Who’s Who - A Guide to the Negotiating Groups at COP21


Day one of COP21 in Paris was a little like speed dating. Global leaders, 145 in total, were given 2 minutes apiece to set out their vision for the gathering.  There is only so much of the ‘vision thing’ that you can sit through.  Some interesting announcements - China and the green tech fund, UK and forestry investment and the USA and more cash for least developed countries - but mostly straight to video fare.

Day two was technical discussion on agriculture, and day 3 was a discussion on water sustainability.

As we approach the weekend we are also approaching the nitty gritty part of the negotiations. Securing the agreement of 195 countries will be no easy task, particularly since over the past twenty years a myriad of allegiances and alliances have formed, splintered and reformed, all with the explicit purpose of leveraging individual country’s individual needs and wants. 

Whilst the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) arranges the negotiating Parties by bloc - Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America & the Caribbean, and Western Europe & Other States - these groupings rarely represent the shared negotiating positions. Common interests tend to cut across geography.  Below is an overview of the main negotiating blocs, who they are and what they stand for. 


Developing countries usually co-ordinate their negotiating position through the G77 (Group of 77), a UN gathering of states, united by common economic interests. Founded in 1964, the group, despite its name, has over 130 members.  South Africa presently holds the chair of the G77. The membership of China within the G77 has had a distorting influence, and members of the group often speak unilaterally.

Negotiating lines.  The G77 is divided on the need for a binding deal. China won’t be bound but many members believe global warming is the fault of the developed world, and that only a binding deal can leverage meaningful financial support. The G77 rhetoric on financing is strong, with much talk of ‘obligations’. The G77 is  looking for support for both adaptation and mitigation measures in order to satisfy the disparate membership. The G77 supports ambitious INDCs but mostly the developed countries in general and the US in particular.

African Group

A coalition of 54 African countries which works on the link between climate change and development, particularly issues of adaptation, technology transfer and funding. Lately, the group has taken a particular interest in the African Sahel, which is experiencing severe drought.  

Negotiating lines. The Group is united around the need for a globally binding deal.  On finance, the members finance want more cash from the developed countries,.  However there is also a recognition that within Africa some countries are more needful than others. The Group believe the finance should be targeted specifically at adaptation measures. The African Group is calling for strong INDCs.


The group – formally the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our America – has nine member countries, though the most vocal in climate matters are Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba and Ecuador. The group is strident in its demand that rich countries deliver more ambitious Greenhouse Gas Emission reduction targets. The group was active in Copenhagen, highlighting the weakness of the final agreement and the lack of ambition from the US and China.

Negotiating lines. President Morales of Bolivia wants developed countries to honour their legally binding commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. On finance, there is no single coherent position, although as expected there is a call for more money to flow from developed countries toward the ALBA states. The group has no common position on the question of adaptation v. mitigation, nor on INDCs.

Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS)

A coalition of 43 small, low-lying island countries especially vulnerable to sea-level rise (most are also members of the G77). AOSIS countries regularly adopt common positions during negotiations.

Negotiating lines. The AOSIS countries are at the forefront of calling for a binding deal, and believe that Paris may be their last chance (giving the rising seas). AOSIS has called for a scaling up of climate finance.  Giving the seriousness of the situation, AOSIS are calling for urgent adaptation financing. Ambitious INDCs are at the core of the AOSIS position.

Arab League

A group of 22 countries which stretch across North Africa into the Middle East, including both oil rich and oil poor nations. The group works closely with the G77, particularly on issues such as migration and regional phenomenon such as dust storms.

Negotiating lines. As a diverse grouping, the Arab league don’t have a coherent position on whether a deal should be binding or not.  The League supports the flow of money from the developed to the developing world but are keen to avoid strings to be attached to the finance, allowing it to be used for climate related but not climate specific issues, including migration. The league is focused upon adaptation measures but has no single view on the ambition level for INDCs.


A powerful coalition of four newly industrialised nations: China, India, Brazil, and South Africa.  Together they represent over a quarter of global emissions. The BASIC Group is united around the need for a ‘streamlined and concise’ agreement, which has been interpreted as allowing for the maximum flexibility in the interpretation of each aspect of the agreement, (possible only if the agreement is non binding).

Negotiating lines. Excepting China’s reticence, the BASIC group suggest they could accept a binding deal if developed nations, notably the US, commits to more ambition. The BASIC Group is critical of the limited money they (and other developing nations) receive from developed countries. The BASIC group is focused upon mitigation measures (funded by the West), and want ambitious INDCs, especially for developed countries.

Cartagena Dialogue

The Cartagena Dialogue is a coalition of 27 countries including Norway, Switzerland and Mexico.  This informal coalition was founded in 2010 following the failure of the Copenhagen summit, with the explicit purpose of bridging the gap between rich and poor believed to be the cause of Copenhagen’s failure.  A common ally of the EU.

