What a week it has been. On Friday 2 October the mood in the UN conference centre was weary. The queue in the coffee shop swelled as the bags under most people’s eyes almost equalled the size of the lap top they clung to, as government delegates and observers alike, rushed from one meeting to the next.
The afternoon of the end of week one was filled with “stock-take sessions”, one for each of the two negotiating groups (Kyoto Protocol and Long Term Co-operative Agreement). They were aimed at groups reporting their progress back to the chair and determining where the focus of the coming week should lie. As I sat in on the sessions I thought to myself, for all of the hard work everyone has been doing, for all of the lack of sleep and endless meetings, have we moved anywhere? Or are we all sprinting helter skelter on a treadmill?
Sure, some progress has been made tinkering around the edges but there has been no movement on the core issues. This is particularly disappointing, not just given the ticking clock, but given that last week during the New York UN climate summit, we heard statements from various Heads of State, calling for the world to act with urgency to address the mounting challenge of climate change.
As developing countries made passionate statements in the stock-take session calling on developed countries to act with the level of ambition science demands, developed countries continued to restate their current (and largely unambitious) positions.
Here is a comment from Gabon: “While we waste time negotiating in here without any real progress, developing countries are already facing the impacts of climate change. We should not be wasting our time negotiating selfish proposals that are dangerous for our planet.”
Powerful stuff, but apparently not enough.
Australia, amongst other developed countries, restated the same position we have heard for months now: “We are striving towards a strong 2012 outcome…. in the context of a strong global deal will cut our emissions by 25% on 2000 levels by 2020.”
In the context of other countries, Australia’s position isn’t too bad, it’s a bit behind the EU, and bit ahead of NZ (and a lot ahead of Canada, but when your PM prioritizes donuts over climate change you clearly have an issue!!) BUT, in the context of global science and reality of climate impacts, the positions of these countries are weak and spell a blue print for disaster.
The chair of the Kyoto Protocol track finished the session by questioning the delegates where the political ambition expressed by heads of states in New York had ended up? As he certainly couldn’t see it in the halls of Bangkok. He said that it was time for everyone to stop playing an elaborate negotiating game and really get stuck into the core issues, otherwise, come Copenhagen they would simply be a laughing stock with nothing to show for all their hard work.
The statement from Gabon and the Chair are both heartening, but even though I am new to this process, I can say with all honesty that I have heard them before, and they are certainly not new or unknown.
What will it take in order for the reality of human experience and scientific evidence to break through the outskirts of the negotiations and instead shape work on the core issues of targets and finance? Because at the moment, they clearly seem to be missing in action.
Yesterday morning (Saturday) the Adopt A Negotiator team had the absolute pleasure of a meeting with the UN climate change negotiations chief, Yvo de Boer, who we like to affectionately call chief negotiator tracker!! This is what Yvo had something to say about the stock-take session: he called it the “Nirvana of recycling” he said that the statements made on Friday were largely the one and the same as he had been hearing for at least the last 5 years. A time saver for speech writers I suppose, but clearly a frustrating and time wasting loss for the planet.
Thankfully you and I know that these negotiations are not the only actions to save the world from dangerous climate change (although sometimes trapped in this bubble removed from the reality of life it feels like it to me!!)
We, the people of the world, are even more powerful than this negotiating process. No one denies that achieving a global climate deal is a hard task, but to get there we must be at the forefront of demonstrating to our leaders that a safe future is the only future we will accept. No matter what your passion, skills and interest you can do this. Whether you feel at home chatting to your local talk back radio host, marching through the streets, writing music or performing comedy, you can add your voice to the swell of call for truly ambitious climate action.
The climate must change and together we can do it.