular attention to the connections you’ve made between climate change and zero waste; and
  2. up to 1500 words for the script itself.

When you turn in the project description/script on April 5th, your group will give a five-minute presentation describing your commercial, briefly touching on the motivation and rationale behind it.

Only one assignment needs to be turned in for your whole group. All participants’ names must be on it. You are not required to produce this commercial, or to submit it to the CU Environmental Center “Green on the Screen” Contest. See the stated deadline and further details below if you are interested.


  1. In class on Thursday March 8, each of you will draw a number out of the bag; you will briefly meet with others who draw the same number in order to begin to develop a project plan.
  2. In class on Tuesday March 13, you will have twenty minutes to meet with your team to further develop your 30-60 second commercial, and begin to assemble the project: the description and script.
  3. In class on Tuesday April 3, you will have class time to finalize your plan and make final determinations regarding your 2000-word description and script.
  4. On Thursday April 12, you will turn in the project description and script, and your group will give a five-minute presentation to the class.
  5. I will hand out ‘confidential peer assessments’ for this project. Like before, you will each complete and turn in your assessment Tuesday April 17.


Excerpts from ‘Green on the Screen’ announcement…

TO:      Boulder Campus Teaching & Research Faculty, Staff, Deans, Directors, Dept Chairs, System Administration
FROM:    CU Environmental Center
SENDER:  Daniel Baril, Recycling Program Manager, 303-492-8307
SUBJECT: Green on the Screen: Digital Media Contest.  $1000 for Students

CU Environmental Center is hosting a Zero Waste Messaging Contest, titled "Green on the Screen" to engage the CU student body in developing new and improved messaging strategies for zero waste practices on-campus. Student voice and creativity can be the strongest advocate for change, and this contest provides a platform for students to be heard.

monetary prizes will be awarded as follows:
-- $1000 for 1st place
-- $800 for 2nd place
-- $600 for 3rd place
-- $400 for 4th place
-- $200 for 5th place

Participants are to produce a 30 or 60 second commercial using any form of digital media. Content of the commercial must be related to specific Zero Waste issues selected from the menu of options in the contest rules. Beyond winning the prize money, contest entries will be utilized within campus promotions and outreach to raise awareness around sustainable actions. Exceptionally high-quality content may also enjoy extended use in off-campus outreach in Colorado and beyond.

You must be a student to enter and win. Winners will be announced on Earth Day, April 22nd. Click here for complete contest rules and to submit an entry form.