It’ll take a global system change if this wish of former UK energy minister Claire O’Neill, who will head the next United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, were to come true

Claire O’Neill in New Delhi (Photo by British High Commission)

Claire O’Neill in New Delhi (Photo by British High Commission)

“We do not have to seek unanimity and no country has the right of veto” in climate negotiations, according to Claire O’Neill, who is going to preside over the crucial 2020 UN climate summit scheduled in Glasgow this November.

For O’Neill, who stepped out of the Boris Johnson cabinet after the recent British election so that she can concentrate on the summit to be held later this year at Galsgow, the way to rein in climate change is through “coalitions of the willing”. US President Donald Trump is pulling his country out of the 2015 Paris agreement, but a majority of sub-national actors in the US are part of this coalition, she pointed out.

The former British energy minister – proud of having piloted her country’s “net zero” greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions goal by 2050 through a former Conservative cabinet – started her coalition building in New Delhi right at the beginning of the year.

She met Indian ministers, bureaucrats, industry groups, think tanks and invited audiences. In her talk to the last group she repeatedly praised the steps India is taking to combat climate change. India and Britain are the only two G20 countries that have so far met their pledges under the 2015 Paris agreement.

Crucial summit

This year’s climate summit becomes crucial because scientists have said countries need to first meet and then ramp up the commitments they made in Paris, and 2020 is a milestone year for that. India has consistently held that it should not be asked to enhance its commitments before the scheduled Paris agreement stocktake in 2023.

This may have been the reason O’Neill started her year of climate diplomacy in New Delhi, though she declined to say what the Indian government had told her. She is also clearly aware that the UN climate summit in Madrid last December failed over the role that financial markets can play to control GHG emissions, and this impasse may continue. She said the summit could go ahead and take crucial decisions in all other spheres.

Listen to what Claire O’Neill told an invited audience in New Delhi on the afternoon of January 16.


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