Morality and Law
COP26: Tough Negotiations at Hard Times
Valdai Club Conference Hall, Tsvetnoy boulevard 16/1, Moscow, Russia
List of speakers

On November 18, the Valdai Club hosted an expert discussion on the results of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly referred to as COP26, titled “From Paris to Glasgow: The Victory of Scepticism or Real Progress?”

The participants discussed the expectations that existed before the conference, its results, as well as more general problems in dealing with the changing crisis. The discussion was moderated by Oleg Barabanov, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club.

Ruslan Edelgeriev, Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation on Climate Issues, spoke about how the conference was held and the success of the Russian delegation. According to him, discussions often went beyond the framework of the Paris Agreement, and the main struggle was over coal and hydrocarbons. He noted that the positions of the developed and developing countries are getting closer and closer from conference to conference, although the discussion took place in an extremely tense atmosphere. “The pressure was tremendous, but I believe that the results are even more favourable for us than we expected,” he said, adding that Russia was able to defend its interests in the forestry sector and in the field of peaceful nuclear energy. A difficult consensus was reached on hydrocarbons, a solution that does not completely suit anyone, but looks like the only possible compromise.

James Reynolds, head of delegation for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Mali, shared his experience of working in one of the most problematic regions in terms of exposure to climate change. He pointed out that climate-related challenges have become more and more urgent for his organisation, and gave examples of measures taken by the Red Cross to counter these challenges. Climate change acts as a threat multiplier, exacerbating difficulties in other areas, he said. In addition, countries affected by armed conflict are less able to adapt to climate change than others.

Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, gave a number of potential future scenarios entailing varying degrees of danger, explaining that the nature of the situation that plays out depends on how much it’s possible to reduce emissions and at what level it will be possible to curb warming. “The world is now living in an unprecedentedly difficult period of time,” he said, adding that the situation in Russia and Australia, which are exporters of fossil fuels, is very similar.

Alexey Kokorin, Director of the Climate and Energy Program of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Russia, summed up the overall results of COP26 in Glasgow. He explained the decision that each country should achieve a balance between emissions and absorption on its territory, as well as Russia’s strategy, which is characterised by a relatively small reduction in emissions, coupled with a large-scale increase in net absorption. According to the expert, achieving this will not be easy, but is quite possible in principle. He noted that the approach chosen by the world community involves the stabilisation of warming at 2.5 degrees with a gradual increase to 3 degrees. For especially vulnerable countries, this actually entails a future catastrophe, while for a number of others it portends extremely difficult conditions. Hence, the categorical position of public organisations, which are demanding adherence to the goal of reducing global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.