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UN claims progress as May-June climate change session closes

The May-June Climate Change Session, the first to have been held virtually to prepare for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) to be held at the end of 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland, closed on Thursday, June 17. This was the first time that all Parties met since COP25 held in Madrid, Spain, in 2019.

patricia espinosa
Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UNFCCC

The sessions of the subsidiary bodies for implementation and technical advice took place over a three-week period. In view of the fact that last year the sessions could not take place, Party delegates from around the world engaged across all time zones to address the issues under negotiation.

“I sincerely thank all delegates for their full and effective virtual engagement. Despite the significant challenges the format created for many, especially in developing countries, all Parties remained fully committed. As a result, these sessions of the subsidiary bodies have proven to be a good way of advancing technical work,” said Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change.

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“While a significant amount of work remains, good progress has been made on many issues. My overall assessment is positive,” she added.

Issues discussed in preparation for COP26 included making agriculture more sustainable, how best to take stock of progress of climate actions, fulfilling pre-2020 commitments, support to developing countries, and building resilience and adapting to the effects of climate change.

There are still diverging views on finalising the details of how the Paris Agreement’s carbon market and non-market mechanisms will work. While diverging views also remain on finalising the details that will allow all countries to communicate their climate actions transparently under the Paris Agreement, progress was said to have been made on the tools needed to bring the transparency arrangements to life.  

Other crunch issues that need to be resolved at COP26 include delivering the pledge to mobilise $100 billion annually to support developing countries, raising ambition on emission reductions, adaptation and finance while ensuring that no voice remains unheard and no proposal unattended.

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“COP26 must be a success. These issues require leadership, political will and political decisions. Pending items must be wrapped up to fully implement the Paris Agreement and support must be unleashed so that all nations can take ambitious action. The UN stands ready to support all countries in these efforts,” Ms. Espinosa explained.

The Chair of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, said: “We have been able to make great strides on some of the deliverables for COP26. On other issues, there remains a lot of work to be done. If Parties are willing, the remaining differences can be overcome.” 

The progress achieved during the session has been captured in informal notes.

Marianne Karlsen, Chair of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), said: “Since no decisions were taken, the informal notes will provide an honest picture of where discussions are when we meet in Glasgow.”

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The incoming COP President, Mr. Alok Sharma, agreed that the May-June session had achieved progress. “We cannot be complacent and we all understand that there is still a significant amount of work that needs to be done to ensure COP26 is a success,” he said.

“The next few months are vital as the UK Presidency continues to reach out to Parties, driving progress and creating space to reach compromises. It is important that we meet in Glasgow having done our homework ahead of COP26,” he added.

COP26 is set to be held from October 31 to November 12, 2021 and in person. The incoming UK Presidency is making every effort to ensure that participation will be safe for all. As a result, both hygiene and vaccination concepts will be developed for the conference.

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