COP25; “an agreement which accommodates everyone”? Failure, process, and alternatives

In the Friday the 13th COP25 Presidency Press Briefing, Andres Landerretche, Coordinator of the COP25 Presidency, said that they would stay until they had an agreement, and that they were working hard to get “an agreement which accommodates everyone”..

It’s now Saturday night, and according to Elizabeth May on twitter, they are still going. This effort by those trying to reach a deal must be applauded, but is this the right process for today?

It’s not clear who, in the COP25 Presidency statement, is considered to be “everyone,” or should be. If “everyone” is all the delegates, including those who want to hold up the process, then satisfying everyone is a question of how low the bar can go and still satisfy most nations, or conversely how high it can go and still be acceptable to the recalcitrants – Saudi Arabia, Australia, and the United States.

If “everyone” is everyone on Earth, everyone who is impacted, or everyone who will be impacted, and that’s pretty clearly not who he was referring to, then it’s clear that “everyone” will not be accommodated at COP25, or through the resolution regarding Article 6 (carbon markets – a key sticking point).

But, could it be? As Dr. Peter Carter, co-author of Unprecedented Crime: Climate Science Denial and Game Changers for Survival, points out here, every COP session since the first few have been based on full consensus. The world is burning. We are in a climate emergency. And yet, because of the process we have chosen, a few nations who have chosen personal wealth and power over the greater good can entirely bar us from saving ourselves.

Is it time to consider a different process? The Montreal Protocol had teeth – an enforcement mechanism – that trade sanctions could be brought against violators. We need something similar to that, or other enforcement mechanisms. Those who endanger life on earth should be excluded from the economic community of nations in meaningful ways. Or there must be other sanctions which reflect the gravity of their actions. Massive tariffs on oil and gas from non-compliant countries? That would have the four effects of punishing them, rewarding compliant nations (with increased exports), encouraging other nations to become less oil dependant, and accelerating the death of the oil economy.

How do we get there? The easier method is through article 15(2) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which says that;

The Parties shall make every effort to reach agreement on any proposed amendment to the Convention by consensus. If all efforts at consensus have been exhausted, and no agreement reached, the amendment shall as a last resort be adopted by a three-fourths majority vote of the Parties present and voting at the meeting.

So, the UNFCCC can be amended to change the voting procedure/decision-making mechanism, and / or enforcement mechanisms can be added. A lot more can be said on the specifics of this in future posts, and hopefully others will come up with even better ideas. For now all we need to know is that once “everyone” has tried to convince the few recalcitrants, and failed – a 3/4 majority can change the process.

The only problem with that is – the next COP, COP26, is hosted by the UK, who just elected a Boris Johnson Conservative government. While they are likely to be better about climate talks than some other conservative governments might, they are unlikely to take the vanguard position and initiate this level of change.

That leads to another possibility – can the UNFCCC, or the process – be amended by the UN General Assembly? It’s worth looking into. That would be a much more just process.

This is an emergency – let’s act like it.

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