it may as well be gobbledeegook

3 days in and how are we feeling? How far have we got?

I cannot believe how tired I am when we have only been 3 days! We have been chasing people, and constantly trying to think of ways to get round the many obstacles that keep popping up, like Sam losing all his clothes; how can we make our FIG survey more accessible; does that question lead the interviewees; how can we get the delegates attention for 5 minutes….but I should be ashamed because essentially we are a delegation of 2, just like Barbados, just like the Democratic Republic of Congo and many others who have been here for 8 days of negotiating. They must be tired to the bone because they have to concentrate on minute details of text so boring you wouldn’t believe it was possible. The youth constituency’s focal points have been here the whole time too, facilitating the participation of youth in this process, and they are dog-tired from speaking to the police and the secretariat about youth actions, coordinating millions of meetings between youth and many important people, including the soon to be Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC Christina Figures; the kind of tired that even the success of making youth campaign history in the negotiations can’t prevent.

Despite this however, we have collected over 10 completed surveys and are waiting to hear back from a mere 180 countries whose pigeon holes we have each stuck a survey in! We have emailed NGO members of the delegations to see if they can push their delegation to fill it out for us because NGO types tend to be more sympathetic to a fellow non-government person. Now the plan is to try to get ourselves some coverage by the paper bulletins that each delegate picks up every morning on their way in to get their fix of secondary commentary on the negotiations, wish us luck, it’s unlikely to happen!

All these things, coupled with the simple reality of these talks that I walk headlong into every time I come-that is that they dare not move in case they do actually save the planet-is pretty wearing. It is hard to convey to delegates that if they fill in our dry and boring survey, they could just be a bit better off in a years time.

The aim of FIG is that we collect all the evidence for the reason why we had to support delegations like Kiribati in Copenhagen in the first place. We offered our support unconditionally, i.e we would do whatever they asked, but the main thing they needed us for was taking minutes. It occurred to us that to be sending these minutes to only 1 delegation was highly inefficient when so many more delegations were/are in need of the same service.

But why should we fill the gap?

We say that minutes are a primary source of information that directly affects delegations negotiating positions, therefore, everyone should be able to access the same information by being able to read exactly who said what in all the negotiations. As it is the only minutes are webcasts that take hours to watch because it’s live streaming of the actual negotiations! Large delegations have civil servants to take notes in each session which they can use, but they don’t share them.

If everyone can see who said what, it means they can’t go back on what they said without it going unnoticed; new negotiators can see the history of decisions were adopted rather than the current system of identifying the proposal and the outcome-but nothing in between. I would have thought this was a basic requirement that the secretariat of the UN could fulfill which would improve the inequity of the process twofold:

1) small delegations could catch up with all the details of the meetings they couldn’t physically go to without having to watch the webcasts.

2) Those  same delegations could then participate more fully because they’re more likely to understand what’s going on and thus iron grip of the developed countries over this process may be slackened minutely…

I jump to conclusions though, our survey, which you can have a look at here, asks the delegates about gaps in information they experience, in all its forms, so we might be entirely wrong about the transcripts. We’ll just have to see.

Je ne comprend pas

Another pretty shocking thing we have noticed is that the banks of translation booths, which are normally left by the wayside in the smaller meeting rooms, have been empty even in the main plenary hall!

What’s that about eh?

Don’t worry we’re on the case, especially as many of the delegates we have surveyed already, mention that language does hamper their participation. C’mon UN please don’t fall apart just as the delegates might start to get their acts together!


One day to go

Only one day to go before myself and Isabel hop on the coach to Cologne then grab the train to Bonn. Its going to be a long one but flying’s an absolute no brainer, not going to happen. Still plenty of time to read and write and get up to date. I’m looking forward to getting there and getting stuck in. Also to meeting all the other youth delegates doing inspiring things.

It seems like there is allot for us to document when it comes to this idea of an information gap. We have been following the talks in a variety of ways. The Climate Action Network newsletters are helpful and give a good feel for the trend of the negotiations, the Earth Negotiations bulletin emails are more informative about actual negotiations but are much more technical in their language and often require some background knowledge (especially of all the acronyms commonly used!). To really get an idea of what the ENB are talking about it’s really worth having a quick gander at the UNFCCC website where beginners guide documents all the way up to the negotiating text may be found. The guides can be found here. I guess its like anything though, if you want to put in some reading you can do it and get up to speed. It’s just knowing what to read and where to get the latest updates when not there personally. At the moment we are trying to create a list of all the different websites that follow and report on the negotiations. There must be hundreds. We think its worth finding them and evaluating their use when it comes to keeping on top of negotiations both for civil society like us and for delegations. We can then hopefully create a guide to getting started, and staying informed.

There was another interesting piece in yesterdays Earth Negotiation bulletin that caught my eye. During the subsidiary Body for Scientifica and Technical Advice ( see for explanation of SBSTA) RESEARCH DIALOGUE session:

“John Padgham, Global Change SysTem for Analysis,
Research and Training (START), discussed science policy
dialogues aiming to foster better communication between
scientists and policy makers in developing countries, stressing
the importance, inter alia, of: addressing capacity and
knowledge gaps; improving access to data; using integrated
inter-sectoral planning; and enhancing communication pathways”

Remember our project Filling Information Gaps? Well its all about finding out where countries are disadvantaged by lack of information. Yesterday we heard from Kiribati that small island states feel that information is not getting to them fast enough. Today this statement highlights that fact that information gaps are not just related to negotiations, they are also scientific. Different countries have access to different mitigation technology, or different regions may have higher resolution climate models (i.e. rich regions such as UK – Hadley Centre, and the US – NASA) the list goes on. Knowledge affects not only the negotiating position of parties but also their capacity to adapt to climate change. For this reason technology transfer is a big part of these negotiations (more on this in a later post).