There needs to be more democracy in the negotiations.
International negotiations are very undemocratic, not only do non democracies have the same weight as democracies but even democracies allow very little say for their elected representatives. Parliaments tend to have no say in the way their government negotiates so there is little oversight. From this point of view although it may be frustrating the US congress holding up any U.S. contribution is a beacon of democracy, the legislature doing what it is supposed to be doing in holding the executive to account. Public opinion has very little input into how, when and if a deal is made.
You can also add to the debate by leaving a comment at the end of the page.
The people have no impact on negotiations
This deal (if indeed it happens) is being made in the name of the whole world, not just the select few who are delegates. Despite this the rest of us have no impact at all on the negotiations. The people will not have thought of leaders climate policies when they were electing them in previous years, however it now gains a much larger significance. We have to sit on the sidelines and rely on leaders reading opinion polls to have our opinion make a difference. Instead there needs to be more possibilities for the world's population to have an impact on the talks.
The more different interests and voices the more complicated things become. Adding a general voice of the people from each country would complicate things immensely, there is no saying the people would adopt a consistant negotiating position. It is best that we rely on our leaders to take the national interest to heart while the experts know what is possible and what is not.
Lack of oversight.
Many parliaments have no influence over international negotiations and have no oversight but are instead left with the task of implementing any agreement that is decided upon. Our directly elected representatives should at least have some say over what they get signed up to implementing. They need to act as a balance against the executive should rash decisions be made.
In democracies national leaders very rarely act in a 'party political' way when on the world stage. Instead they stick to the 'national interest' as their guide, and in return they receive relatively little opposition from the opposing parties about foreign policy.
This affects us all.
The results of the copenhagen conference will affect us all. Not just for a short period of time but for decades. It is therefore a decision that needs to have as much input from those who it affects as possible no matter the differences in the scale of the effect. Even those who do not think they will be affected by climate change have a stake, after all agreeing to cut emissions will affect many millions of people by forcing a move from dirty industries, giving financial aid, moving away from oil, many people who are not interested in climate change may find that these talks have had an impact on their lives.
Although the result will affect millions the vast majority have no idea how it will affect them directly, they cant, the effect has not yet happened. This means that the judgement of our leaders and negotiators who are at least informed on the issue is as good as any.
Democracy of experts
In the negotiations we have a democracy of sorts. The national delegations are not just diplomats and politicians but scientists, interested environmentalists, parliamentarians etc. Compared to many negotiations they not only represent a good cross section but they are many of the experts on the issue from all over the world. If there is any group who does know the consequences of these talks upon them and their nation it is these people so we shoudl trust them to do their work and represent us.
Having a rule by the best does not mean that it is in any way a democratic process. The people can be advised by the experts and possibly even lead by the experts but the experts should not be the ones making the actual decision at the end of the day.
Public not interested in climate change
The public of the world as a whole is not too interested in climate change, they are much more interested in their daily life in the here and now than what will happen in a few year's time. Problems in the here and now are certain, the future is only possible, this is why it needs to be those who can work out what the problems are likely to be who make the decision not the public.
To take Norway as an example, the parties that had the most environmental programs before this autumn's election, lost a lot of votes, while the extreme right wing party, where a lot of the politicians partly deny global warming., grew to be one of our biggest parties. If our delegates were to listen to the public, we would not have committed ourselves to 40% reductions, or presented the new climate research with Al Gore yesterday. Fortunately, the Norwegen government cares more about global warming than most of its people.
Opinion polls and petitions show that there is a large amount of interest in stopping global warming. In those where there is not the public simply need educating on climate change in order to have an opinion.
Public opinion would only represent those who are currently at voting age, but many of those who are voting will not be the ones affected by the decision. The consequences of any decision may well still be being felt a century from now. The generations who may well be most affected by any decision made are those who are still children or who are not born yet. This means that public opinion or a more democratic process would not be helpful in getting the opinions of those who are really the interested parties.
Democracy takes time.
Having the process towards reaching an agreement more democratic would add to the length of time it takes to get a deal. Autocracy may be a bad thing but it is efficient at getting decisions. In order to get a democratic decision there needs to be consultation, this takes time for every country. Time is something that the process to prevent climate change does not have.
How can the world be represented democratically?
With 6.7billion people it is impossible to represent the world more democratically than it is already at these negotiations. The people of the world have to be represented by their democratically elected leaders (wherever they have them) as there is no other way to do it. Electing a seperate climate representative for each country would be more democratic but could also be counter productive, as if a 'climate representative' agreed to something and he was not part of the government the chances are the government would not feel bound by the agreement. This would make the negotiations a farce.
Because of the sheer numbers of people in the world it is not possible to give individuals more voice. Yes some could be given a voice, but how do you decide who gets a voice in these talks? At the moment it is being decided by governments and it is often those who are most expert who get a voice, not very democratic but almost certainly more effective.
What do you think?