palais des nations geneve 2007

Palais des Nations UN Geneve

..that would be a surprise to anyone following the climate debate. The political positions are clear and that’s all that matters at UN. Nevertheless it is worthwhile to have an inside look and thanks to ENB we can do so. ENB, the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), is providing a ‘Reporting Service for Environment and Development Negotiations’. The ENB is funded by several UN member states and normally gives a very good and unbiased description of what is going on in UN meetings. They cover all UN meetings and if you subscribe to their Newsletters it offers an interesting inside view in the UN circus. It is really a circus, there are numerous meetings, not only on climate change but also on biodiversity, managing forests, handling waste, and much much more. Subscribe and be overwhelmed, if not shocked. Also in individual meetings many things are going on, like at COP 19, including parallel sessions, side events, lunch presentations and special sessions such as the CFACT one. This circus is funded by us, taxpayers, so it’s our circus and thanks to ENB we can at least get a feel of what’s going on. Not that this is always interesting reading, but that’s not due to ENB. UN processes, like other international processes are tedious, slow and boring. But that’s not ENB’s fault. They are reporting what’s happening and they do that very conscious and correct.

The UN regular pattern
It may be boring but sometimes it is just fun to watch the circus acting. At least, when you’re able to switch off your critical self for a moment in order to keep your blood pressure under control, and try to see the fun part of it. If for some instances you allow yourself to not realize the tremendous amounts of tax-payers money spent, to not notice that the UN reality is completely separate from reality of life, and to try to delve into the UN world for a while, you might see some fun of it… Well, just try. At least you will be able to grasp a feel of what’s happening. The ENB also reports about the various side events like the Business day and many others. Just explore their website a bit. If you read the COP19 reports you can gradually see the political momentum trickling through, following the individual countries’ positions. Closer to the final days of the meetings the pressure starts building up and positions become more clear. And, as I said, for those following the developments at country level there are no real surprises in the emerging positions. The UN world may be huge and complex with many people attending a myriad of parallel meetings and side events, this pattern is a given and can be recognized time and again. I have practical experience with some of the UN activities around chemicals. Some of those are already huge, for example the Conference of the Parties (COP) for the Stockholm Convention in Geneva with over 800 delegates. But they show the same pattern.

Finally it is all about money
There are technical, ‘scientific’ preparatory meetings in advance. For the UNFCCC meeting the ENB also reported on some of the technical preparatory meetings after AR5, some of which I read out of curiosity. But don’t have any illusions. You will not find any mention of changing views, of discussions on new studies that may challenge the AR5 conclusions, nothing of that! Already in the technical preparation to this UNFCCC meeting there is no sign of science anymore. The UN pattern becomes clear already, and it is all about politics, not science or facts. And like the Stockholm Convention, also the UNFCCC COP19 is driven by the EU, trying to have their political agenda adopted globally. And also here it will finally be a negotiation about money, not a debate on whether action is warranted by the science or not. The EU and those who wish to follow them, against the developing and emerging countries (yes, including China, and rightly so). Telling the developed countries, by definition in a weak position because they want something, that they need funding. The developing countries are gearing up already for these negotiations:

A coalition of developing countries and emerging economies which include China and India, said they were totally opposed to any review of their emission reduction plans. This review system was suggested by the EU to ensure global commitments are in line with the 2°C goal. ‘Industrialised nations must act alone to close any ambition gap that emerges after governments have made their climate pledges in 2014 or 2015’

And there is support from the LMDC coalition: the ‘Like-Minded Developing Countries’,  including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan:

Developing countries should not be subject to the same “onerous” emissions reporting rules as developed countries. The LMDCs set out their position on the planned 2015 climate agreement after the co-chairs of the Durban Platform – the strand of the UN talks working on a global deal – tabled a draft decision on the matter. The draft sets out a loose work plan and a list of “indicative elements” of the future agreement.

Well, for the seasoned readers of UN proza the final outcome is trickling through already. The outcome will be some sort of weak agreement on a procedure describing the intentions and good will for a way forward to come..zzz.. to the outlines of a statement that could describe a decision on…zzzzzzzz…
And last but not least, my favourite section in the ENB is always ‘In the Corridors’. This regular section provides you with an even better feel of what’s (not) happening, don’t miss it!