Inside Negotiations to Decide the Fate of Our Planet
So far this year, there has also been a determined loss of civil society presence in these negotiating rooms. “We can’t participate; we don’t have tickets to participate, ”said Tasneem Essop, executive director of Climate Action Network (CAN) International, a major umbrella group of nonprofits working to get a progressive outcome to the talks. “We can’t go to the place.”
Unlike reporters, who are not allowed in negotiation rooms, CAN delegates often have access to talks by default. Here they can observe negotiations and are sometimes invited to speak. But this year, in the name of Covid-19 Safety, nonprofits arrived to find COP organizers introducing a ticketing system, with only two tickets issued throughout CAN International. This meant that only two people from CAN, an organization representing hundreds of small ones, entered and observed the six sessions running equally. In short, CAN International “cannot follow the negotiations,” Essop said.
Harjeet Singh, senior adviser to CAN International and a veteran of climate talks, said the presence of civil society in the negotiation rooms was necessary to increase pressure on countries to advance the talks. “If there are some parties that are misbehaving, or doing any kind of arm wrestling, then we can get that information and say that. That then reveals what’s going on inside; it puts pressure and the things fall in line. ”
At COP26, observers did not have access to any significant area of the COP for the first two days, as all negotiations began, said Sébastien Duyck, a senior lawyer at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL. ). This is usually the time when observers have the most access, he said, because civil society observers are often asked to leave the room later in the process when negotiations heat up.
“COP26 is starting to get really bad,” he said. “From my past experience with the last 12 COPs, it has never been before. For many developing countries, delegates coming from very difficult circumstances, because of Covid, the risks are bring back the virus, the need for quarantine and all that, it’s ridiculous that now they have to stay in their overpriced hotels. ”
Delegates were given some access to the negotiation rooms through a virtual platform, but technical issues prevented most from accessing even it. On Tuesday, the UN secretary of Climate Change sent an email to delegates apologizing for “difficulties related to accessing the COP26 site, both physically and virtually.” The emailed statement added that the first few days of COP26 were a “learning process, with participants and staff accustomed to the pandemic in relation to logistical measures and conditions.”
But many civil society attendees said the problems were not just from Covid-19’s key measures. “I’m just sad about it,” Essop said. “Bringing us all here, especially those from the Global South, and treating everyone with this kind of disrespect where you know you don’t have access, just means they think that people are unnecessary and irrelevant. “
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