Climate diplomats pay tribute to Pete Betts, EU negotiator who helped land Paris Agreement

Betts was the EU’s chief negotiator when the Paris Agreement was signed. He has died a year after being diagnosed with cancer.

Pete Betts, a veteran British climate negotiator and one of the architects of the Paris Agreement, has died aged 64.

His 35-years-long career in the UK civil service culminated in him taking on the role of the EU’s lead negotiator – at a time when the UK was still in the EU.

Widely praised for his ability to build bridges and challenge entrenched positions, Betts is credited by some as having laid the foundations of the Paris Agreement.

“He had a huge influence on international negotiations”, recalls Kaveh Guilanpour, who worked closely with Betts for nearly a decade. “If Pete had not been involved, it is questionable whether the Paris Agreement would have happened at all. He put in place the conditions to rescue the climate process at a critical time.”

Spain’s deputy prime minister Teresa Ribera, Germany’s deputy climate envoy Norbert Gorissen, the UK’s Cop26 president Alok Sharma and Venezuelan ambassador to Belgium Claudia Salerno Caldera were among many tweeting tributes.

“One thing I do hope: I led the EU climate negotiating team for 6 years,including in Paris.I always served the EU loyally.I hope that the EU and the UK can be close partners.Somehow we need to build a new relationship”.
Pete Betts
Bye bye, dear friend
Txs for all.We’ll miss you

— Teresa Ribera 🌹 (@Teresaribera) October 21, 2023

Bridging divisions

Betts’ behind-the-scenes efforts were credited with putting international climate diplomacy back on track after the disappointment of the Copenhagen Cop in 2009, when countries failed to agree on basic targets to cut emissions.

As disillusionment began setting in, a small group of negotiators, including Betts, set up the Cartagena Dialogue, a network designed to help developed and developing countries heal deep divisions on tricky issues.

The initiative became one of Betts’ proudest achievements, as he himself told the Outrage and Optimism podcast earlier this year.

So sorry to hear the news about Pete Betts, a masterful diplomat and relentless force for climate ambition.

Here is two pics from how I will remember him, in full flow at Paris with


— guynewey (@guynewey) October 23, 2023

“We didn’t always agree, but we trusted the other side enough to know that if they said something, it was because they had reasons to say it and you had to listen,” Betts said. “And when you did listen, it was amazing how often you found common ground. Either you ended up being convinced by the other side or you could find win-win solutions”.

Road to Paris

In the lead-up to the Paris agreement, Betts played a role in the creation of a group calling themselves the ‘High Ambition Coalition’, founded by the Marshall Islands in 2014 to make sure the Paris Agreement was as ambitious as possible.

When the gavel eventually came down the following year to mark the approval of the landmark treaty, Betts was in the EU negotiator’s seat.

V sad to learn about the passing of Pete Bet

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