Last night’s meeting was probably the most frustrating, for me, so far. I watched a 90 minute discussion that was entirely taken up with debating whether or not another meeting was needed.

The session in question was supposed to be about “impacts of mitigation”. I mentioned this set of talks in an earlier blog where I discussed my joy at hearing border carbon adjustments (BCAs) openly discussed. I’d hoped there was going to be more but, instead, I had an hour and a half of what seemed to be pointless, procedural wrangling over whether or not an expert panel needed to meet again ahead of COP26. The row wasn’t about whether there were things the experts needed to discuss but simply about whether the meeting was legally required.

If it was a purely legal issue then the diplomats could simply ask the UN secretariat for guidance and move on but, instead, both sides dug in as if this matter was the key to the future of the planet. I was so puzzled by this that I discussed it with other observers to see if we could understand what was underneath the surface. One speculation was that it was a tactic to slow negotiations down and was driven by fossil-fuel exporting nations. But, if that was the case, why was this position being supported strongly by the small-island nations? They have more to lose than anyone and the greatest possible incentive to get negotiations moving.

My own speculation was that there’s some kind of agreement between parties that are dependent on fossil-fuel exports and parties that urgently need funding to help fight the impacts of climate change. Perhaps they’ve agreed to support each other in the negotiations. If so, it’s a dangerous game and is easily countered. We (i.e. the rich nations) just need to do what’s right and what we’ve already agreed to do, i.e. to find $100 billion per year to help those nations under greatest threat.

Dave Waltham