Environmental Role-Play:

Prioritizing Climate Change Adaptation Measures Agricultural Planning in the Bien Gio River Delta


Elizabeth Fierman under the supervision of David Fairman, David Plumb, Lawrence Susskind, Philip Angell, and Kelly Levin

Eight-party negotiation (with option for a ninth person facilitator) regarding climate change issues in a situation loosely based on the situation in Viet Nam.


Please note: you must order a copy (a.k.a. license/usage fee) for every person participating in the simulation in your course. This simulation has multiple roles, so you will be unable to complete your purchase without meeting the minimum quantity requirement of copies per role.

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You may order this role simulation in either soft copy (electronic) or hard copy (paper) format. If you select the soft copy option, you will receive an e-mail with a URL (website address) from which you may download an electronic file in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. You will have one week to download your materials from when you receive the email. You are then only authorized to use, print, or share the materials as many times as the number of copies you purchase. The TNRC charges for use of this simulation on a per-participant basis. Therefore, you must purchase a separate copy of this simulation for each person who will be participating, regardless of the number of roles in the simulation. You will only receive a link to one electronic file, which includes all general instructions, confidential instructions, and any teaching notes for the simulation. You should separate out the instructions before distributing to participants.

If you select the hard copy option, you will receive paper copies of this role simulation via the shipping method you select.

For additional information about the soft copy option, please visit our FAQ section, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at tnrc@law.harvard.edu or 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.) or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.).

Please note: At the present time, Teaching Negotiation Resource Center soft copies are compatible with the following versions of the Adobe Acrobat Reader: English, German, French, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean. If you have a different version of the Acrobat Reader, you may wish to download one of these at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at tnrc@law.harvard.edu, 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.), or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.) for further assistance. This restriction does not apply to the freely available Teacher’s Package Review Copies.

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If you wish to review the materials for a particular role simulation to decide whether you’d like to use it, a PDF, or soft copy, version of the Teacher’s Package for the simulation is available as a free download from the description page of most role simulations and case studies. All Teacher’s Packages include copies of all participant materials. In addition, some Teacher’s Packages (but not all) include additional teaching materials such as teaching notes or overhead masters.

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To order multiple copies of a role simulation for use in a course or workshop, simply enter the total number of participants in the box next to “Quantity.” There is no need to calculate how many of each role is required.

If you are ordering hard copies, the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center will calculate the appropriate numbers of each role to provide, based on the total number of participants. For example, if you wish to order a 2-party role simulation for use with a class of 30 students, you would enter “30” in the box next to “Quantity.” You then would receive 15 copies of one role and 15 copies of the other role, for use with your 30 participants. As another example, if you ordered 30 participant copies of a 6-party role simulation, you would receive 5 copies of each role.

In the event that the number of participant copies you order is not evenly divisible by the number of roles in the simulation, you will receive extra copies of one or more roles. Participants receiving the extra roles may partner with other participants playing the same role, thus negotiating as a team. So, for instance, if you ordered 31 copies of a 2-party role simulation, you would receive 15 copies of the first role and 16 copies of the second role. One of the participants playing the second role would partner with another participant playing that same role, and the two would negotiate as a team.

Bulk Pricing Discount

For bulk orders, we offer the following pricing discounts. Please note that these only apply to bulk orders of the same simulation.

  • Between 100-250 copies – 10% discount
  • Between 251-500 copies – 25% discount
  • More than 500 copies – 50% discount
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The dynamic and uncertain nature of climate change will have serious implications on how we make decisions, particularly longer-term decisions around things like development and infrastructure planning. Recognizing this trend, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and its partners focused the 2010-11 version of their influential World Resources Report on “Decision Making in a Changing Climate.”

The recent emergence of climate change adaptation as a serious concern in planning and decision-making means that there is not yet a well-developed set of best practices or case studies. In response to this lack of practice to draw from in creating the Report, WRI contracted the Consensus Building Institute and MIT-Harvard Public Disputes Program to develop and implement a pair of simulation exercises, one of which is the Bien Gio Delta simulation.

