Ever since our hopes of an international climate treaty burst into a ball of accord-tainted flames I have been wondering what it will be like on the corridors of the conference centre in the meetings after Copenhagen. I am curious to know what the mood between the delegates, especially between the north and south will feel like; how many delegates from each country will be attending; and the way the UN secretariat conducts itself.
The hopeful mood of the southern countries in Copenhagen disintegrated into anger aimed squarely at the northern countries who basically took their futures for a joy ride. Anote Tong, President of Kiribati, the small island nation we supported in COP15 said himself that he had started Copenhagen with a sense that the right thing would be done, because the world was watching. Yet come the end of the week when we all sat down to a commiseratory meal together, he could barely speak his anger and frustration ran so deep. It can be compared to a relationship turning sour and recriminatory at the end, where just to stay together becomes poisonous. Has the UNFCCC got to this point? Would it be poisonous to continue pinning hopes of tackling climate change on a multilateral international basis rather than saying enough is enough and every country pursuing bilateral relationships and agreements? Were the Southern countries let down so badly that they can never forgive, or will they live and let die if the developed and powerful countries start to engage humanely in the process and in the relationship? This week we will be testing the waters by roaming the corridors of the Maritim Hotel accosting delegates with a Dictaphone to get their views on how could the process be fairer and what would they need to participate in the negotiations more meaningfully (see FIG).
Sam touched on this before, but how will the Secretariat behave this time? Yvo De Boer, in his position as executive secretary of the UNFCCC Secretariat, is renowned for making clear his frustration with the lack of progress in talks, and encouraging delegates to work together and be constructive in their comments, all under the restrictions of being a diplomat and having no actual power to change or speed up the process. Christina Figures, daughter of three-times President of Costa Rica, and a negotiator for South America herself, has worked on the Kyoto Protocol and knows the process inside out (unlike the Danish PM who failed miserably to grasp the art of diplomacy at the height of COP15); it will be very interesting to see how she copes with having only persuasive powers of speech at her fingertips, rather than actual measures she can impose on the parties. Apparently she is an accomplished public speaker, maybe she will mesmerise and empower the negotiators into action with her inspirational opening speeches….maybe she will immediately command everyone’s respect in the room due to her accomplishments, whatever the truth all eyes are on her to take this forward in a purposeful and meaningful way, especially as her interpretation of meaningful is likely to be the same as many developing countries ambitious positions, we could be in for an exciting ride. Its not just her new face which could excite the hard core UNers, there are many new chairs, most of whom are from developing countries, who are experiencing climate change right now. We’ve got Mama Konaté of Mali, Margaret Mukahanana-Sangarwe of Zimbabwe, Ruleta Camacho of Antigua and Barbuda and Liana Bratasida of Indonesia. Some of whom were also in the running for the Christina’s position. So, we shall see what kind of leadership they bring in their chairing roles, and although we will never know, one wonders if they will let themselves be lobbied in private meetings with unsavoury private sector figures quite as much as their developed country alternative would. Only time will tell.