The Brief: Talanoa dialogue, a poison pill for Poland

If anything came out of the COP23 in Bonn, it’s a poison pill. At least for Poland. The coal addicted country will host the next summit in December 2018 in Katowice: an old coal mining town. But many climate change activists do not enjoy the irony of this situation.

European diplomats are totally fed up with Poland’s constant opposition on climate issues. The 2030 climate and renewables targets are in limbo, the carbon market reform is so neutered it barely makes the carbon price move.

And EU credibility on climate change is becoming a distant memory. India and less developed countries highlighted it in Bonn, by asking the EU to ratify the second part of the Kyoto Protocol, something they had not been able to do – because of Poland.

Of course the Eastern European nation is not the only culprit.

It doesn’t help that Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete comes from a country that shamed the EU during the summit; Iberdrola, its main electricity company, decided to withdraw from coal at the beginning of COP23 but Madrid decided to veto the move against coal.

All this has made negotiators aware that the EU could be a pain when it comes to climate. And they reacted by suggesting a new method: the Talanoa dialogue.

Previously called a “facility dialogue”, this new space for discussion where countries keep track of who is doing what on climate now has a regular status. The essence of the Fijian word Talanoa means having a conversation by respecting each speaker and reaching a result at the end.

The idea is to protect climate negotiations at a critical point. According to the Paris Agreement, countries should define their tools to reach climate targets by the end of 2018.

Not doing so might jeopardise any chance of raising climate ambition after 2020. The initial plan was that the Talanoa dialogue would stay in Fijian hands to bypass Poland’s stint at its presidency.

In the end, the Talanoa presidency will be shared between Fiji and Poland. And that will hopefully reduce Poland’s capacity to wreak havoc.

This is a situation that should introduce some humility into the European mix, because that is where we stand on climate international negotiations: an EU country hosting a COP summit has to be sidelined. Shame on us.


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