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Simulating Climate Change Negotiations: Lessons from Modeled Experience


Ariel Macaspac Penetrante is a research fellow in the Vattenfall Europe Energy Management and Sustainability program at the University of Leipzig, Germany. His e-mail address is


Studies of the negotiation process in the context of climate change have been limited. This report argues that it is necessary to cope not only with the complexity of the substantial issues related to climate change (scientific, technical, economic, political, and social) but also with the complexity of this multiparty international negotiation process and with the uncertainty of the negotiation outcome. Preparing decision makers for negotiations requires developing a tool kit that includes strategies for dealing with complexity; creating such a tool kit requires collecting knowledge through the systematic study of relevant negotiations.

Analyzing the documents and transcripts from previous climate change negotiations is necessary but insufficient. In this report, I argue the need to employ innovative approaches to understanding the complexity of the climate change negotiation. For this reason, I conducted a series of games that simulated United Nations–sponsored climate change negotiations.

In these games, variables were manipulated to explore the impact of various conditions on negotiating behaviors, processes, and outcomes. The results offer insights that may help researchers and negotiators develop practical strategies to cope with the complexity of international climate change negotiations. Among these are propositions about reframing the “North–South divide” and about encouraging “threshold states” to assume the role of the bridge between various groups and coalitions in the international system.