22 November 2021
Karl Flowers, Technical Director of Authenticae, attended the COP26 conference in Glasgow and submitted this report which explains much to the uninitiated – republished from Authenticae.
The Glasgow Climate Pact (GCP) has been ratified and agreed. It is a non-legally binding arrangement that is public, visible, and transparent. Parties who are part of the GCP will find it politically difficult to get out of it – voters are ready to act on governments that do not honour their commitments and pledges.
How does the Conference of Parties work?
A Conference of Parties (COP) is the highest level that can represent civil society in a negotiation about a treaty. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are committed to steering the global communities to prevent catastrophic climate change.
The delegations from each country constitute the COP and their size varies by how much resource their country can allocate. Each country has a place for one delegate at the negotiations and the rest of the delegation supports behind the scenes. The main negotiations on what the global community want from a meeting of the COP are usually translated into an agreement. The Paris Agreement and the Kyoto Protocol have been two of the most prominent agreements that have committed nations to positive action on climate altering emissions.
In conjunction to the main negotiations, there are bilateral talks between COP delegates and what is known as “civil society”. Civil society are community representative organisations mostly non-governmental organisations (NGO), or in some cases International NGOs (INGOs) who are usually aggregated into constituencies. These can be further categorised as Business INGOs (BINGOs), Environmental INGOs (ENGOs), and Trade Union NGOs (TUNGOs).
Within the leather industry, our BINGOs (Leather Naturally, One 4 Leather, RLSD, or ICT) are not currently part of a constituency. Leather ENGOs, ENGOs (SLF, CICB, or LWG) are also not currently involved. The leather TUNGOs, COTANCE or LHCA, or Leather UK (who are probably more hybrid TUNGO/BINGO organisations than pure TUNGOs) do not form part of a constituency. In general business is not normally welcome in climate conferences as many people see them as the root of the climate problem. However, “civil society” are welcome to attend most meetings as observers to ensure all negotiations are transparent.
However, the NGO constituencies do form a representative part of society, where they represent the interests of communities and are generally consulted for comment. The Leather Manifesto presented this year is an example of how the comments are produced – albeit they may need to find a more appropriate target in the COP, like the EU’s delegation lead Frans Timmermans (or his designate).
These bilateral talks help to influence the COP discussions and ultimately the climate negotiations. Further bilateral influence comes from co-ordination activities by the NGO constituencies who meet, collectively every morning (and evening) to discuss the day’s negotiations and what the members need to attend in that day. The host country also provides a full bilateral programme of talks that takes place in separate rooms or on the pavilion stands that certain constituencies (or COP delegations) erect and man. The leather industry could certainly target sustainability events at COP27 to show what a positive industry is doing to improve.
The final area of influence is the mainstream/social media and of course the protestors outside the secure area. The venue is divided into a Blue Zone and Green Zone areas. Press, registered NGO representatives, COP delegations, and an extensive catering and support cohort are all given Blue Passes (after screening) to enter the Blue Zone. The general public can apply for Green Passes to attend a fascinating side awareness event which takes place in the environmentally focused Green Zone. Further climate and environmental awareness events take place in the Green Zone. Climate and social activists generally protest outside the Blue Zone showing the passionate side of committing to climate change. The focus of the protests is general climate, social, and environmental issues that demand change (often immediate change).
As a COP observer moves from the outside (with its protestors) to the inner negotiation chambers the tone changes from general comments to highly specific (and often technical) points that focus on highly specific COP considerations, with the negotiations being focused on solutions.
The COP negotiated solutions come in the form of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) that are aggregated in the discussions to understand whether the global commitments are enough to address the overall problems. NDCs are decided by delegations in between the annual COP events, where environment and business ministries take stock of national greenhouse gas inventories, climate affecting activities, and of course the effects of climate change seen in the country. The NDCs take that information into account, and they commit the country to an NDC position. Aggregated COP NDCs are then analysed to see if enough is being done to address climate change at a global level.
These COP analyses are usually complemented with further pledges and actions by COP delegates who want to take NDCs further or want to influence the next national negotiated contributions. Of course, lobby groups and industry representatives are present and try to influence NDCs and pledges – but it is unfair to claim that petrochemical or farming industries were walking around COP26 ordering delegations to make changes. In the actual negotiations, where the final decisions are being made, observers are sometimes asked to leave the room so that delegates can discuss sensitive issues. Partisan activities and corruption (for and against environmental action) operate in equal measure, and it is the transparency, elimination of conflicts of interest, and a belief in the democracy of the negotiations that take the climate action forward. A small island state will argue as passionately and effectively as a large, developing state that is trying to balance energy poverty with coal reductions.
Major actions this year were to get the Parties to agree commitment and actions (including funding) on how the Parties can meet the Paris objectives and to sign off the Paris Agreement Rulebook: keeping warming under 1.5 is the key commitment.
The governments, particularly the host country, rapidly consult with allies, decide finance and actions, and announce (sometimes as multilateral petitions) pledges to these actions. This year’s major pledges have included:
• · coal reductions,
• · methane mitigation,
• · major finance to support vulnerable communities,
• · zero deforestation
• electric vehicles,
• the just transition
• · and 2030 and 2050 carbon targets.
The major sticking point in Week 2 of the negotiations has been something called Article 6, cover announcements, and finance arrangements. Conclusion of Article 6 allows the Rulebook for the provisions laid out in the Paris Agreement to be concluded. As you can imagine changing the world to meet these commitments are going to cost trillions of dollars – so these issues become less environmental and more development issues. A poor person cannot think about their air travel plans if they are focused on the grumbling in their bellies when hungry.
Was this year able to satisfy the list of problems the activists outside the gates had? No.
Was the negotiations able to satisfy the list of demands the constituencies inside the gates had? There are winners and losers.
Were the Parties able to solve the long list of things needed to meet all the requirements of guaranteeing a world that can stay below 1.5 degree warming? They did the best considering Parties current positions.