Bellona’s 30-year history at UN climate summits

From left: Norwegian Climate and Environment Minister Tine Sundtoft, Fredric Hauge (Bellona), Svein Tore Holsether (Yara), Kristin Halvorsen (CICERO), Christiana Figueres - Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Foreign Minister Børge Brende. There was a happy atmosphere during the launch of the Norwegian collaboration during COP21 in Paris.

Publish date: October 29, 2021

Bellona made its international breakthrough at the world's first environmental conference in Rio in 1992, where we presented a report on the mind boggling quantity of nuclear waste at the Mayak fuel reprocessing plant in the Ural Mountains. Since then, Bellona has continued to make a difference for the environment and climate within the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP). We are now ready for COP26 in Glasgow.

Bellona made its international breakthrough at the world’s first environmental conference in Rio in 1992, where we presented a report on the mind boggling quantity of nuclear waste at the Mayak fuel reprocessing plant in the Ural Mountains. Since then, Bellona has continued to make a difference for the environment and climate within the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP). We are now ready for COP26 in Glasgow.

The climate debate first appeared on the agenda at the conferences in 1998 and 1999, and since then Bellona has worked to acquire professional knowledge, identify and develop climate solutions, influence authorities and business to focus on renewables rather than fossil fuels, and to spread the knowledge further in the international community.

“It has been a long journey with frustrating meetings and changing luck,” says Bellona founder Frederic Hauge. “But I have learned that it is absolutely crucial that people talk together and that we build international trust.”

Bellona has offices and partnerships in Russia, Europe, the USA and the Middle East, and has thus acquired a network that facilitates useful dialogue when the conversation gets bogged down.

“Trust in the climate negotiations is built by poor countries seeing that rich countries take responsibility and bear the early costs of technology development and at the same time ensure prosperity development for the poor,” Hauge says. “The rich countries have borrowed from the earth’s carbon budget – it must be repaid.”

Hauge believes that Bellona’s participation in the climate summits has contributed to climate solutions such as electric cars and carbon capture and storage (CCS) making the scene a little earlier than they would have otherwise.

“We have worked out climate solutions that have set a precedent in Norway, and then we have taken them out into the world and shown them, including during the COPs,” he says.

Bali (2007) COP13

In 2007, Bellona stepped up its efforts at the climate summits and established the concept of its “Solution room.” Here we created an arena for prominent speakers and prominent listeners, such as current and former heads of state, leading UN represenatives, international business leaders, leading climate scientists and leaders from international NGOs.

Since then, we have arranged over a hundred unofficial so-called “side events” and workshops on the most important challenges at the negotiations. Bellona has also held and hosted a number of closed meetings under the auspices of NGOs, hosted small groups of developing countries that have not had access to good meeting rooms, and has been a place where Norwegian actors from both the public and private sectors meet for informal conversations.

Poznan, Poland (2008) COP14

The climate negotiations in 2008 became a partial victory when 27 EU countries agreed on a common climate policy.

“It is very important, and very promising for the process leading up to the Copenhagen meeting next year,” Hauge said at the time. Bellona was particularly pleased that a financing scheme for CO2 management was put in place.

In preparation for the Copenhagen negotiations, Bellona, ​​together with the worldwide organization of former heads of state, Club de Madrid, and the energy company Hafslund CC8 and CC9,  organized two international climate conferences where the Climate and Clean Air Coalition was established.

Copenhagen, Denmark (2009) COP15

There were enormous expectations for the climate negotiations in 2009.  “I am optimistic,” said Minister of the Environment Erik Solheim, when he opened the Bellona pavilion, which was called “101 Solutions to climate change,” on Town Hall Square in Copenhagen.

Bellona partnered with the Copenhagen Municipality, and some of the solutions we presented were listed in the magazine: 101 solutions to the climate crisis.

“The opportunities and solutions to the climate crisis exist, and there is no reason for world leaders not to agree on an ambitious climate agreement when they meet in Copenhagen,” said Hauge during the launch.

Sahara Forest Project

Bellona, ​​as one of four partners, launched the Sahara Forest Project, a project that combines CO2 storage with biomass and freshwater production in desert areas.

“I believe that the Sahara Forest Project deserves some form of public funding in addition to private funding to see if we can unleash the potential for both food production and clean water in arid areas of the world, as well as increased production of clean energy and CO2 uptake through revegetation. of the desert, said former Norwegian Prime Minister and UN Special Envoy on Climate Change Gro Harlem Brundtland.

CCS – carbon capture and storage

The head of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Dr. Rajendra Pachuari, called for the immediate implementation of CO2 management when he visited Copenhagen.

Norway – the world’s leading electric car nation

Along for the ride to the climate summit in Copenhagen, Bellona had the first five Tesla Roadster cars that ever came to Europe. With them, we showed the potential of electric car technology, and how Tesla had cracked the code for the production of cars operating on battery capacity that was good enough to implement the shift from the fossil car to electric car.

Unfortunately, there was no binding agreement in Copenhagen, but for the first time, all world leaders agreed on the 2C goal – that the global temperature not exceed two degrees Celsius of warming.

“This allows for further work with an internationally binding climate agreement,” said a disappointed Hauge at the time.

Cancun, Mexico (2010) COP16

In collaboration with Global CCS Institute and other partners, Bellona arranged workshops on, among other things, CO2 management, carbon-negative energy and the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico.

Among the participants in events at the Bellona room were Lord Nicholas Stern, the professor behind the Stern report, Japan’s chief negotiator Kunihiko Shimada and the director of Mexico’s Department of the Environment, Adrian Fernandez.

Durban, South Africa (2011) COP17

In Durban, “The Bellona Room” was strategically located between the meeting rooms of the EU and the United States.

