Helping the EU tell its climate story

January 23, 2018

Radoslav Dimitrov presenting a political communication strategy for the EU in climate negotiations

Story by Rob Rombouts / photo submitted

Radoslav Dimitrov is playing an important role in reworking how the European Union is communicating its climate policies.

Dimitrov, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science, researches UN diplomacy and international agreements, with a particular focus on global environmental politics and climate diplomacy.

Dimitrov also has had direct experience in climate negotiations. Since 2009, he has been part of European Union team at climate negotiations, through the Bulgarian government.

With this experience in mind, Dimitrov was recently invited to become a member of the EU Presidency team and was asked to re-design the political communication strategy for the EU in climate negotiations.

In January 2018, Dimitrov presented to a team of European diplomats, including the heads of delegations of 28 countries, and the chief climate negotiators of the European Union. The communication strategy focused both on persuasive argumentation to external negotiating partners, and speaking to mass media and civil society.

“The EU has somewhat of a problem,” said Dimitrov, “because it is clearly the leader in climate policy. Domestically, it has achieved emission reductions of 23% compared to 1999 levels, while also seeing economic growth of 53%.”

Despite this growth, Dimitrov said the European Union “also faces criticism because people do not seem to recognize the achievements, and other countries criticize the EU for not doing more.”

Dimitrov proposed a 10-point strategy that optimizes argumentation vis-à-vis other countries at negotiations and alleviates public relations problems with media and civil society. His plan focuses on how to reframe the discourse, and change the content of messages.

“The overall thrust is to create a more assertive tone and more effective persuasion in the negotiations,” said Dimitrov.

Following the presentation, the decision was made to establish a new EU group on political communication to follow up on Dimitrov’s suggestions. Dimitrov has been asked to be on the committee.

“This is a new dedicated body to elaborate a negotiating strategy,” said Dimitrov. “It is exciting to be helping to re-design the communication strategy of one of the biggest diplomatic coalitions, in one of the biggest political games in global negotiations.”

The EU negotiating committee also asked Dimitrov to coordinate the EU team in the next round of climate negotiations, occurring in May 2018.