When the last gavel came down in Poznan this December, around 2:30 in the morning, it marked the end of my tenth week at the UN climate talks. From Nairobi to Bonn to Bali and back to Bonn I have tried to digest and process the enormity of it all - to understand the klimapolitik that inevitably drives it. Now that I'm finally back in the office, tilting quixotically at the windmills of my inbox, I'll try to tie the experience together. I'll try here, probably over several posts, to put COP14 in a broader context as we enter the home stretch to Copenhagen. Poznan has made me both more afraid and more hopeful than ever that this process will deliver.
First Final Impressions
Ever since I began my involvement with the UNFCCC process I have never doubted that something inspiring would happen in the end, that I would be there at that historic moment when countries finally put aside their national and geopolitical interests and rallied together to protect the world's most vulnerable people and it's most vulnerable generation: us. That moment quickly became pegged as December 2009, when the world would untie at COP-15 in Copenhagen to deliver a broad, ambitious and fair deal to follow after Kyoto in 2012. Now that doubt is looming large.
My faith in this power never flinched in Bali when we stayed up all night, phoning politicians, standing outside closed doors, lobbying delegates to give us a Bali breakthrough. Even when the US and Canada tried to block parts of the deal in the risky showdown of the final plenary I was confident they would not prevail. I am not so confident now.
If anything, Poznan has taught us that greed is still king.
This close to the critical Copenhagen moment it is particularly troubling. There has been very little indication that industrialised countries are willing to do much of anything, particularly to help the developing world. The incessant citation of 'national circumstances' made the conference something like a sad puppy contest, rather than a show of Annex I leadership. Pity us! We can't afford it! Oh, look, I just pooed on the floor. But I'm so cute!!!!! Meanwhile, the nations that are already bearing the brunt of climate change today are being called on to do more and more, without any commitment of finance or support or even a stronger package to help them adapt to the high "costs" our emissions are visiting on them. It's pathetic.
Will this change in time for Copenhagen, as I had always assumed it would? I am absolutely certain it will not, of its own accord. But the strength and energy of the youth at this conference, our show of solidarity will small-island states and least-developed countries, our ability to reach the public in every corner of the world, has given me something new to believe in. "Yes someone can!" seems to be the mantra of uninterested countries. It is our job to tell every government, particularly the heads-in-bottoms wealthy ones like our own, that someone is them. Only then can this process deliver.
Can we "afford" any other outcome?