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Glasglow – the spark in the Paris Agreement

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Paal Frisvold
Writer for MODERN TIMES on Europe issues.
CLIMATE / In the perspective of poor coal-intensive countries: Why should not the rich stop selling oil and gas – and let the poor continue to burn coal? Will the transmission of democracy now be to blame for the doom of the earth?


COP-26, or Conference of the Parties, ie the conference for the parties to climate agreement 26, is with its 30 participants from governments, industry, research and civil society from 000 countries one of the world's largest democratic exercises. With strict security checks and corona testing to get into the large conference center, there were queues at the quay in the middle of Glasgow – where the shipyards once lay. Long queues. Admittedly, only a few hours every day – little compared to the Copenhagen meeting in 200, where many stood for twelve hours in minus degrees to get into the Bella center.

For two intense weeks, it was not only negotiated and demonstrated, but also held thousands of seminars and workshops on the solutions the world has at its disposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – which will make it quite easy to end the fossil age. But then no.

Most agree that this year's Climate Mecca ended in a fragile agreement. The world is still far from limiting the temperature rise to 1,5 degrees by the end of the century.

Although the COP meetings are an excellent demonstration of the beauty of a global democratic exercise, one can at the same time ask about each country's right to veto, or train, quarrel or block, a proof that the transmission of democracy is to blame for the earth's downfall . Because when Saudi Arabia, Russia and Venezuela systematically protest against the presented results of negotiations, the smallest common multiple becomes an understatement.

Poor country's gold?

Strong protests were made during the last night of the bargaining session. Both the blocs of developing countries and independent countries reacted in the way that the British leadership had overlooked them and given in to the big coal countries China and India. In the gloom and darkness of the night, the text in the communiqué had been changed from "phasing out" to "phasing down" coal. The Marshall Islands shouted for a totally unacceptable British negotiating leadership, to resounding applause from negotiating delegates inside the great plenary hall.

"India deserves all the thinnest they can get for this stunt," said leading voices, pointing out that populous and relatively poor China and India's bargaining chip could eventually lead to the G77 negotiating group falling apart in the COP context.

Why should not the rich stop selling oil and gas – and let the poor continue to burn coal?

On the other hand: Why should the final communique only refer to the phasing out of coal – which is in many ways the gold of poor countries? Coal is both available and relatively cheap – especially compared to gas or renewable energy. Here we must remember that India emits 1,4 tonnes The COP negotiations also made it possible for a number of less extensive agreements: A 100-odd countries' cooperation on the protection and financing of forests is a good example. China and the US's highly surprising 16-point bilateral agreement is another – and witnessed an ever-so-small "Nixon's China" moment. The major powers acknowledge the need to close "the carbon gap" in order to reach the 1,5 degree target. An important signal to the world – and not to mention the markets.

An agreement to cut the very harmful metagas emissions is also one of Glasgow's success stories, even though China excels with its absence.

Our Minister for Climate and the Environment Espen Barth Eides negotiated Article 6 – on the quota system for rich countries to invest in emission reductions in poor countries. Together with Singapore's chief negotiator, they succeeded in reaching agreement on how to avoid double counting of quotas and close the gaps in the previous "green development mechanism" (for example, Det Norske Veritas was caught cheating with control of the so-called additionality principle).

The COP is also a unique global arena for showcasing and demonstrating the technologies and innovative solutions the world has at its disposal to solve the climate crisis. Societal and technological advances are helping to push the negotiators and the countries a few steps further along the long road.

The transmission of democracy

But the machinery is too slow. The consensus principle means that small countries, such as Saudi-Arabia, alone can not only veto, but overturn the negotiations by twisting and turning the wording and diluting any text proposal – as they do year after year. How about introducing qualified majority voting where the brake pad countries have to bow to the majority?

Democracy – our own home among the foremost – constantly shows the ability to turn a blind eye to our own fossil fuels, which contribute to the suffering and conflicts of poor countries around the world. Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre announces, without preferring a mine, that Norway will develop the oil industry to save the climate…

The largest delegation in Glasgow were the representatives from the oil and gas industry. Remember that the tobacco industry was banned from the World Health Organisation. Shouldn't the fossil fuel industry now suffer the same fate UN climate negotiations?

We have to do something before it's too late.

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