Jochen Flasbarth is the Secretary of State in the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.
Oscar the elephant is furious. “These file makers! Those ink spots! These Leitz folders! These two-legged office stools!” he complains about the international delegates whose convention is already threatening to fail to save the world. A scene from Eric Kastner’s “Conference of Animals” from 1949.
Disappointment with global conference diplomacy is almost as old as it continues on the occasion of world climate conferences every year. Also this year, at the 26th “Conference of the Parties”, COP26 in short, in Glasgow, Scotland.
Would it be better to cancel the whole “Blah Blah” according to Greta Thunberg? My conclusion after attending nearly 20 of 26 world climate conferences: As harrowing and depressing as it may be, world climate conferences are inevitable, their impact often underestimated. It is rarely visible immediately.
It becomes clear on the passage: A few years ago, scientists predicted an uncontrolled global warming of five to six degrees Celsius. Today we are moving towards 2.7 degrees, optimistically speaking of less than two degrees even after the climate protection commitments of the past few weeks. I’d prefer to wait for a comprehensive analysis to be done until we can make a really valid statement.
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But: Countries around the world are working to get better and better in terms of climate protection. It is because of the constant pressure that world climate conventions generate before, during and after annual events. Four factors are crucial for this:
First: Climate conferences are fixed items in the global climate calendar. It triggers quite a bit of dynamic already. Just as we rush to collect presents shortly before Christmas, COP urges the world not to come empty handed. In the first days of the conference, heads of state and government around the world must explain what their country is doing to protect the climate.
Four countries have committed to climate neutrality this year, along with Saudi Arabia, Russia, Australia and India, whose elixir of life was previously fossil fuels. This would have been unthinkable without the disciplinary impact and global attention generated by a COP. Germany and the European Union, and later many others, have significantly raised their climate goals even before the COP. The targets, which, incidentally, are only legally binding internationally, because of the resolutions of a climate convention.
Benchmarks are set, as in 2015 in Paris
Second: World climate conventions set standards and rules that are globally accepted and guide action. The goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees as much as possible, the US$100 billion promise for climate protection in developing countries, the pursuit of global climate neutrality – these are the worldwide benchmarks of whether or not we are on the road to success.
It has set up a World Climate Conference in Paris in 2015 – its most successful conference ever. Since then conventions have defined rules, details that are known to contain the devil: are reports on emissions development sent to the United Nations annually, every two or only every five years? Is only carbon dioxide taken into account, or also nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride or nitrogen trifluoride? How do loans for the 100 billion target compare to grants? To all these questions and thousands of others, the world climate conferences of the past few years have provided globally binding answers. This rule book is to be finalized in Glasgow.
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Third: World climate conferences have long been much more than conversations between governments. They are fast becoming a global climate fair. When ThyssenKrupp exchanges ideas with Tata Steel about Green Steel, with HSBC about funding African Development Bank solar parks or with the Federation of Indigenous Activists International Trade Unions, it sets the ground for a pioneering alliance. does.
And they are playing an increasingly important role in the COP, even between governments: in Glasgow, new coalitions have been formed for forest protection, sustainable financing, coal phase-outs and methane reduction – and the convention is not over yet. . These types of alliances or climate clubs will become more and more important in the future for precisely accelerated implementation. Because at world climate conferences, the focus should now be on implementation, and it is precisely these alliances that can create dynamism.
Small and big countries sit on an equal footing
Fourth and final: The world climate conferences are in power with those who feel powerless – and are in fact mostly looking at the consequences of climate change. 38 small island states and 46 least developed countries sit on a par with the great powers. This creates moral pressure.
And if, like Paris, we succeed in forging an alliance with them and with pioneers such as Germany and the European Union, it results in political pressure. It would never have been possible to settle on a goal of 1.5 degrees in the circle of the mighty G7 or G20 alone or raise US$100 billion for climate protection. Especially not in bilateral or tripartite talks without pressure from the people of the world and especially those affected.
It wouldn’t work without world climate conventions
World climate conferences ensure more courage, more commitment, more solidarity, more exchanges on climate protection. They enrich national debates, which sometimes tend to the navel, with a look outside the box. The goal of 1.5 degrees can be achieved only through global cooperation. This makes world climate conferences inevitable.
There’s one thing they’ll never be able to achieve: save the world in one fell swoop. The convention in which world peace is to be concluded or the planet is saved – which still only exists in children’s books such as “Convention of the Beasts”. But the resolutions and alliances that move us closer to our common goal, the binding commitments that lead to more wind turbines and coal-fired power plants, more buses and trains, and the end of less fuel guzzlers, are in abundance at these conventions. Huh. And it’s so much more than “blah blah blah”.
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