A swathe of developing countries will not be sending delegates for climate talks that will resume later this month in Poland, meaning it is unlikely to deliver any breakthroughs
Analysis: A COP flop? Leaders from some of the biggest fossil fuel-producing countries aren’t coming
It is all going badly for the climate change summit that starts in Katowice on 11 June. Despite making only nominal progress in the past six years, as evidenced by the reduction in global emissions over the past three, the chances of this momentous attempt at climate change diplomacy being a flop are now far higher than they should be.
Perhaps more significantly, the fact that some of the biggest greenhouse gas-emitting countries are not participating is significant. From the time that Bonn 2015 began, its power was reduced due to the absence of key players.
As a result, climate negotiators will be far less influenced by every digression being made by the likes of India, China and Saudi Arabia.
This has led some to call for the summit to be cancelled – a call backed up by some big financial stakeholders in the negotiations such as Naidoo Pughe from the World Bank, who recently said that a failure in Katowice would be another two years, with nothing coming of it.
But they forget that the important global negotiations are not quite yet done. Although a lack of participants from the biggest producers of greenhouse gases (this includes the likes of US, Canada, Russia, Mexico, and China) poses a problem, it is not the end of the world.
While some governments will indeed be watching from the sidelines, some are sure to be sent along in the second week as the summit is still on the agenda, much as the Gleneagles meeting was in Scotland. The aim of these meetings is to establish a common strategy going forward.
But there is a problem there too, and that is that there are no confirmed participants from key economies which developed nations believe should take more of the responsibility for delivering the Paris climate change agreement: many of which are developing.
If fossil fuel polluters do not come, any agreement might just fall apart
Worse still, countries such as Russia, Mexico and the US are all boycotting Katowice meetings. These are all key players in the global economy and will have the capability of signing a deal.
Without their support, any agreement might just fall apart. A lack of such support is not something that the UK and France can afford to contemplate.
An extreme view by the conservative government in Poland, which led the Eurosceptic surge in the European elections last month, could see it try to use its leverage to extend negotiations on non-legally binding targets beyond 2020 and beyond. That could potentially scupper negotiations from the start and even increase the chance of a failure in Katowice.
It is wrong to say that things are overblown. While it looks as if the Katowice conference will be a debacle, there is every reason to believe that the Paris climate talks could still deliver a breakthrough.
It will, at least, be a huge success if the leaders of the major developing economies do not attend the talks in Katowice, which is a signal of the leaders’ lack of confidence in the process. This would be one reason why the UK and France must not give up on the talks and show that they are worth their effort.