By Alastair Thompson, Scoop.co.nz Editor in Glasgow.
At 9pm this evening, after a very frank and open discussion by the parties to COP in plenary session, the UK Govt provided an off-the-record background briefing for UK media on the status of negotiations in the final run up to conclusion of the conference.
During the briefing, Advisor to COP President Alok Sharma Camilla Born spoke frankly on her/the presidency’s view on the motivations and pain points of negotiating parties to the framework convention.
In the view of the writer many of Ms Born’s comments were inappropriate in their tone and content.
The briefing by the Presidency to a narrow segment of the media also ran counter to the spirit of transparency in which the COP process is run. Earlier in the day President Alok Sharma cancelled a press conference in which he could have taken questions from all media attending the COP.
The briefing was the final media event during a day when a stock-taking plenary called by COP President Alok Sharma ran significantly over its scheduled time, and saw interventions from a numerous national parties and, all the significant COP voting blocks.It was clear after this stock-taking event that there remained a large number of outstanding issues on which the parties are not yet in agreement.
Scoop, like many non-UK media received a link to the briefing indirectly. The link was to a Google meeting in which it was possible to raise your hand and ask questions. Around 100 media attended it, including Robert Peston from ITV.
At one point in the meeting a second speaker asked attendees to name themselves, “we have a lot of people in the room and we will remove people who are not named,” she said. Twice during the meeting attendees were informed that the meeting was “off the record, background only and not for attribution.”
Camilla Born’s linkedin profile lists here as “Advisor to the COP26 President”. I.E. Alok Sharma who took over the hot seat at the opening of this year’s Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC framework convention at the beginning of this COP on Saturday 30th October.
Camilla describes herself in her profile as: “Articulate, agile and outcomes focused leader with strong analytical, communication and consensus building skills. Specialist expertise in climate risk management, resilience, diplomacy and foreign policy.”
Camilla joined the UK Cabinet Office as “Deputy Director Strategy, COP26” in January 2020.
Observing the off-the-record nature of the briefing Scoop will not divulge details of what Camilla Born said about parties, and about critical issues which remain unresolved in the negotiations.
However anyone reading UK papers on the status of the negotiations ought to bear in mind that the contents of this briefing may well be behind much of their informed reporting and commentary.
Following the briefing Scoop caught up with ITV’s Robert Peston who shrugged and agreed that it was rather odd that the COP Presidency had elected to have an off the record briefing with UK media only rather than an on the record live streamed press conference briefing all of those who are involved in the COP26 process.
Scoop furnished the following questions to the UK Press Office in the COP26 Media Center at 10.38pm this evening.
Dear COP26 UK Press Office.
I among many people in the COP26 media center received a link to the briefing this evening provided by a spokeswoman about the current status of the negotiations.
I was not aware until I had been in the call for some time that the briefing was intended to be only for UK journalists nor that it was background only.
1. Who was the briefing from and in what capacity? Was it from the UK Govt. or from the COP Presidency?
2. Legally, Is the COP Presidency operating on behalf of the UK Govt or is it operating on behalf of the UNFCCC?
3. Was the briefer part of the presidency team or part of the UK negotiating team.
4. There are over 3000 media accredited to this COP. Why was this briefing not conducted in a manner so that all media had access to it?
5. Why did the President not do the briefing himself, as a press conference at the venue, in which I presume he is still located?
Answers to these questions will be posted when/if they are received.