International climate change negotiations have a long history of being contentious, and much has been written about the grand trade-offs that have allowed countries to reach agreement. Issues have often involved, for example, the level of ambition, differentiated treatment of Parties, and various forms of financial assistance to developing countries.

Lesser known are the smaller, largely language-based tools negotiators have used to resolve differences, sometimes finding a solution as subtle as a shift in the placement of a comma. These tools have operated in different ways. Some, such as deliberate imprecision or postponement, have “resolved” an issue by sidestepping it and allowing Parties to preserve their positions. Other tools have enabled resolution by “splitting the difference” between opposing views. Still others have involved optical fixes, flexibility, or non-prejudice that helped one or more Parties go along with a particular outcome.

This compendium of textual examples, presented in rough chronological order, is drawn from my personal involvement in international climate negotiations and is by no means exhaustive. The examples may be of interest to those who follow climate change in particular, as well as of potential use to those who work in other international fields.