In the corridors of COP26, diplomats have criticized the UK’s leadership of the UN conference on climate change, for favoring the negotiation of issues that are not covered by the Paris Agreement’s regulation. This attitude, they assess, prioritizes the search for a political result that will mark the event.
The objective of the British presidency, according to critics, would be to create positive headlines for the COP26 in the global media, signaling success and digging a British prominence for the climate agenda – which has the Paris Agreement as its greatest international achievement.
The climate urgency has set the tone for political speeches arguing that COP26 could be more important than the Paris Agreement. Signed in 2015, it has already been ratified into law by 193 countries.
Folha found that the tension left by the brexit has impacted the relationship between the British presidency and the Europeans. The European Union (EU) has already played a leading role in the debate on climate finance in previous editions of the conference – especially given the American absence during the years of the Trump government. At COP26, however, the bloc remains silent on the possible increase in resources for climate action.
The negotiators’ perception is that the British –who belonged to the European Union when the Paris Agreement was signed– are now seeking to make their own mark on the climate negotiation. The EU would not be willing to collaborate with the feat, which has been seen by diplomats from different blocs as an attempt to rewrite Paris.
“We need to prove to developing countries that our funding efforts are credible. Not just the exact amount of money, but the structure we’ve provided for it,” said European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans.
In the late afternoon of Wednesday (10), a joint statement by the United States and China was published reaffirming commitments for the climate. It was interpreted in the corridors of the conference as a political signal that the two nations are willing to reach an agreement at COP26 and do not want to be blamed for an eventual failure.
Political tension between the two countries raised fears that they might fail to cooperate in Glasgow. The statement, therefore, seeks to indicate, according to analysts at COP26, that the deadlock in the negotiations does not come from the two leaders in the ranking of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Asked by Folha about the impact of the joint statement on the negotiations, the special US climate envoy, John Kerry, said he hopes to help [a conclusão da COP]. “[Comunicamos] our joint work to overcome this challenge and fulfill the Paris Agreement,” he said.
“It’s a very powerful political signal. It’s having an impact on this conference, it helps us come to an agreement,” said Timmermans.
Although it did not bring significant advances in pending items of regulation of the Paris Agreement, the last draft of the COP26 decision, published on Wednesday, proposed 71 articles. The text covers the sections: science, adaptation, mitigation, financing, damages, implementation and collaboration.
The breadth of themes was exemplified by critics by comparing the length of the Paris Agreement text: it has only 29 articles.
“Glasgow’s text must allow action and not postpone. The language must be more operational and executive and not intentional. Glasgow must implement Paris and not want to replace Paris”, assesses Izabella Teixeira, former minister of the environment.
According to experts in international law who observe the negotiations, the validity of more recent decisions overrides the Paris Agreement, as long as they do not contradict it.
Criticism of the British presidency has been accumulating since the end of last week, when the first draft of the decision was published, in the form of a list of items demanded by the most vulnerable nations, developing countries and also by street protests – throughout the COP there were two marches in Glasgow, as well as demonstrations in different parts of the world.
The news in the text was received with enthusiasm by observers of the negotiations. They praise the British presidency’s willingness to incorporate issues raised by scientists and activists, such as the need to limit warming to 1.5°C (and not 2°C, as Paris allows), recognizing the urgency, taking action on climate adaptation and for damages.
“They were ticking off boxes of various things that people wanted to see: climate justice, youth, indigenous peoples, oceans. [O texto] it reflects a lot that was out of the negotiation rooms”, emphasizes Natalie Unterstell, president of the Talanoa Institute.
“It never had funding for adaptation and damages [em decisões anteriores], now it’s incorporated,” he says. “But the content isn’t enough, it only mentions the word ‘decide’ twice, so they’ll have to work to put something more concrete.”
For Ana Toni, director of Instituto Clima e Sociedade, the text is “very vague”. “There is nothing strong about financing, which is the great impasse. It gives the feeling that the multilateral issue is weakening. A multilateral negotiation is based on trust between the parties,” he says.
“If they arrive here wanting more without having delivered what was agreed in the past – such as the US$ 100 billion promised by rich countries in 2009 and which has not yet been fully collected – there is no confidence”, he adds.
A negotiator for the emerging economies bloc called the presidency’s work a “Santa Claus gift list”, which, however, should be forgotten by countries before Christmas.
But the concern in the corridors of the conference is that the optimistic tone will not prosper, as there is not enough consensus among the countries to follow the proposals of the text written by the British.
The fear of countries is that a weak outcome at the conference will undermine confidence in the multilateral regime, after expectations are generated in the international media about the importance of the conference – which takes place less than three months after the IPCC (UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) have revealed that greenhouse gas emissions need to drop immediately.
In the corridors of the conference, British negotiators heard by the report defended the proposal for a “COP26 decision”, recalling that previous COPs also had their respective decisions and that the instrument is necessary to ensure the acceleration of the ambition of climate goals for mitigation, adaptation and financing.
Also sought after, the press office of the United Kingdom claims not to comment on ongoing negotiations.
The journalist traveled at the invitation of Instituto Clima e Sociedade.