Climate talks in Poland: closed-door success or performance art?

The two-week event may not have resulted in a deal on how to implement the Paris deal, but many experts believe the document will open doors to future negotiations The climate talks in Poland…

Climate talks in Poland: closed-door success or performance art?

The two-week event may not have resulted in a deal on how to implement the Paris deal, but many experts believe the document will open doors to future negotiations

The climate talks in Poland weren’t a working party. They weren’t a grand exercise in political negotiation. They were a two-week experience in climate conference where negotiators forged ahead despite major hurdles.

The stakes were high. They were higher than ever that this event would either help win over the rest of the world to the Paris accord or lead to war with climate deniers. We know the agenda for these two worlds: walls of attention around everything, a massive lobbying effort, intense pressure, diplomacy for the sake of its citizens, constant text, endless emails, voting on your own damn life.

And instead of slogging through inane explanations of complex details of maps and physics to lubricate a process that was set out by another human to end the 17-year history of man-made climate change, this meeting swung open countless doors for future talks. The nature of the discussions was broadened. Discussion about national climate policies was redefined.

Not enough to bring everyone around. But positive.

The text that emerged gave hope that those who advocated for a global strategy against climate change – the organisers from WWF, Friends of the Earth, the International Council for Science, United Nations Foundation and others – would have a harder time gaining traction.

That enthusiasm might have been overshadowed by the pessimism found in the more strident camps. The following was tweeted:

However, this impasse was solved by talk of climate justice, and how this must be addressed by countries as a whole. And there is potential for significant progress. We aren’t ready to turn a consensus around. Instead, we are hoping there will be more discussion on how many steps need to be taken and how fast, and the truth is that any sign of progress is progress. People might have felt burned out, but even more people had their eyes opened. And both of these can help create more appreciation for the outcome and push for more to come.

Yes, the fact that no deal was reached probably made a large part of the hard-fought experience a kind of scary, terrible blunder. But there were also real advancements. The fact that Bangladesh and the Maldives were able to draw attention to climate migrants was deeply important and can help move the process forward. The potential of the Dessau agreement – with 12 OECD countries to settle one of the leading demands for rich nations – is important as it will potentially represent a pathway to buy more resources and reduce emissions globally.

And the fight for where to make the top 20 cities for tackling climate change hasn’t been lost. If seen in one light, however, there was potential for disappointment, as the emphasis on the plan “to more adequately assist developing countries that are impacted by the climate change policies of the United States”, which was the only major point of conflict with the United States.

It is too early to make any big expectations – but, in several senses, this was the right kind of environment, and it shows that the resistance between rich and poor has cracks. Time will tell if this can be kicked off to a successful pace.

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