EU Officials Dismiss Johnson’s Mini Deals as a COP26 Distraction
(Bloomberg) -- European Union diplomats heading to Glasgow for climate change talks are concerned that smaller side deals planned by the U.K. could give recalcitrant nations an excuse to avoid signing on to a global agreement.
The annual United Nations summit, which starts Oct. 31, is predominately a fortnight of talks between countries to thrash out international measures on avoiding catastrophic climate change. Top of the agenda this year is agreeing on rules for a global carbon market. It’s the only part of the Paris rulebook that is unfinished because the EU and other developed countries walked away from the table in 2019.
While side deals at such summits are a normal part of the process, the U.K. government has taken this to another level by asking countries to sign sectoral agreements almost every day. EU negotiators haven’t yet worked through all the proposals, the official said, which include pacts on everything from ending coal to protecting forests and tackling aviation emissions.
The EU is also working with the U.S. to gather signatories for a pledge to cut methane emissions.
One EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was a risk the plethora of side deals could distract from efforts to ensure the environmental integrity of any UN-governed carbon market that is negotiated. The EU and Brazil have been at loggerheads over the question of whether to allow double counting of credits, whereby both the seller and the buyer gets to include the emissions savings in their accounts. Environmental groups have warned that a compromise could actually lead to more carbon being released into the atmosphere.
This year, nations are also required to submit enhanced national pledges showing how they will cut carbon by 2030 in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. However, big emitters including China and India have failed to do so. The official said they are concerned that some countries may think they are doing enough to agree on sectoral deals rather than announced ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), as required by the Paris accord.
Summit organizers have previously said the side deals are designed to bolster climate action in a year when there is less to negotiate than in previous gatherings. Earlier this week, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a last-ditch call for countries to submit their NDCs ahead of COP26 if they haven’t already.
“Targets must also translate into change across our economies and societies,” a COP26 spokesman said. “We are urging countries to take the action needed to move to a cleaner world: to end coal power and deforestation, reduce methane emissions, deliver climate financing and accelerate the transition to clean electric vehicles.”
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