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Greetings to all from Paris, site of what is this week perhaps the most important negotiation in many years. The future of the planet depends on it, which is a statement I do not make lightly.

As always, three thoughts:

  1. Take comfort in the little things. As the deal is laboriously cobbled together, I am reminded of Ronald Reagan’s famous dictum to “not worry if you cannot get 100% of what you want. Take the 80% percent that is offered, and come back later for the rest.” It is a series of small incremental concessions by a large number of parties that will create the momentum that adds up to a significant overall deal. The idea of “ratchets” is critical here: a little now, and a commitment to submit to inspection for a little more in a few years.   If enough small players can make enough small commitments, even if they are deferred to later, we will make our goal

  1. Embrace common ground where you find it. The Americans and the Chinese, at odds on most other issues, have somehow found a joint partnership on the climate change challenge. That combination is enough to ignite serious change. I am reminded of the famous leadership video of the “dancing man”. It is the first follower, not necessarily the leader, that ignites systemic change. And by working together on this one issue, perhaps we can change the dynamics of the entire Sino-American relationship. As my friends Susan and John Marks from Search for Common Ground remind us, in every adversarial relationship is unexpected common ground. We need to find and celebrate that.

  1. “Away from the table” is what matters. As is always the case with mammoth multilateral negotiations, the official communiqués from the public sessions are of limited interest. Much more important are the smaller side deals being made all over town this weeks through back channel negotiations, all well aware from the glare of the press. These unsung negotiations are the heart of the matter, often conducted by secondary players no less passionate about the results than the leaders. Lets wish them well.

Lets wish all the negotiators luck this week. We are all waiting to see what happens.

Best from Paris

Mark Young

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