COP 14 Day 3 – 3rd December 2008
The difference between GEF and Geoff
I generally avoid the main plenary sessions which are simply a stream of timed speeches by the country representatives. But I also feel an obligation to sit in and get a sense of where the mood of the meeting is going. Given the brilliant wireless broadband coverage, I and most of the others in the hall are logged on and doing real work and it is easy to get absorbed in our laptop worlds. But the UN has created a central fund – the Global Environment Facility – which has a key role to play in addressing climate change. Unfortunately, in this UN world of acronyms, GEF is pronounced identically to Geoff. Anyone filming me with my translation headphones on would spot the occasional head-jerk reaction as I hear my name called out by governments around the world. I have a meeting with the COP President in the morning and I am toying with the idea of asking him to request a change of title to Joint Investment Monies. His limited English may let the acronym slip unnoticed into the UN vocabulary – and I will be able to get on with my daily work undisturbed. Sorry, COP-attending Jims!
STOP PRESS 1: Talking to the head of the US Press Corp yesterday, I was given a card with the email address for any enquiries of the State Department: I have just noticed that it is firstname.lastname@example.org. Any chance that their spam box is fuller than mine? I feel slightly guilty using AOL for professional email and definitely leave Yahoo to my children. How did I get it so wrong?
STOP PRESS 2: For avid followers of Non-Annex 1 Communications (you should be, according to Yvo de Boer on Monday) there is a new document released: FCCC/SBI/2007/10/Add.1,FCCC/SBI/2007/MISC.7,Adds.1-2, FCCC/CP/CP2008/2. That should do the trick for the sleep deprived. And I thought my filenames were complicated……..
From Wild Sheep to Aesculapian Snake
A late night email alerted us to a room change. The BINGO numbers are putting pressure on space and we now have a bigger room. The reports on the previous day’s meetings are, however, extremely helpful and un-biased. This is the business community interests group, but there is a genuine sense of wanting to be a proactive player in constructive and positive outcomes. As one of the staffers described it, a few years ago there were many climate deniers in the business group who saw their role as champions of reason against the climate fanatics. I will attend the RINGO meeting tomorrow and compare. I don’t expect to see a great difference in tone. The BINGOS, however, will probably have the edge in reviewing and monitoring more methodically.
Not much to choose between Bush and Obama…apparently
I have footage I took on video of the rout of the US delegation in Bali which I should have put on YouTube. The brilliant, Harvard educated Kevin Conrad speaking for Papua New Guinea made a final plea for the US to back down from their intransigence as the conference ran over time. The hall applauded his intervention and the US delegation went into a huddle, bruised by the humiliation of (undiplomatic) boos from the assembled nations and observers when they vetoed a final motion a few minutes before. The US relented – and the relatively minor change (minor in practice, but major in principle) was carried.
Given the impending change in US administration, I was keen to see how the US delegation was handling the transition. On the US desk was a young woman, part of the delegation (but a sub-contractor: they outsource many things including their email management – see Yahoo reference above). Having grilled her relentlessly over the credibility of her briefing (‘we are here to keep all options open for the incoming administration’), she looked highly relieved to be joined by the head of the US press corp. Presented with the same challenge, she was completely on brief (‘we are here to keep all options open for the incoming administration’). I was assured that a transcript of the previous day’s press briefing by the US delegation would be on-line within two hours. Having spotted the Yahoo connection I was worried it might not have made it to me and emailed for the latest status. To be fair, I received a reply 15 hours later and got my transcript two hours after that. At this point, I have to be honest: I went to the stand again and the same two delegates were there and seemed genuinely pleased to see me. In fact, all of the US delegates I have spoken to are really open and friendly and (though they cannot say it) seem relieved that the change in President no longer requires them to defend the indefensible.
Any observations on the transcript of the press conference are, therefore, no reflection on the current US team.
1. The US have taken an active role in methane mitigation.
2. The US have also been active in connecting the Montreal Protocol into the climate debate since ‘ozone friendlier’ substances have high global warming potential.
1. ‘’….we need all Parties to the Convention involved, particularly major developing economies.”
2. “It is unclear here whether we’ll be able to get an agreement on a long-term goal. That remains to be seen.”
And on their differences with Obama: “..and so once again, I would say, don’t look so much at the differences domestically, I’m saying on the international scene, there’s broad–based agreement. With that, I think we’ll wrap up.”
The next 10 days will be interesting to see how consistent these messages are.
On re-reading the script, there is another positive for the US. They lay claim, rightly, to introducing the need for adaptation at the Delhi conference in 2002. I was at that meeting and reported after it that the US were hell-bent on shifting from mitigation to adaptation (in other words, keep emitting and spend our money – as promoted by Bjorn Lomberg and others – on coping with rather than avoiding climate change). History shows that adaptation was a significant missing component of the Kyoto Protocol and America’s insistence has moved it up the agenda. Those most threatened by the effects of climate change may have cause to give grudging appreciation to the country most responsible for the change itself.
Global democracy at work
I visited the Environmental Change Institute (ECI) stand and it dawned on me that the smallest organisations get the same stand space here as the largest countries. As you can see, the public face of ECI is at least as visible as the US (and often busier!).