Many of this month’s meetings have been eye-opening but, in the closing plenary this morning, I struggled to keep my eye’s open. Final statements were pretty much identical to opening statements 3 weeks earlier. That begs the question “what was it all for?”

The sessions have highlighted, ever more clearly, the areas in which there are great differences between the parties. That should at least allow everyone to concentrate on the most urgent and difficult tasks in the run-up to COP-26. Without such activity COP-26 will fail in its most important aim–that of finalizing the “Paris rule-book”, i.e. a detailed plan of how exactly the Paris agreement will be implemented.

I’m not optimistic this will be achieved. Instead, the UK presidency will probably claim a triumph based upon more limited progress. Hopefully, there will be significantly enhanced promises from all the big polluters over how much they will cut emissions and by when. This in itself creates momentum towards a better future but it’s not enough. All nations need to be on track to net-zero in 2050 and that will not happen without significant transfers of money and know-how to developing nations. Those same countries also need significant assistance in coping with the consequences of climate change.

The gaps between ambition and delivery and between rich and poor are, in my opinion, tempting some big players to play “the great game”–diplomacy as war by other means! Nations inevitably approach negotiations as a contest to maximize gains and minimize losses. Even worse, some nations may see opportunity in the chaos of climate change. That really scares me.

International diplomacy has operated in pretty much this way for thousands of years and it is, perhaps, naïve to expect anything different in the fight to control our climate. But we do need to do things differently. The climate system is deaf to protestations that we’re trying really hard but it’s all a bit complicated.

Dave Waltham

As a postscript to all that Dave has been implying about the UNFFC talks – and the bull in a china shop was a brilliant analogy, or as they say, ‘you have to laugh or you would cry’. The  Financial Times  (paywall) reports that….During three weeks of tense negotiations at the UN Climate Change intersessional meetings, which concluded on Thursday, an undercurrent of discontent over climate finance stymied a number of discussions on topics such as carbon markets and transparency.

UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa said there had been a lack of progress, conceding that “I cannot say that there was really any breakthrough in the consultations that took place here”, the paper says. She said that the promised $100bn of climate finance to support developing countries is “absolutely crucial” for the success of the negotiations, adding that “everyone mentioned this as one very important point”.

Climate Action Network International spokesperson Harjeet Singh  sums up the anger and frustration of the UNFFC delegates…...”History will not be kind to rich nations if they do not step up and fulfil their climate action commitments. We are already at a point where the world faces multiple crises, and the reality is that the rich world are offering a bandage when surgery is needed.”

Catherine Dawson 19/6/21