7 December 2020
Climate Dialogues Keep Parties Focused on Climate Challenges
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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In light of the postponement of the Glasgow Climate Change Conference, a number of mandated events for 2020 convened virtually, alongside discussion of emerging issues, such as a sustainable recovery from the pandemic.

SBSTA Chair Mpanu-Mpanu and SBI Chair Karlsen highlighted that specific objectives for the Climate Dialogues included interacting with constituted bodies to reflect on progress made in 2020 and planned activities in 2021, deepen understanding of unresolved issues, and exchange views on possible solutions.

To keep climate action alive despite the Glasgow Climate Change Conference being postponed from November 2020 to November 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement took part in a series of virtual events. The ‘Climate Dialogues’ programme included a number of mandated events for 2020 and fostered discussion of emerging issues, such as a sustainable recovery from the pandemic.

The Climate Dialogues comprised nearly 60 openly webcasted events over ten days between 23 November and 4 December 2020, and were conducted under the guidance of the Chairs of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), as well as the Chilean Presidency of COP 25 and the incoming UK Presidency of COP 26. Several non-broadcasted events for Parties also convened to discuss outstanding negotiation issues, such as on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement (market and non-market mechanisms) and common time frames for nationally determined contributions (NDCs). 

During an Opening Segment, Marianne Karlsen, SBI Chair, stressed that the Climate Dialogues would ensure that key tasks scheduled for 2020 were conducted. Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, SBSTA Chair, highlighted that the Dialogues would permit interaction with the various constitutive bodies and deepen understanding of outstanding issues.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed highlighted recent “encouraging signs,” including a growing number of commitments to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. She said that for these targets to be credible, they must be reflected in national plans and policies as well as NDCs. She urged more progress on finance, including on the goal for developed countries to jointly mobilize USD 100 billion per year by 2020.

COP 25 President Carolina Schmidt noted the importance of non-state actors as key players, and welcomed recent announcements on carbon neutrality from major economies such as China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea. COP 26 President Alok Sharma said the Climate Ambition Summit on 12 December will provide a platform for leaders to make announcements on mitigation, adaptation, and support. He called for long-term strategies towards net-zero emissions. 

During a segment titled the ‘Presidency’s Open Dialogue between Observers and Parties,’ Sharma stressed that achieving net zero and building resilience are only possible through joint efforts between parties and non-party stakeholders. He said the latter are vital for encouraging parties to raise ambition.

In the ensuing discussion between observer constituencies and parties, the Earth Negotiations Bulletin summary of the Dialogues indicates that key insights  included:

  • Governments must work with all stakeholders in formulating their enhanced NDCs; 
  • COVID-19 recovery should be undertaken in a way that also advances the green transition and the necessary structural transformation of economies;
  • According to the Production Gap Report 2020, fossil fuel production must decline by 6% per year until 2030 for Paris Agreement goals to be met, and yet G20 governments have committed over USD 230 billion to fossil fuels since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic; 
  • It is beneficial for a COP host country to “have its own house in order” to better encourage others to raise ambition; 
  • COVID-19 and climate change are gendered crises, and both the recovery and climate action must be ambitious, inclusive, and gender-responsive; 
  • Multilevel action is key to raising national ambition, and efforts by subnational and regional governments should be formally recognized; 
  • Enhanced NDCs must focus on decent and good job creation, protect human and labor rights, and include workers and organizations in their creation; and 
  • Young people have continued to organize despite the pandemic, and parties should give space and resources for youth to self-organize.

During the concluding segment, Julio Cordano, COP 25 Presidency, stressed that the COP 25 and 26 Presidencies and the Secretariat are “extremely well-coordinated” in their planning. Archie Young, COP 26 Presidency, highlighted the UK’s new NDC, which commits to a 68% reduction in GHG emissions from 1990 levels by 2030, and announced that the UK will host a series of bilateral and multilateral conversations with negotiating groups and parties in 2021.

Guyana, for the Group of 77 and China (G-77/China), said: the virtual format is not appropriate for negotiations; there is a “deficit of ambition” on pre-2020 commitments, which developed countries should address; and adaptation is lagging behind mitigation in the negotiations. Germany, for the EU, called for an inclusive, productive, and ambitious set of discussions between now and COP 26 on transparency and Article 6.

Speakers also emphasized the importance of continuing discussions, ensuring that the recovery from COVID-19 is consistent with the aims of the Paris Agreement and the SDGs, and the need to meet finance and mitigation commitments and operationalize the long-term goal on adaptation, among other priorities.

In her closing remarks, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa urged parties to “work like [they] never have before” to complete the necessary work at COP 26. 

Speakers looked forward to continuing the dialogue at two virtual events the week after the Climate Dialogues concluded. The Thimphu Ambition Summit, taking place on 9 December 2020, will showcase leadership by least developed countries (LDCs) on climate action. The Climate Ambition Summit 2020, taking place on 12 December 2020, will mark the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement. It aims to provide a platform for government and non-governmental leaders to demonstrate their commitment to the Paris Agreement and the multilateral process. [ENB summary of UN Climate Change Dialogues]

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