So far this year, there has also been an emphatic absence of a civil society presence in these negotiation rooms. “We can’t participate; we don’t have tickets to participate,” says Tasnim Esop, executive director of the International Climate Action Network (CAN), a major group of nonprofits working to secure a progressive outcome in the talks.
Unlike journalists, who are not allowed in negotiation rooms, CAN delegates usually have access to conversations virtually. Here they can observe the negotiations and occasionally invite them to speak. But this year on behalf of COVID-19 Safety, nonprofits arrived to find that COP organizers had introduced the ticket system, with only two tickets offered to the entire CAN International. This means that only two people from CAN, an organization that represents hundreds of smaller organizations, were able to log in and monitor six parallel sessions. Aesop says, in short, that CAN International is “unable to pursue negotiations”.
Harjit Singh, a senior adviser at CAN International and an expert on climate talks, says having civil society in the negotiating rooms is essential to increase pressure on countries to move forward in the talks. “If there’s some limb that’s not behaving properly, or doing any kind of arm-twisting, we get that information and pass it on. Then that reveals what’s going on inside; it puts pressure and things are on the same line.”
At COP26, observers were unable to access any meaningful area of the COP for the first two days, just as all negotiations began, says Sebastian Dweck, senior attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). This is the period when monitors get the most access, he says, because civil society monitors are often asked to leave the room later in the process when negotiations flare up.
“COP26 starts off very badly,” he says. “From my previous experience with the last 12 COPs, this is unprecedented. For a lot of developing countries, delegates who have come from very difficult situations, because of Covid, and the dangers of the virus coming back again, the need to quarantine and all of this, it is absurd that they now have to stay in Their hotels are expensive.”
Delegates were given some access to negotiation rooms via a virtual platform, but technical issues prevented many from even accessing that. On Tuesday, the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat sent delegates an email apologizing for the “inconveniences associated with access to the COP 26 venue, both physical and physical.” The emailed statement added that the first few days of COP26 were “a learning process, as participants and staff became accustomed to the measures and logistical conditions related to the pandemic.”
But many civil society attendees say the problems have not only come from basic measures of Covid-19. “I’m just sad about this,” Aesop says. “Bring all of us here, especially those from the Global South, and treating everyone with that kind of disrespect where you find out you don’t have access to, just means that they think people are irreplaceable and irrelevant.”
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