Welcome to the Matrix

31 May 2021

Dear Delegates,

Did you see the Matrix? The film where humans are plugged into a virtual reality world and think it’s real. In fact, the film was actually first released on June 17! The last day of this intersessionals, 22 years ago – coincidence? Yes, ECO welcomes you to Bonn the Matrix!

ECO read with enthusiasm the Bureau decision which set up the June-SB matrix, as an opportunity to “enhance openness, transparency, and inclusiveness, effective participation and engagement of observers”. ECO will be watching that all informal sessions are by default open to observers. However, for COP to happen in person and in an inclusive manner (some Matrix thing wont work), rich developed countries need to urgently ensure equitable access to vaccines – vaccinating a few delegates diplomats who can jump the cue ahead of frontline workers and vulnerable people does not provide the moral basis we hold this process accountable to.

Delegates! Do not forget the outside world looks to the (virtual) UNFCCC for concrete climate action. You have a choice to decide whether to make real tangible progress or to advance your own political agenda. Yes, ECO is looking at you Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and Russia. 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record. The climate crisis is worsening even as the pandemic continues. Immediate and decisive climate action is imperative.  

“We stand at the edge of the abyss” said the UN Secretary-General. The only difference – this is no movie, this is real.  ECO is very concerned that whereas many countries have delivered new NDCs they are far from closing the mitigation gap that would take us to where we need to be in 2030, with at least 50% emission cuts. And the vast majority of national climate policies and recovery plans fails to adequately tackle the need to move beyond fossil fuels. ECO hopes delegates keep in mind the need for political progress and recognize the current level of mitigation ambition has moved in the right direction and still is dismal.

To help you bring clarity in this confusing virtual space, ECO recommends this CAN briefing for the first Virtual SBs and goes on to some further movies to guide you through these virtual meetings.


There are so many movies and series on finance, ECO wonders which one is most fitting? ECO however sincerely hopes the UNFCCCs 100bn USD won’t resemble Netflix money heist where at the end public money goes missing. As climate-vulnerable nations look to rebuild post-COVID, it is imperative they have access to predictable flows of public finance in order to strengthen social protection, meet the synergistic Sustainable Development Goals, and address losses and damages. 

However, rich countries, especially the G7 who are meeting during this SB, let me remind you: There won’t be a successful COP26 without a clear demonstration that the level of$100bn per year in climate finance support has been met and will also be maintained and surpassed over the coming years. You have a choice, don blow up the plot.

Common Time Frames

ECO wonders whether negotiators like to dance? Surely, you must! ECO sees discussions on common time frames like a dance in LalaLand. Only at COP25, Parties discussed more than 10 different options for common time frames; that’s as if you tried to dance to 10 different songs at the same time. ECO knows that to choose to dance best is to dance the same song. And so, isn’t it time, after years and years of negotiations, that you decide on a single song? Deciding on a single common time frame will enhance the consistency and comparability of the Paris climate regime as well as facilitate the Global Stocktake for the assessment of collective efforts. ECO believes the Paris Agreement will be best served by an upbeat and fast-paced song that ensures Parties harness rapidly evolving real-world opportunities, incentivizes early action, and avoids low-ambition lock-in. ECO expects to be dancing at COP26 to the adoption of an ambitious common time frame, so, at the very least, use this virtual session to narrow down the choices to two or three songs. 

Article 6

In between watching the Seaspiracy documentary, and tracking the article 6 negotiations, ECO has been extremely preoccupied with “nets” since COP25. Without robust article 6 rules, the numerous net-zero announcements we are witnessing are bringing us much closer to net-zero ambition than net-zero emissions.

Don’t get ECO wrong: we must urgently reach net-zero at global level. But the lack of progress on article 6 is leaving the door wide open for all sorts of unrealistic claims using carbon credits. ECO is not optimistic about potential tradeoffs for carbon markets. Cheating, e.g. by double-counting emission reductions, is not something to be negotiated, but something to be prevented. At this point, ECO feels the need to state the obvious: there is no such thing as “no net loophole”.


In the case of the enhanced transparency framework, Parties play the role of both school instructor and diligent student. You must design the exam (common reporting tables, common tabular formats, various report outlines, and a training program) and be prepared to turn it in at the latest by 2024. And there are only a few months to finalize the format of the exam before you hand it over to the students. ECO reminds Parties they can turn to their teaching assistants (the Secretariat) for assistance in preparing the tables, outlines, and training program. 

And as students, ECO knows you’ll want to be sure the exam formats appropriately operationalize flexibility for those that need it, include reporting on Article 6, and include the necessary capacity-building support as available to address the challenges many will have. 

Loss and Damage

Quiz question: what are the three pillars of the Paris Agreement? Mitigation, Adaptation and…. the SB Chairs and the UNFCCC Secretariat do not seem to fully know the answer. ECO is happy to help: Loss and Damage is the third pillar.  Loss and Damage due to climate change impacts is already a reality, most existentially for vulnerable developing countries and communities worldwide and creates a real climate crisis for millions of people. As the third pillar of the Paris Agreement it needs to be included as a permanent agenda item for SBs and COPs. And ECO remembers that last time — in Madrid — rich countries agreed to support vulnerable developing countries in addressing loss and damage by establishing the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage. ECO wonders if anything has happened to concretely support countries. It seems like the only thing to change has been a  record number of internal displacements related to climate catastrophes last year (30 million people, according to IDMC)

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