Jacob Werksman – Europe’s chief negotiator at the COP

Jacob Werksman is the Principal Advisor for International Aspects of European Climate Policy in the EU Commission’s Directorate-General for Climate Policy.

He is one of the three key officials negotiating for the EU at the upcoming climate conference: Jacob Werksman is traveling to Sharm El-Sheikh with Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans as an advisor on international climate law. In the EU Commission, he is the main advisor for the international aspects of European climate policy.

“When I went to law school in the late 1980s, there was no course in international environmental law,” says the US American. After graduation, he came across the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). At the time, the organization was advising developing countries preparing for the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Werksman starts as an intern at CIEL, then stays for ten years. “My colleagues and I were among the first lawyers to practice international environmental law as a separate discipline,” Werksman says.

He stops at the United Nations Development Program, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the World Resources Institute. Then Connie Hedegaard brings him to Denmark to prepare for the 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen. When Hedegaard becomes EU Commissioner, Werksman moves with her to Brussels.

Negotiating at the COP

He now works for Timmermans. Werksman is one of three Chief EU Negotiators at the upcoming climate conference in Egypt. This means that whatever is undecided in the technical committees ends up on his desk before Timmermans negotiates at the ministerial level. For the ministers, there are usually not many decisions left, Werksman says. How many end up at his desk? “Too many.”

In Egypt, Werksman does not expect any groundbreaking, completely new results. Unlike in Glasgow, there will be fewer concrete decisions to negotiate. He said it will be about climate adaptation, damage and loss, and funding for particularly affected poorer nations. “We’re not going to fully resolve any of these issues, but there will be a formal space to find and accelerate solutions,” Werksman says.

Green Deal as revolution

This is the third EU Commission Werksman has worked for. His work changed since the Green Deal came into existence: “For the first time, we no longer had to lobby the other parts of the Commission for climate protection. All of a sudden, we were being asked for advice all the time,” Werksman says. Since then, the entire Commission had to focus on climate protection.

For Werksman, it’s also one of the most important examples of how internationally negotiated goals prevail at the regional and national level – something the international law expert has never seen before: “I don’t think it was ever really appreciated from the outside how revolutionary it was.” Jana Hemmersmeier

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