Negotiating lines. Cartagena Dialogue support a globally binding agreement. The CD would seek to bridge the gap between rich and poor by increasing the flow of finance from developed to developing countries. While the CD see themselves more as facilitators, the focus is primarily on mitigation measures. The CD support ambitious INDCs

Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs)

The 32 LLDCs (16 in Africa, 10 in Asia, 4 in Europe (not the EU), and 2 in South America) have no direct access to the sea and commonly focus upon trade issues, drought relief and development. The group works closely with the UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS).

Negotiating lines. Like AOSIS, LLDCs are amongst the most affected by climate change, and so are calling for a binding deal. As might be expected, LLDCs are calling for more money to flow from developed to developing countries. Adaptation is the main priority, whilst the LLDCs are calling for more ambitious INDCs.

Least Developed Countries (LDCs)

Defined by the UN as any nation with a Gross National Income of less than $2.80 per person per day, the 50 LDC countries regularly work together on climate matters, focusing upon issues of vulnerability and adaptation.

Negotiating lines. LDCs are at the forefront of calls for a binding treaty. As expected the LDCs would like see more funding for developing countries. Adaptation remains their primary focus, and they are calling for more ambitious INDCs.

Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDCs)

A group of developing countries including Bolivia, Egypt, China, Iran and Nicaragua who often negotiate as a bloc on climate and trade issues.  Collectively they include more than 50% of the world’s population.

Negotiating lines. Focus is the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’– i.e., the greater a country’s the capacity to act, the greater the share of the burden that should be shouldered. Regularly call for more money to flow from developed to developing nations. LMDCs believe Paris ‘shouldn't be mitigation-centric.’ LMDCs are in favour of more ambitious INDCs, however vehemently oppose any ratcheting of ambition for developing nations.

The Environmental Integrity Group (EIG)

A small but influential group comprising Mexico, Switzerland, South Korea, Lichtenstein and Monaco. The group was born of concern with the pace of negotiations during negotiations over the Kyoto Protocol, and frustration at being frozen out of the talks at key stages.  The group seeks to build bridges between other negotiators, and is a close ally of the EU.

Negotiating lines. The EIG is in favour of a binding deal but calls for the deal to be fair to for developed and developing countries. On finance, the EIG is split with Switzerland cautious about calls for more cash for developing countries. Due to the mix of members, the EIG is split on the question of adaptation vs mitigation and on the ambition levels of INDCs.

European Union (EU)

The 28 Member States of the EU participate on the basis of a common negotiating position, agreed in October 2014.  The lead negotiator for the EU is Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete.

Negotiating lines. The EU favour a globally binding deal. Although the EU supports the provision of more finance to developing nations, it recognises that this matter is the preserve of its member states. The EU is strongly focused upon mitigation, seeing this approach as the key to addressing the serious emissions issue. The EU is in favour of strong INDCs.

The Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC)

A group of 7 countries (Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay, Peru) with a common position on climate change. Formed after the 2012 Doha talks. AILAC focuses on bridging the gap between rich countries and poorer ones.

Negotiating lines.  AILAC supports a legally binding agreement. AILAC supports  greater financing for developing countries, is agnostic on the question of mitigation v. adaptation. AILAC describe their position as the ‘revolt of the middle’ since none of the countries are seriously rich or seriously poor.

The Rainforest Coalition

The Rainforest Coalition comprises developing nations with tropical rainforests who seek to reconcile forest stewardship with economic development. The Coalition has been instrumental in the establishment of the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and the United Nations’ UN-REDD programme.

Negotiating lines. The rainforest coalition wants a stable an ‘international regulatory framework’, which has been interpreted as a binding agreement. Unsurprisingly the coalition would would prefer money to more focused upon forest stewardship. The coalition supports moneys for adaptation and support ambitious INDCs.

The Umbrella Group

An informal association of non-EU developed countries which evolved from the JUSSCANNZ group (an acronym for Japan, the USA, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Norway and New Zealand) which was active during the Kyoto negotiations.  With no official list the Group regularly comprises Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the United States.

Negotiating lines. Has expressed no clear view on the binding nature of the talks particularly since the US is unwilling to accept a binding agreement. The group believe that both developed and developing countries should spend money on tackling climate change, and that mitigation and adaptation should not just be funded by rich countries. The distorting influence of the USA and Canada tilt the group towards a mitigation focus, but the group does support ambitious INDCs.

Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

SIDS are low-lying island countries with growing populations and limited resources. Susceptible to rising sea levels, freak weather patterns and natural disasters, the group is highly vocal about linking these phenomenon to climate change and strongly overlaps with AOSIS.

Negotiating lines. The group is strongly in favour of a binding deal. SIDS regularly calls for more money to be directed toward developing nations. Mainly focused on adaptation and strongly in favour of ambitious INDCs.