So what actually happens at UN climate talks? Well I can tell you one thing,
A lot of talking… and not so much listening!
The talks opened this morning as they always do with a plenary session. That’s when all the countries sit behind their name plaques in big long rows, along with many other observers in the room, some of us even sitting on the floor. A panel sits on the stage and open the talks then lots of different groups and countries make statements from their chairs. Mostly it happens in English, though I did get excited this morning when Bolivia started speaking and we all had to put on our headphones and listen to the translation! It’s a good job we did too as from what I understood Bolivia basically said that they want to get rid of the draft text we have on the table and start writing all over again! This is something quite a few countries are also asking for. With so few months left until Copenhagen things could really get scary if this is called for more and they are listened to.
I also enjoyed plenary today when Russia got politely asked not to speak for so long next time! It was like being at school but everyone was being over polite! Then there was some ‘banter’ over how long their statement had been in relation to the EU’s, it seems even the UN can have in-jokes!
But the highlight of the plenary was when, after a representative spoke for the Alliance of Small Island States, led by the youth and with a few other participants, a round of applause was given for what they had to say (this is definitely not normal behaviour in these kind of meetings). The Alliance of Small Island States are…well exactly that! A group of small islands who group together to get their voice heard on a global scale! So evidently they have a huge amount to loose if these negotiations do not come up with a good deal. The basic points of their speech today were that time is running out. They are already experiencing the impacts of climate change and for them any deal is a matter of survival! Insufficient actions on mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology, will undermine their existence. For them the agreements will not be just words, but LIFE! (Thanks must go to Andrea who was taking much better notes than me at this point!)
So I hope I gave you a bit of an idea about how these talks work in real life. Basically a few people were saying good stuff this morning… and a few not so good.
But what I really wonder as I think back over the session, is how much any of them were really listening to each other. It seems to me that we’ve all put our plates on the table and no one wants, or is willing, to move. When someone is pleading for their countries mere survival how can you seriously listen and then not respond with action!
Which begs the question…why we call them negotiations at all?