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STL Held International Climate Change Law & Negotiations in times of Covid-19 Webinar

On November 4th, STL hosted the first session of its new Law & Sustainability Colloquium webinar series on the ClassIn platform. The guest speaker was Christoph Schwarte, the Executive Director of Legal Response International (LRI). LRI is a London-based charity that provides free legal support to developing countries and civil society observer organizations on matters pertaining to international climate change negotiations. The speaker’s presentation tackled the state of International climate change law and negotiations under Covid-19. STL’s associate professor Stepthen Minas served as the moderator.

Christoph Schwarte first gave an overview on trends reflected on both the international climate change law (substantive law) and negotiations (procedural rules) in the time of Covid-19. He highlighted the four highly impacted areas: human rights and climate justice, economics and trade, the international climate change regime, and the climate negotiations.

According to Christoph Schwarte, Covid-19 has significantly impacted civil and social rights issues. These newly raised issues include: extra-territorial application, forced displacement and migration, and climate change response measures. Despite the local response and resilience of social movements and activities, the legal response on climate justice is still urgently needed. At the same time, Schwarte mentioned, it would be an opportunity to “recover” better. This just posed an interesting question: how would the world community tackle climate change problems in a post-covid “recovery” era? Efforts anticipated included ones on “global financial flow, climate risk calculus, [and] economic mode shift.” For any of these efforts to work, however, a clear emphasis has to be placed on the need for cooperation among the various members of the international community.

Before moving to the procedural issues of negotiation, Schwarte introduced different climate change fora and explained how they work. He also introduced climate change regimes, which include UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol with Doha amendments, and the Paris Agreement. In particular, Schwarte mentioned article 2 of the Paris Agreement and its highlights on “ability to adapt” and “the importance of global financial flow towards green development”.

As for the convoluted climate change negotiation, Schwarte analyzed challenges for negotiations during the pandemic. Challenges included the lack of formal negotiations and decisions, the secretariat staff working remotely, and technical meetings taking place virtually.

At the end of the presentation, Schwarte noted that, although some things are clear in the post-Covid phase, others are not. Among those less-clear post-Covid dynamics, he discussed the influence of external pressures such as protests and litigations, US participation, adaptations of procedural rules, and the possible delay of scientific information.

Professor Minas also raised some questions about some crucial points in Schwarte’s presentation. For instance, they deliberated on the detrimental effect of this pandemic on the climate change negotiation process as countries attempt to simultaneously tackle the pandemic and climate change.

Writer: Liu Yishu