Campus - 20.05.2015 - 00:00 

Tough negotiations

Following a lecture series to the topic of climate change and climate policy, students from several European universities met at the HSG for a two-day simulation of the UN climate negotiations. Our student Sophie Kwisda attended the conference.
Source: HSG Newsroom


20 May 2015. While climate change is one of the most pressing global issues affecting all of today’s business-related processes, future decision makers in international management do not fully understand its relevance. But last weekend, St.Gallen was buzzing with more than 130 students from six European CEMS schools, who simulated the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The six schools were Bocconi Milano, University of Cologne, Corvinus University – Budapest, Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University, Vienna University and the University of St.Gallen. 

Closing the climate-change knowledge gap
After rigorous preparations and several lectures, the “CEMS Climate Change Strategy Role Play – Model UNFCCC” provided the students with an innovative educational approach to close the climate-change knowledge gap. Aimed at broadening studentsʹ understanding of climate change and its impact on business, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the simulation seemed like a preparation for the real UN 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21), which is scheduled in December in Paris.

Saturday afternoon started with a plenary session at the Executive Campus, where feelings ran high. The session structure, which was adopted from the UN format, included representatives of countries, observers like NGOs, and a chair. Over two days, the participants, in the role of delegates, worked hard to produce a draft of future measures regarding climate change, and when it was time to vote on the measures, they closely watched the language of the presented draft. Since voting followed the strict rules of the UN, each measure was approved only if all participants were in favour of it and had no objections.

Understanding negotiations dynamics

An animated discussion followed the categorisation of countries (developed countries, economies in transition, developing economies, least-developed economies). Delegates conferred intensely while deciding which country belongs to which of the newly defined groups, and therefore must meet corresponding targets in the future. In the end, it all depended on the wording of the presented text and delegates’ perception of it, thus the plenary session took a long time and generated a lot of discussion. Nevertheless, it was great to see that students took their roles seriously, and engaged passionately with this controversial topic.

Despite being exhausted, the students provided positive feedback during the breaks. They all agreed that preparations for the simulation required hard work during the spring term, with the last two days being particularly stressful. But at the same time, they gained understanding of the science of climate change and its environmental impact, and hands-on experience of how corporate strategies and public policies are interlinked, both in terms of challenges and solutions. Moreover, students applied basic principles of the "mutual gains approach" to negotiations and got a better understanding of bilateral and multilateral negotiations dynamics. The process also made them aware of their own role and emotionality in negotiations.

As one professor from the University of Victoria in Canada succinctly described the simulation: “passion, professionalism, preparation” – it definitely was! But if one were asked whether the simulation outcome would be satisfactory for the COP 21 in Paris, the answer would clearly be “no” – much more commitment, and funds flowing from developed countries, would be needed to support the developing nations.

Picture: University of St.Gallen / Robert Stürmer