From Sinking to Syncing: Pacific diplomacy and consensus in multilateral climate change negotiations

George Carter presentation. Image DPA

15 December 2017

How and when do states agree not to disagree in multilateral negotiations? Consensus is more than a conference procedure or an outcome of decision making; it is a process norm in contemporary multilateral diplomacy. How do (small) states (vis-à-vis Pacific island states) build and reach consensus in multilateral climate change negotiations? The thesis explores the work of 14 Pacific island states delegations in various multilateral forums in the year 2015; the road to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement. Utilising process tracing, global political ethnography and Talanoa methods- the research is an integrative analysis of negotiations explored from the vantage point of small states in a multilateral negotiation system of formal (UNFCCC) and informal (regional) regimes. The main argument and purpose, unpacks the process of ‘consensus point’ or the final moments and the behaviour of states in concluding negotiations on an agreement. The thesis finds that the behaviour of Pacific island states is shaped by the formal UNFCCC and the ‘global South’ coalitions they align themselves with; and also the informal negotiation processes and politics of regional multilateral meetings in the Pacific - Pacific Islands Forum, Pacific Islands Development Forum, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program; sub-regional entities like Polynesian Leaders Group, Melanesia Spearhead Group, Micronesian Presidents’ Summit; and the regional negotiation coalitions such as the Pacific SIDS group. By mapping the work of Pacific Islands negotiation actors (leaders, diplomats, technical experts, media, academics, NGO, and regional organisations) and their activities (coordination, strategies, and leadership), the thesis concludes that there are a handful of countries and specific actors who control the politics of climate change in the region, and influential in international UNFCCC negotiations.

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