Simulating climate change negotiations: lessons from modeled experience

Penetrante, Ariel
External Publications (2012)

in: Negotiation Journal 27 (3), 278-314


Although the climate change negotiations have a mainly scientific basis (Liebermann et al. 2007; Waever 2004), it is the political preconditions that, for the most part, determine how climate change is addressed. There are rather limited studies about the negotiation process in the context of climate change. This report argues that it is necessary to cope not only with the complexity of the substantial issues related to climate change, but as well with the complexity of the negotiation process and with the uncertainty of the negotiation outcome. Preparing decision-makers for negotiations requires a tool kit which includes strategies to deal with complexity. This tool kit is the collection of knowledge gathered through the systematic study of negotiations. However, the mere analyses of texts and manuscripts of past climate change negotiations limit the scope and validity of knowledge. For instance, laboratory research on COP meetings is impossible to conduct. This report argues that the input of social scientific knowledge regarding international negotiations could be increased by employing innovative approaches that look at negotiation as a process. For this reason, the author of this paper conducted series of simulation games to contribute to social scientific research. The simulation games include manipulated conditions to understand how such conditions affect the behavior of actors as well as the resulting outcomes. The analyses of the behavior of the actors, how issues defined the interactions of the parties, how outcomes were reached, and how the negotiation process was influenced by specific structural and agent-based conditions offer interesting insights that may enable researchers to come up with practical strategies to cope with complexity. From the systematic evaluation of the observations made from simulations, propositions are formulated to facilitate the negotiation process. These propositions for instance include the reframing of the North-South divide as relations to enable a more collaborative partnership between developed and developing countries. In addition, this report proposes the identification of “threshold states” which may assume the role of the bridge between groups and coalitions in the international system.

About the author


Further experts

Aleksandrova, Mariya

Climate risk governance 

Brandi, Clara

Economy and Political Science 

Dippel, Beatrice


Donnelly, Aiveen

Politcal Science 

Ekoh, Susan S.

Environmental Research 

Gitt, Florian


Goedeking, Nicholas

Comparative Political Economy 

Haug, Sebastian

Political Science 

Inacio da Cunha, Marcelo

Economics, Geography 

Kachelmann, Matthias

Political Science 

Lehmann, Ina

Political Science 

Li, Hangwei

Political Science 

Malerba, Daniele


Mathis, Okka Lou

Political Scientist 

Morare, Ditebogo Modiegi

Political Science 

Never, Babette

Political Scientist 

Novoselova, Anna

Political Science 

Nowack, Daniel

Political Science 

Olekseyuk, Zoryana


Pegels, Anna


Srigiri, Srinivasa Reddy

Agricultural Economist 

Stewart, Benjamin

Social Science 

Volz, Ulrich


Wehrmann, Dorothea


Wingens, Christopher

Political Science