Setting the Scene: Hopes are still high that by the end of COP24, a clear set of rules to implement the Paris Agreement will be agreed upon. But strong leadership and diplomatic muscle flexing will be needed to get all countries to agree on the same rules and regulations to tackle climate change. Leadership, some say, that is currently still missing.
Background: As this year’s Conference of the Parties will be taking place in Poland, the country holds the COP Presidency, and is given a key diplomatic role to steer negotiations into the right track.
COP24 will be the 4th summit presided over by Poland, and the 3rd hosted in the country – with the previous Polish summits held in Bonn (COP5), Poznan (COP14) and Warsaw (COP19). So you might expect the Poles to be experienced climate hosts… There is a catch, however:
Michał Kurtyka has taken up the COP Presidency – will he be up to the challenge. (Picture by EU2017.EE)
What’s the issue? This year the country broke with tradition by not appointing a high-level minister to the position of COP President. Fromer Polish environment minister Jan Szyszko was expected to take up the role, but this was challenged by Michał Kurtyka because Szysko was still part of the Polish government at the time.
After being backed up by UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa, Kurtyka received the COP presidency during the last intersessional in May. Although an experienced diplomat, Kurtyka has not been working in the climate space for over 5 years, so he has a lot to catch up with. And this at a time where the Polish presidency is supposed to lead, not to fall behind.
What Next: Kurtyka wil need a lot more help if the Polish want to succeed in facilitating the most important climate talks since Paris.
Currently he has Thomas Kruszow, an experienced negotiator leading the negotiations with the EU, and Konstancja Piatkowska, the Deputy director of the Polish ministry of environment who will be representing Poland during UN talks.
A New Opportunity: The Polish plan to create The Council of the Cop Presidents. It includes the French, Mexican and Moroccan heads of previous UN climate summits, and the “Council” got together a week before the Bangkok summit to share advice.
Laurent Fabius, the former French prime minister who led the Paris summit in 2015 and former Moroccan foreign minister Salaheddine Mezouar, who headed the Marrakech conference in 2016, where both present at te Council of the Cop Presidents.
Although it is great to ask for help when help is needed, the ad-hoc meeting of former COP-Presidents shows how underprepared the Polish delegation still is.
Normally the COP presidency should be visiting capital cities, meet up with delegations and prepare the organisational framework for at least 6 months in advance to the actual COP.
Important Comparison: Before the Paris Agreement, the French were drafting the agreement and sharing it with governments 8 months beforehand.
No delegation Climate spoke to is aware of the Polish presidency initiating any of these actions. We are 3 months away.
The Ask: NGO’s present at the Bangkok session argued the Polish presidency needs to start doing the international diplomatic outreach that is part of their job. With many eyes turning to the EU for climate leadership, it’s time for Poland to jump in.