UN climate negotiations are unfair, study finds

The United Nations climate negotiations are “antiquated” and stifle progress, especially for poor nations, according to new research.

The research, published today in Nature Climate Change, argues it’s unfair that the number of delegates from some countries have increased while others have decreased, as this give poor nations less power to negotiate and lessens the effectiveness of their participation in general.

The study comes ahead of the 18th UN Climate Change Summit, where almost 200 nations will meet in Doha, Qatar, from Nov. 26 to Dec. 7 as they seek to extend the Kyoto Protocol.

Researchers found the number of delegates at the summit has increased substantially while the number of countries hasn't.

At the first summit in 1995 there were 757 delegates representing 170 countries. In 2009 there were 10,591 representing 194 countries.

Rich countries — like Brazil and Canada — have been able to send many delegates from business associations while the study shows that smaller, developing countries have had to cut back on the number of representatives they send to the summit, thereby limiting their influence and participation.

Leader of the study, Dr. Heike Schroeder from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, said that changes are long overdue

"The UN must recognize that these antiquated structures serve to constrain rather than compel co-operation on international climate policy. The time is long overdue for changes to institutions and structures that do not support decision-making and agreements," Schroeder said.

"Poor countries cannot afford to send large delegations and their level of expertise usually remains significantly below that of wealthier countries. This limits poor countries' negotiating power and makes their participation in each session less effective."

Schroeder and her colleagues advised that recommend that the number of delegates per country should be capped at a number that permits broad representation but is also more manageable and fair to smaller nations.