Inside the negotiations to decide the fate of our planet
So far this year, there has also been a marked absence of civil society presence in these negotiating rooms. “We cannot participate; we don’t have tickets to participate, ”said Tasneem Essop, executive director of Climate Action Network (CAN) International, a leading coordinating group of nonprofit organizations that strives for a progressive outcome in talks. “We cannot have access to the place.”
Unlike journalists, who are not allowed in the negotiating rooms, CAN delegates usually have access to talks by default. Here they can observe the negotiations and are sometimes invited to speak. But this year, in the name of the security of the Covid-19, associations have arrived to discover that the organizers of the COP had set up a ticketing system, with only two tickets given to the whole of CAN International. This meant that only two people from CAN, an organization that represents hundreds of smaller ones, were able to come in and observe six sessions running in parallel. In short, CAN International is “not in a position to follow the negotiations,” said Essop.
Harjeet Singh, senior advisor at CAN International and veteran of the climate talks, said the presence of civil society in the negotiating rooms is imperative to increase pressure on countries to move forward in the talks. “If there are parts that are not behaving properly or are twisting their arms, then we get that information and relay it. This then exposes what is going on inside; it puts pressure and things follow.
At COP26, observers had no access to any significant area of the COP for the first two days, as all negotiations begin, says Sébastien Duyck, senior lawyer at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). This is usually the time when observers have the most access, he says, as civil society observers are often asked to leave the room later in the process when negotiations intensify.
“COP26 is off to a terrible start,” he said. “From my past experience with the last 12 COPs, it’s unprecedented. For a lot of developing countries, delegates who have come from very difficult situations, because of the Covid, the risks of bringing the virus back, the need to quarantine and all that, it’s ridiculous that they now have to stay in their overpriced hotels. “
Delegates had some access to the trading rooms through a virtual platform, but technical issues prevented many from accessing them. On Tuesday, the UN climate change secretariat emailed delegates apologizing for “the inconvenience associated with accessing the COP26 venue, both physically and virtually.” The e-mailed statement added that the first days of COP26 had been a “learning process, with participants and staff getting used to the measures and logistical circumstances related to the pandemic.”
But many civil society participants say the problems aren’t just due to essential Covid-19 measures. “I’m just sad about it,” Essop says. “Bringing all of us here, especially those from the Global South, and treating everyone with that kind of disrespect where you find out you don’t actually have access, it just means they think people are unnecessary and irrelevant. “
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