business as usual – onset of final spurt at the 19th UN climate conference

Rumors were around for a while but the confirmation reached me during a side-event about lessons to learn from the Montreal protocol: the polish environmental minister was fired. News that doesn’t seem relevant to climate talks at first glance become interesting knowing that he is COP president. Only in late afternoon it was clear that he will pursue his responsibilities in international climate negotiations. The question, what would happen if suddenly the presidents’ post was vacant makes me pay attention to procedures. It takes a while to understand a speakers point in plenary meetings. A speaker first thanks the chair for the invitation to speak, than conference organizers are lauded for their hospitality. Many nations group in interest clusters that work on common positions and speakers refer to each other’s statements. Subsequently speakers praise their countries efforts in combating climate change and stress the relevance of the topic. Only after that the actual point is made. The less ambitious a country is the more it points out its own efforts and the bloomier the words are going to be. The presidency doesn’t consist only of one person but I was wondering how a job post would look like:

World climate is looking for a President for climate summit at the earliest. World climate is a trend never seen in human history influencing each and every one. This rapidly increasing phenomenon is urgently seeking for advocates. The future president will have to unite the entire diversity of national interests and guide negotiations to an agreement that represents the only chance to preserve the earth viable for human beings. We expect passion, respect of procedures and the ability to deal with frustration.

Obviously especially this COP presidency does not fulfill this requirement. The extent of inclusion of corporate interests outcompetes even the last years COP in Qatar. It is hard to imagine that a conference host that blocks ambitious European policy as much as possible will foster progress in climate negotiations with the assertiveness that would be necessary in order to soften rusty negotiation.
The absence of progress fatigues negotiators and it frustrates representatives of the civil society even more. At least $100 billion annually was promised by developing countries but neither they were ready to provide major funding for mitigation nor for adaptation not to talk about compensation for loss and damage caused by climate change. Germany even increased its greenhouse gas emissions; Canada will continue tar sand exploitation. After the last elections, Australia definitely turned into a blocker. Strongly emitting emerging countries don’t feel responsible for climate change mitigation. Those difficult preconditions fall on fertile grounds in an environment of lobbyism hostile to ambitious climate policy.
All this accumulated frustration broke out in a joined action of the majority of the most important NGOs. Their members collectively walked out of the conference building, and showed their disappointment on the front stairs: “Polluters talk – we walk” is written on the white T-shirts of the long line of exiting people. Once they passed by it got clear what they are going to do: working hard on informing their peoples in order to increase pressure on their politicians. On the back passersby’s could read: “we will come back”. NGOs are not going to leave the stage of climate negotiations to lobbyists with single interests: they will continue promoting future.

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