States party to the Convention have once again met at the intersessionals this year to negotiate how future meetings should be structured and governed, under the formal banner of the Arrangements for Intergovernmental Meetings (AIM). Last week, the discussions came to a critical point as draft conclusions failed to even mention the main topic of conversation during the first week of the talks: Conflicts of Interest.
Conflicts of Interest centres around ensuring that the involvement of non-party stakeholders at the UNFCCC negotiations enhances rather than undermines or obstructs the work that Parties are committed to achieve here. Despite attempts to increase the engagement of diverse voices through initiatives like the Talanoa Dialogue, the influence of corporations – particularly fossil fuel companies and the trade associations representing them – remains unregulated.
The failure of the draft conclusions to even reflect that Conflicts of Interest had been discussed is a serious issue for the legitimacy and transparency of the negotiations, in what is supposed to be a formative year for international climate policy. This week, as the AIM sessions came to a close, several Parties from the Global North continued to push back on wording in revised conclusions which sought to acknowledge there was a need to review the process that governs the involvement of non-Party stakeholders. Developing country parties representing nearly 70% of the world’s population made consistent calls to ensure the decision text acknowledged the conversation on Conflicts of Interest that took place over the course of five negotiating sessions and to include a mandate for the conversation to continue. However, the final result was a significant compromise – the topic of Conflicts of Interest, though not named as per the insistence of mostly umbrella group countries, will be further discussed at the next intersessionals (SB50). Even this is a win, as discussing COI next only at the SB52 was also tabled.
This marks a significant step forward for a subject that is of critical importance and cannot go ignored. We hope that conversation on this crucial matter will continue for the sake of addressing the urgency of the climate crisis without the influence of forces with a vested interest in undermining the goals of the Convention, the Paris Agreement, and the future of vulnerable people and communities.
By Mark Robinson and the working group on COI