The learning curve for COP26-processes is as steep and technically tricky as the North Ridge of Everest. I’m currently getting my head around the draft provisional agenda item 4b of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation whilst looking forward with barely suppressed excitement for the 4th meeting of the Katowice Committee of Experts—I wonder what they’re experts in?

The May-June 2021 UNFCCC sessions of the subsidiary bodies has just got under way, on-line, and these are a key part of the preparation for COP26 in November. As with the main COP meeting itself, sessions are attended by invited observers and I put myself forward when CCE (Citizens’ Climate Education who have permanent UNFCCC observer status) asked for volunteers.

Observers ensure openness, fairness and transparency. I’m delighted and proud to be involved but, here I am, several hours into my first session and the main thing I’ve learned is that “no issue should be left behind”.  I think this means we’re going to grow a lawn one blade at a time and I’m not looking forward to keeping my eyes open through the 11pm-2am sessions next week and the 4am starts the week after (the timing changes from week to week to ensure no time-zones are penalised).

Despite the pledges to follow up all issues, it’s quite clear that many of the delegations believe that important matters are being left behind. In particular, global-south is upset that global-north has not got anywhere near their pledge of $100 billion per year of green finance by 2020. They’re also worried about the possibility of tariffs punishing the trade of nations with little responsibility for global warming.

The impression I have, so far, is of an agenda that’s more acceptable to developed nations than to developing ones. Another example is the gap on “transparency”, i.e. the mechanisms whereby nations will report on their progress in reducing emissions. I may be wrong—there’s so much “reading between the lines” needed at these meetings—but I think this is a negotiating tactic, i.e. “we’ll play ball on transparency once historical responsibility is properly acknowledged and compensated for”.

This all leaves me a little deflated and exhausted; the negotiators’ task is even steeper and more technically difficult than my learning curve but, hopefully, my reports will get more optimistic as we go through the next three weeks.

Dave Waltham