UK lawyers launch climate diplomacy bootcamp

By John Parnell

British lawyers are at the forefront of efforts this week to boost the capabilities of some of the poorest world’s nations at the UN climate talks.

Representatives from Bangladesh, Kenya, Nepal, Papua-New Guinea, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe are working with the Legal Response Initiative (LRI) on a programme organisers hope will make a future climate change agreement fairer for developing nations.

The week long course in London aims to give delegates from some of the most climate vulnerable nations the tools to argue their case at the UN negotiations, famed for their use of elaborate acronyms and layers of complexity.

“The difference in negotiators is like comaring Premier League and First Division players. When it comes to law, the legal people have great expertise perhaps in domestic law but are not always familiar with international legal principles,” Christoph Schwarte, executive director of LRI told RTCC.

The LRI says closing this gap can help to make the UN climate process fairer.

“In order to give least developed and other particularly vulnerable countries a fair deal, we cannot allow their delegations to be regularly ‘outgunned’ by the legal teams of industrialised nations and emerging economies,” said Richard Dyton, a partner at Simmons & Simmons, the law firm hosting the event.

With more than 4000 diplomats in attendance, small unprepared, delegations struggle to make their mark at the UN talks (Source:Flickr/UNFCCC)

The nature of the negotiations can put smaller delegations at a disadvantage if they are unable to keep track with the talks’ multiple streams covering issues from forestry to finance.

With work beginning this year on a global emissions treaty that will include the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), it is more important than ever that they are well prepared for the process.

“The international climate negotiations are amongst the most complicated and complex multilateral law processes ever,” said Nick Flynn, chairman of the LRI.

“Meetings are often characterised by technical jargon, conflicting interpretations of legal obligations and the use of procedural rules,” he added.

The talks through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) culminate each year in with a meeting of almost 200 nations.

Delegation sizes range from a handful of officials juggling multiple portfolios for their home country.

Big developing countries will likely have 50 plus delegates and experts designated to lead on each issue. Coordination on the process will continue all year round. The result is a total mismatch despite financial help from the US and the EU among others, to support delegations from poorer nations.

The USA had 51 official delegates at the last talks in Doha. Rwanda had five.

UNFCCC chief Christiana Figueres told Yale Environment 360 that the “complexity is working against the urgency”.

The LRI hope that participants will be able to return home and pass the training on to colleagues so that even if they are outnumbered, it will be harder for them to be outmanoeuvred at the talks.

The EU recently announced it would provide €3.5 funding over the next three years to ensure negotiators from the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) can attend the talks.

The UK’s Department for International Development and the Dutch Government have funded the workshop through the Climate Development Knowledge Network (CDKN).

Video: UNFCCC jargon explained by the UKYCC

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