By Sarah Lucy Dobson
So the UN climate negotiations are back, not with a bang but with a “Can I ask if you can hear me?”.
For the first time in the history of these talks, they are happening entirely online. Delegates from over 190 countries alongside representatives from civil society across the world are gathering over the course of the next three weeks to negotiate international climate policy.
Yet, it has been made abundantly clear to everyone that no decisions will be made during these talks, so why should we even care? Well, these negotiations will set the stage for COP26, laying the groundwork for decisions to be made there when hopefully the parties and observers can meet in person.
But, let’s be clear, most of the issues that will be discussed over the next three weeks should have been sorted years ago.
Since the glimmer of hope that was the Paris Agreement, we have seen a series of disappointing COPs and Intersessional Conferences* that have managed to simultaneously overrun and also decide almost nothing.
That means negotiators and observers this year are in for a wild few weeks with everything from the huge spectre of climate finance, to agriculture, to environmental education, on the table.
As young people, we have to work harder than ever to ensure that the decisions made reflect the scale of the problem and the Most Affected People and Areas (MAPA). This is why we gave over half of our ‘tickets’ to the Conference to young people from the Global South. As people from the host country, it is our responsibility to do everything in our power to make sure that these voices are heard. These negotiations are still incredibly inaccessible, with acronyms and highly technical language used to exclude those not accustomed to the UN space. Civil society organisations continue to struggle to apply for accreditations and those without international connections will struggle yet more to source them from elsewhere.
Despite best efforts from the UN to adjust the weekly meeting time zones to make the Conference as accessible as possible across the world, issues such as internet connection for those in the Global South will still put up barriers to participation at these vital talks. Today, just before the Conference opened, the new COP President Alok Sharma promised that this Conference would move beyond “resuming where we left off” and that we could “arrive in Glasgow having done our homework”. The UK Youth Climate Coalition will work to hold our British delegates to account on these promises and work with young people across the world to push for climate justice on an international level. If you want to help us bring people from the most affected areas to COP26 later this year, please do take a look at our fundraising page here.
*COP stands for Conference of the Parties and essentially means the annual UN climate meetings where the Paris Agreement, Kyoto Protocol and Convention on Climate Change is discussed.
Intersessionals are the more technical in between meetings that happen annually in summer, to prepare for the COPs.