UN climate chief plans to upend annual COP talks after criticism

UN climate chief plans to upend annual COP talks after criticism

The recently appointed UN climate chief plans to revamp the annual international summit to ensure it is transparent and delivers results after a controversial conclusion to this year’s COP27 in Egypt.

Speaking hours after the conclusion of the climate conference in Egypt, Simon Stiell, head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said he intended to review the COP process to make it as “effective as possible”.

This year’s event ended with some key attendees expressing their dissatisfaction with the management and negotiations in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, which attracted more than 45,000 attendees.

While many vulnerable and developing countries welcomed an agreement for a fund to help poor countries cope with the effects of climate change, others criticized the handling of the fortnightly talks and nightly squabbles that took place. ended without any progress on global warming targets.

Some diplomats questioned the integrity of Egypt’s COP27 presidency. “I’ve never experienced anything like it: non-transparent, unpredictable and chaotic,” said one delegate.

Country negotiating teams had little time in the early hours of Saturday morning to review draft texts on several key issues, people familiar with the matter said. It was “not standard procedure”, an EU official said.

The protracted talks dragged the summit into a second day of overtime, and the final plenary session took place after 3 a.m. on Sunday.

Stiell has been on the other side of the COP process as the former minister of climate resilience and environment for the Caribbean nation of Grenada, before his appointment in August to head the UNFCCC.

He said he was aware of concerns about COP27 and would review the summit and the wider COP process upon his return to the UNFCCC secretariat in Bonn, Germany.

“What we’ll do when we get home is review and look at areas for improvement,” he told the FT.

There were elements of the process that “can be done better”, Stiell said, and the UN body intended to provide recommendations to the incoming UAE presidency ahead of the 2023 conference.

“The process needs to be as streamlined as possible, it needs to be as efficient as possible,” he said.

German climate envoy Jennifer Morgan and her colleagues take a siesta during the conference which took place on Saturday night, with the final plenary session starting after 3 a.m. © REUTERS

The conclusion of COP27 on Sunday drew mixed reactions, with Tuvalu’s finance minister lamenting a “missed opportunity”. Other Western negotiators have blamed neighboring oil and gas-producing countries, such as Saudi Arabia, for watering down the final deal.

And the presence of more than 600 fossil fuel industry lobbyists prompted complaints from a range of scientists and climate advocacy groups.

The final hours of the summit were marked by a push by dozens of countries to include a pledge to phase out all fossil fuels, which ultimately failed.

Addressing the presence of industry, Stiell said “you can’t ignore them”.

“The question is how do you engage them and where do they sit in the process,” he said. “I believe it is absolutely essential that the process be completely transparent.”

On whether transparency was lacking at COP27, Stiell said, “I can’t answer that, but it’s something I’ll look into.”

One potential way to improve the process could be to consider involving future COP presidencies alongside the elected presidency for a given year, Stiell said. “Can we work together to create an expanded program? »

Despite the disappointment expressed by many at the end of COP27, the UNFCCC chief said it had not been a failure.

“There has been no backsliding in a very difficult environment, with the energy crisis, where you have seen the use of fossil fuels increase,” he said. The lack of hindsight was “remarkable”, but next year “there is an opportunity for a bigger performance”.

At the summit hosted by the United Arab Emirates next year, the focus on the energy sector “was an obvious starting point”, Stiell said. The science was clear on the need to “move away from fossil fuels”.

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