Copenhagen diary: ‘We are on the Titanic and sinking fast.

Climate chaos0



Such drafts that are emerging are vague in the extreme. By midnight on Tuesday – 72 hours before this whole process is due to wrap up – American negotiators were demanding that all appearances of the world “shall” – which would signify a binding commitment – be replaced by the word “should”.


There is not even agreement on how many agreements there should be. Developing countries – led by China – would like to see an extention of the existing Kyoto protocol. Industrialised countries – such as Japan – would like to see Kyoto scrapped, or folded into a new agreement.


Here is what the representative from the tiny island state of Tuvalu has to say about the progress of negotiations: “I have a feeling of dread that we are on the Titanic and sinking fast, but we can’t get the lifeboats because the president says we don’t need lifeboats.”


Sleep deprivation


There are just 48 hours or so until the end of the talks and the smaller nations are already shattered, beginning to stagger round in deep confusion. One Bolivian ambassador had 40 minutes’ sleep last night and faces dozens of meetings today; an Indian minister says he went to 60 meetings with individual countries yesterday; the G77 negotiators are walking around in a daze. Some say this steroid-style of negotiation is deliberately intended to exhaust and befuddle anyone but the largest delegations. A medical doctor here says: “Confusion is a change in mental status in which a person is not able to think with his or her usual level of clarity. It has multiple causes, including injuries, medical conditions, medications, environmental factors and UN conferences.” That last bit’s a joke.


Forest champion


Good to see MP “Bio” Barry Gardiner, education minister but former minister for bugs, beetles, bluebottles and all other living creatures at the department of the environment. Suitably sporting a spider’s web tie, Gardiner is here with Globe International, a group of legislators from around the world, and he’s deeply concerned about the forest negotiations. “What it needs is bigger payments for early action by countries, incentives and stabilisation”.


Prescott steps in


Stirring stuff today from former environment secretary John Prescott who negotiated the Kyoto treaty by banging heads together in Japan 11 years ago. This morning he was in the Danish parliament taking on the US special envoy on climate change, Todd Stern, for saying emissions is “just maths” and calling on the US to go way beyond the 17% cut on the table. Todd’s comments, Prescott said, “offend anyone with a sense of fairness and certainly goes against the agreed UN principle that governs climate change negotiations”.


Copenhagen online


What exactly are the negotiators and world leaders signing up to in our name and what are the implications? It’s almost impossible for anyone to know. Decisions are being made at a bewildering speed, there is little consultation, no chance to reflect and no way of influencing the process. A new website has just been launched – COP15Planet – which invites groups here in Copenhagen, or around the world, to share their expert opinion. I