So far this year, there has been a lack of civil society in the discussion rooms. “We cannot participate; we do not have tickets to participate, ”said Tasneem Essop, executive director of Climate Action Network (CAN) International, a large group of nonprofit organizations that strive to achieve better results in negotiations. “We can’t find the place.”
Unlike journalists, who are not allowed to enter the chat rooms, CAN representatives often have the opportunity to have casual conversations. Here they can see the conversation and are sometimes asked to speak. But this year, in the name of Covid-19 disease security, non-profit arrived to find COP organizers introduced a ticket system, with only two tickets issued to the entire CAN International. This means that only two people from CAN, an organization that represents a minority, are the ones who were able to enter and see the six sections moving in the opposite direction. In short, CAN International “cannot follow negotiations,” says Essop.
Harjeet Singh, senior consultant at CAN International and a former climate negotiator, says the presence of people in the conference rooms is important to encourage countries to move forward in the negotiations. “If there are parties that are not doing well, or twisting each arm, then we get the information and give it away. This then reveals what is going on inside; it creates problems and things get in line.”
At COP26, observers did not find the COP’s key location for the first two days, as all negotiations begin, says Sébastien Duyck, attorney general at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). This is when viewers have the most access, he says, because institutional observers are often asked to leave the room when it gets too hot.
“COP26 is starting very badly,” he says. “Based on my previous experiences with the last 12 COPs, this has never happened. For many developing countries, delegates who have come out of crisis, because of Covid, the dangers of HIV infection, the need for privacy and all that, it is absurd that they should now be in ‘their expensive hotels.’
Delegates were given access to chat rooms via the platform, but technical difficulties have prevented many from accessing this. On Tuesday, the UN Secretary-General Climate Change sent an email to delegates apologizing for the “difficulties experienced in reaching COP26, both physically and virtually.” The e-mail added that the first few days of COP26 were “a learning process, in which participants and participants became accustomed to the process and the state of affairs in relation to the epidemic.”
But many who have come to government agencies say the problems are not just due to the important Covid-19 methods. “It was devastating,” says Essop. “To bring all of us here, especially those from the Global South, and to insult everyone like that when you see you have no chance of getting it, it just means they think people are needy and unimportant.”
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