These exercises present the kinds of challenges decision makers are expected to face in the near future as a result of climate change, based on trends already seen, predictions of what may come, and plans already under development.

The Bien Gio Delta exercise is loosely based on the situation in Viet Nam’s Mekong Delta, and it was first run there. The densely populated Mekong Delta is a key source of food production and economic activity in Viet Nam, and climate change – particularly predicted sea level rise – poses a very real threat to it. Adapting to sea level rise will require difficult trade-offs over different time horizons. A number of people were interviewed in the preparation of this exercise, and an extensive literature review was conducted. The details have, however, been modified, and this scenario is placed in the fictitious country of Rinsap.

Ultimately, though, the setting is not so important – while other countries will not face the exact same challenges as Viet Nam, many are facing similar questions around sea level rise. Moreover, planning for a changing climate is increasingly recognized as necessary around the world, and the questions raised in this simulation are applicable to a variety of climate change-driven situations. One of the particular decision-making challenges that climate change presents, and that this exercise can help decision makers confront, is that of making difficult trade-offs in the face of substantial uncertainty.

This exercise will help participants think about:

  • How to deal with data that could have serious implications but are highly uncertain and dynamic;
  • How and at what stage climate change should be factored into planning and decision-making;
  • How to manage tradeoffs implicit adapting to future changes;
  • How to consider risk in decision-making; and
  • How different stakeholders can work together to make these challenging decisions.

The country of Rinsap is home to the Bien Gio Delta, a densely populated and highly fertile area used heavily for agricultural production. The Delta is vital to the country’s food security and economy. Most of it lies at less than one meter above sea level, exposing it annually to rainy season flooding and dry season saltwater intrusion. It is widely considered vulnerable to climate change. In particular, sea level rise is predicted to submerge some parts of the Delta and to worsen flooding and saltwater intrusion in others. The government has recently released a National Climate Change Report containing specific predictions about sea level rise and its impacts on the Delta, based on medium emissions scenarios. These scenarios and forecasts are to form the basis of climate change adaptation policies and plans throughout the country.

A large multilateral organization has established the Global Fund for Climate Change Adaptation, which will invest in activities that make developing countries more resilient and prepared for climate change. In part because of the government’s Climate Change Report, the Global Fund has decided to allocate US$500 million for use in the Bien Gio Delta. In order to receive the funds, Rinsap’s government must set clear priorities for how the funds will be utilized, in consultation with various stakeholders.

The question stakeholders must consider is, what should be the priorities for allocating the donated funds? The Prime Minister has asked a group of eight representatives of various organizations to meet to discuss prioritization of the funds and find areas of agreement. To guide the discussion, a government ministry has outlined five categories of adaptation approaches that could be funded: a) man-made protective infrastructure; b) natural protective infrastructure; c) new agricultural technologies and techniques; d) development of non-agricultural sectors; and e) resettlement. The meeting participants are asked to focus their discussion on the implications and potential outcomes of each of the above options. In particular, they are asked to consider the long-term and short-term implications of each approach, as well as how well each approach addresses the main threats posed by sea level rise. The Prime Minister has hired a professional facilitator to guide the discussion.


  • Teachings notes
  • General Instructions for Participants
  • Confidential Instructions – Planning and Development Ministry
  • Confidential Instructions – Environment Ministry
  • Confidential Instructions – Agriculture, Aquaculture and Rural Affairs Ministry
  • Confidential Instructions – Bien Gio Delta Provinces Coalition
  • Confidential Instructions – University of Thoy Bat Hydrology and Meteorology Research Institute
  • Confidential Instructions – Rinsap National University Agriculture and Aquaculture Research Institute
  • Confidential Instructions – Bien Gio Farmers Union
  • Confidential Instructions – Global Fund for Climate Change Adaptation Secretariat
  • Facilitator Instructions

Prioritizing Climate Change Adaptation Measures Attributes

Time required: 6.5-8 hours
Number of participants: 8
Teams involved: No
Agent present: None
Neutral third party present: Yes
Scoreable: No
Teaching notes available: Yes