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"InnoFriday" #10 Review: “If I were Obama -- Climate Change Negotiations Game”

To respond to the challenges of climate change, 195 nations have signed the historic Paris Agreement during the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) held in December last year and pledged to keep world temperature rise well below 2 ℃. Yet, beneath this  remarkable achievement, can countries at different stages of development really work together to save Planet Earth? What are the difficulties and challenges facing the developing and developed countries? A very special game was organized by JC COIL on 18 March to simulate the UN    Climate Change Conference. Through role-playing and interactive computer modelling, participants got a chance to experience the power politics during international negotiations with other country delegates and reflect on the far-reaching impacts of climate change.

Named “If I were Obama”, this climate change negotiations game was convened by CarbonCare InnoLab Advisor Ir Albert Lai, who was invited to play Mr Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General,  and judge the progress of such ‘international negotiations’.  Participants were initially divided into three groups, each representing the developed countries, developing countries and the least developed countries.  Within limited time and guided by facilitators, each group discussed its own greenhouse gases emission reduction targets and decided on the amount of capital to be contributed to help other countries reduce their emissions.  All groups then came together to  exchange their decisions made.  The tough bargaining process among the three groups that followed simulated what really happened in Paris. The groups’ commitments and decisions after such negotiations were then keyed in the computer for the calculation of their likely impacts on future climatic conditions, including the changes in average global temperature and sea level rises.

In the sharing session after the game, some participants agreed that the game had made them realize young people should play an active role in climate change mitigation, while others said they could now see the challenges, both internal and external, faced by different countries in meeting  emissions reduction targets. Ir Lee Chi Ming, Board Chairman of CarbonCare InnoLab, also pointed out that when addressing environmental issues like climate change, the input of  resources alone did not guarantee success. Government policies and moral judgements also played an essential part. And this is something everyone should reflect on. Finally, Ir Albert Lai pointed out that climate advocacy, like other social changes, would require many years of exploration and learning from experience. Yet when the time is ripe, it will bring tremendous changes to our society. The Paris Agreement is a historic turning point for global climate actions. From renewable energy development to divestment from fossil fuel industries, we have witnessed more and more widespread actions by world governments and non-state organizations towards building a zero-carbon economy. It is only by implementing concrete carbon reduction measures that Hong Kong can catch up with this global trend.

The ‘If I were Obama: Climate Change Negotiations Game’ will be featured again on ‘Zero Carbon Inno-Day: Sustainable Living 2016’, a full-day event on April 9 jointly organized by the Jockey Club CarbonCare Open Innovation Lab and ‘Project Flame’ of the City University of Hong Kong. Those who wish to experience the excitement of world summit negotiations or become a facilitator for this game, please register here. Let’s find the way to address climate change through playing games together.