In collaboration with the Global CCS Institute and other partners, Bellona arranged workshops on, among other things, CCS, carbon-negative energy and financing of the Green Climate Fund, which was agreed to during the climate negotiations in Cancun the year before.

Among the participants in the events in the Bellona room were former US Vice President and climate activist Al Gore (via live video link) and then-Norwegian Minister of the Environment and Development Erik Solheim.

CCS as climate technology – a central theme

While in closed negotiation rooms there were intense debates among the nation states as to whether CCS should be part of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), the conversations in the corridors and in the conference rooms were just as central. Hauge was invited by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Climate to speak at an event on carbon capture and storage (CCS) during COP17.

“Not accepting that CCS is a key solution in the climate fight is the same as not taking global warming seriously,” said the Bellona leader in a somewhat heated debate with both CCS supporters and skeptics at the European Commission’s event.

Great opportunities in the sea

Sustainable marine biomass production was on the agenda when Bellona held a debate in the Bellona room in Durban.

“Marine biomass has an enormous theoretical potential internationally, and can be a key solution in future climate agreements,” said Hauge at the event..

Doha, Qatar (2012) COP18

“The latest climate research is alarming, but the world’s political leaders are unable to deliver a good enough result. The meeting reminds me of a failed housing association meeting where different blocks and entrances clash with each other in emotional, confined patterns,” said a frustrated Frederic Hauge, who asked himself whether climate summits in the future would even be the right arena for cuttting greenhouse gas emissions at the pace the world needs.

However, the most talked about attraction of the Qatar climate negotiations was one hour away from the Qatar National Convention Center. It was the Sahara Forest Project’s 10,000 square meter pilot facility.

“Three years ago, we launched the Sahara Forest Project at the climate negotiations in Copenhagen. Bellona has always had a dream of securing food, water and sustainable energy for the earth’s growing population. Now this has become a reality,”  an exuberant Hauge told researchers, business organizations and journalists.

The Sahara Forest Project (SFP), of which Bellona is a co-founder, is one of the world’s most innovative climate solutions. SFP uses what we have a lot of; salt water, sun, desert and CO2 to create what we need more of: clean energy, fresh water, vegetation and food. The interplay between environmental technologies creates green jobs through profitable food production, while also providing fresh water and sustainable energy.

The UN’s 18th climate summit after the Rio Convention in 1992 ended with around 7000 government representatives from a total of 192 countries finally reaching an agreement: The Kyoto agreement from 1997 was extended in a new phase from 2013-2020. The only problem was that the agreement only covered 15 percent of the current climate emissions in the world.

Paris, France (2015) COP21

There were high expectations for the climate summit in Paris. Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende, Minister of Climate and Environment Tine Sundtoft , Kristin Halvorsen from CICERO, Fredric Hauge from Bellona and Svein Tore Holsether from Yara presented their joint collaboration during COP21 in Oslo before departing for the summit. UN Climate Change Director Christiana Figueres was present and praised the initiative.

“This collaboration is an example of Norwegian leadership and a role model for the rest of the world,” Figueres said.

It was later Figueres who took the podium in Paris with the news that world leaders had agreed and signed a historic climate agreement with the overarching goal that the earth’s temperature should not exceed 2 Celsius degrees, and one should strive to stay below a 1.5 degree Celsius increase.

Marrakesh, Morocco (2016) COP22

The aim of COP22 was to be action-oriented, with the hope that it would contribute to the fulfillment of the Paris Agreement through implementation of effective national emissions policies, the mobilization of funds, the strengthening of adaptation measures, and technological development. More than ever, the climate challenge needed close cooperation, increased emphasis on the sharing of knowledge and more rapid implementation and industrialization of sustainable climate solutions.

“COP22 in Marrakesh must be a climate summit in the spirit of action, the key word is “action”, Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende said when he opened an event where we presented the Norwegian plans.

A major concern during the 2016 climate summit was the role of the United States after Trump was elected president.

“The world does not have time for four years with a climate denier as president of the United States,” said Hauge. He feared large coal subsidies and the reversal of important climate laws and believed that it was absolutely crucial for China and the EU to take the lead.

Bonn, Germany (2017) COP23

The climate summit in Bonn was largely about maintaining the momentum of the Paris Agreement. Bellona was present and arranged events on, among other things, CCS and electrification of the transport sector.

Katowice, Poland (2018) COP24

When the climate negotiations began in 2018, the United States, as we feared after the election, was on its way out of the Paris Agreement, and President Donald Trump was hampering research on climate change.

In advance of the summit,  Bellona invited the Center for American Progress’s John Podest –  who was Barack Obama’s former climate strategist had served as chief of staff in the Clinton White House ­– to Oslo and Brussels to discuss these challenges.

The message to the EU from Bellona and Podesta was clear: Meet the dangers created by Trump by taking the lead in the world to fight climate change.

Madrid, Spain (2019) COP25

The climate summit in Madrid failed to bring about the necessary progress in international cooperation. Critical issues – such as Article 6 dealing with carbon markets – had already been postponed at COP24 and were not resolved this time either.

“It is a great disappointment that the work of establishing an international collaboration on climate damage mitigation is now further delayed, said Bellona’s head of department, Christian Eriksen at the time.

Glasgow, Scotland (2021) COP26

On Wednesday October 13th, the Bellona Environmental Foundation, in collaboration with the City of Oslo, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Aker Horizons and the Sahara Forest Project, arranged meeting in Oslo City Hall to present our program at the UN climate summit in Glasgow.

Bellona’s expectations of the negotiations in Glasgow are to put in place a strengthened commitment to the Paris Agreement, which will be the start of an acceleration towards the world achieving the UN’s sustainability goals by 2030.

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