A year in Climate Talks

This has been a tough year for the climate. While most NGOs blogs are providing their end of the year wrap ups of the last COP, the lay press have already deemed COP 19 as a failure- a term used to describe most COP’s these days. I actually contributed to one of these evaluations for the Climate Change and Human Rights Working Group. From my vantage point (at Warsaw for the COP), of course there was a lot left to be desired, but also movement forward- which can sometimes be hard to see through the protests, despondent YOUNGO’s, and corporate branding.

Warsaw was a welcome change from the June Intercessional in Bonn when Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine stalled the whole proceedings under the Subsidiary Body for implementation (SBI). Russia was overruled on a procedural issue at the end of the COP 18 in Doha and decided to take their dissatisfaction into the next negotiating round. To have been there was excruciating. All we could do was sit and wait, of course we always sit and wait, but this was much worse. And everyone- from every other nation were getting pissed. Not just “disgruntled at the process” pissed, but really angry that a few people would hold all the rest of the process hostage over something that happened 6 months back. This was how I handled it:


Ok, yes it got snarky, but not as bad as my FB.


Yes, yes, that last one was pretty uncalled for, but the frustration was really bottling up by that point, I eventually had to leave after spending a lot of money for nothing. And it was that last part that really stung, not just my money, but the waste of money from all of the smaller nations that could barely afford to send a delegation in the first place. THIS meeting was a failure in that we never even got started.

But, back to COP 19. Yes there was fighting; yes there were protests (by both civil society and the LDC’s); but there were also TALKS. Late talks, even all-nighters where delegates from small nations slept all day in order to combat the tag-teaming that the larger delegations used to wear out the smaller (and of course) poorer delegations. Call it what it is- unfair tactical diplomacy, but in the end compromises were made and the ball was eventually moved forward on ambition for mitigation, the Clean Development Mechanism, Gender, Loss and Damage, and REDD+. Yes, some of these gains were modest, but they were- in fact- gains. And that is what I’d like to keep in mind. I realize that the urgency of the issue is much larger than the gains that came of it. However, the world cannot change overnight, and I am still proud to be part of the process. I want things to move faster too, but slow progress is not failure; failure is stagnation- and we’re not there yet.


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