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Mapping the narrative positions of new political groups under the UNFCCC

Blaxekjær, Lau Øfjord, Tobias Dan Nielsen. 2014. Mapping the narrative positions of new political groups under the UNFCCC. Climate Policy, online first.


Since 2009, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) regime has seen the emergence of several new political groups. This article analyses how the new political groups are positioning themselves in relation to the key UNFCCC principles (the North-South divide and ‘common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities’, CBDR/RC). Drawing on original data, including official statements and submissions, observations at COP 17, COP 18, COP 19, and interviews with delegates, the article analyses the BASIC group (Brazil, South Africa, India and China), the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), the Cartagena Dialogue for Progressive Action (CD), the Durban Alliance (DA), the Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDC), and the Association of Independent Latin American and Caribbean States (AILAC). Modelled after Hendrik Wagenaar’s approach to narrative policy analysis, the article draws a map of narrative positions based on the North-South and new CBDR/RC divisions. This framework reveals the embeddedness of narratives in practice as they unfold in the formation of new political groups. CVF, CD, DA and AILAC align on a narrative of ‘shared responsibility across the North-South divide’. This meta-narrative challenges the hitherto dominant notion of CBDR/RC, which BASIC and LMDC defend through a meta-narrative of ‘differentiated responsibility upholding the North-South divide’.

Policy relevance


As we approach the UNFCCC 2015 deadline, this article presents a study of the new political landscape for negotiations, specifically of six new political groups in relation to the core principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities’ (CBDR/RC). Prior to COP 15, groups primarily organized based on the categorization of their members as either an Annex I (developed country) or non-Annex I (developing country) Party. This created two opposing understandings of CBDR/RC, especially regarding who has the responsibility to act on climate change. This article finds that some of the new political groups are challenging this North-South divide, contributing to a more complex relationship between Annex I and non-Annex I Parties on the CBDR/RC issue. This article provides practitioners and analysts with up-to-date knowledge on the developments of new political groups, which will necessarily form the basis of any policy analysis of the UNFCCC leading up to the 2015 deadline.

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