UNFCCC climate talks informal June session planned virtually

Kathmandu, 19 April (Prerna Bomzan) – The Bureau of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has agreed to hold an ‘informal’ session of the subsidiary bodies (SBs) from 31 May to 17 June in a virtual setting. The UNFCCC’s Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa, issued a message to Parties and observer organisations, on 16 April, informing them about the ‘Outcomes of the meeting of the Bureau (held on) on 15 April 2021’.
The communication states that “work during the session will be organized informally, and no decision will be taken until the Parties can meet in person again. Informal documents will be prepared by the presiding officers (of the SBs) to ensure transparency in the discussions and to capture progress. These documents will not have formal status”.
According to sources, the Bureau meeting lasted more than three hours with some developing country representatives persistently opposing any formal negotiations, given experiences of genuine concerns of time zones, connectivity and other serious challenges posed by a virtual setting which obviously disadvantages developing countries.
The final agreement for the informal mode of work without any decision-making was a compromise arrived at after overcoming mounting pressure for formal negotiations to begin, informed the source further.
The Bureau of the UNFCCC’s Conference of the Parties (COP) had met to discuss the way forward on the organization of work of the climate talks on the road to COP 26, scheduled to be held in Nov. in Glasgow, United Kingdom. (See TWN Update for background).
(The Bureau, is comprised of the COP President [which is currently Chile], representatives of Parties from the five UN regional groups and Small Island Developing States. The Bureau oversees the organization of the sessions and the operation of the UNFCCC Secretariat, especially at times when the COP is not in session).
Espinosa’s communication informs that the Bureau met on 15 April to “provide guidance on the approach to the work of the SBs during the June sessional period in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic”.
“The Bureau agreed to extend the sessional period by one week to allow for adequate coordination time, and to account for the challenges and constraints of remote participation. The session would therefore be held for three weeks from 31 May to 17 June”, states the communication further.
The other key aspects of modality of work contained in Espinosa’s communication are as follows:
“Taking into account current recommendations and practices, as well as the challenges of working across time zones, the number of working hours per day will be limited and meetings will be scheduled in pre-established timeslots based on the principle that no region benefits or is affected disproportionately.
The Chairs of the SB, with the support of the secretariat, taking into account the views and concerns expressed, will prepare scenario notes to further elaborate the modalities for the organization of work in their respective bodies. The scenario notes will be made available to Parties and observers at least three weeks in advance of the start of the session.
In keeping with past practice, effective engagement of observers will be enabled in the same way that they participate in the in-person sessions.
As per previous guidance from the Bureau, and building on experience gained in 2020, mandated events will be organized during the June session, and summary reports of such events will be prepared as mandated. However, no side events will be organized.
The secretariat will continue to provide the utmost support to Parties in order to ensure full and effective participation, in a transparent, fair and inclusive manner”.
Notwithstanding the ‘informal’ nature of the coming three-week June sessional period, the virtual talks will indeed be a testing ground as to whether the “full and effective participation, in a transparent, fair and inclusive manner” will be secured. – Third World Network