Saturday, 19 December 2009

24hrs@COP15: A day in the life of a climate change negotiator

Lisa Williams-Lahari, Climate Pasifika Media

Friday 18 December 2009, COPENHAGEN--In week two of the COP15, Climate Pacific asked a few women negotiators here to document a 24 hour period starting from 6am Wed to 6am Thurs 16th. The women were assigned a key task: to note their whereabouts and environment whenever they found time throughout the day, in an effort to bring us into the world of some of the most important lobbyists on the planet.
WHO: DIANE McFadzien: WWF International Programme Coordinator, Asia Pacific International Policy Coordinator, Cook Islander. 

6am, Wed 15th December
I was still in the LCA plenary - barely awake. The plenary had not even started until nearly 5am, after a night of endless waiting and then closed room discussions within the group of 77 - all because larger polluters (US and China) were not willing to comit to actions to reduce GHG's in a way that would have a real benefit to the atmosphere). Am waiting for Cook Islands to to make an intervention on the LCA adaptation text.
6.45am: walking through the cold winds, out to the nearest taxi rank, to get home - after a straight 24 hour working session.
7am: Am stuck in rush hour Danish traffic. It's ironic. I'm trying to get home to SLEEP, but fighting traffic from all the Danes trying to start their working day.
11am: Got out of bed after only 3.5 hours sleep, and got ready to go to the Bella center...but, was warned by friends that there was a demonstration going out on outside and that it would be difficult to get back in. So - watched the demonstration on TV, while watching the COP plenary via webcast on my lap top, from the warmth of our apartment. The TV footage confirmed NGO's were protesting the removal of civil society groups from the process - lots of drama, police, dogs, heliopters, batons and tear gas. And all the while it snowed outside.
Meanwhile, on the webcast via internet, I watched the plenary where the Danish presidency dropped 2 bomb shells:
1) resignation of Connie as President of COP, to be replaced by PM Rasmussen, the same man who flew from meeting to meeting, around the world, in advance of the COP, watering down ambition levels of governments, and the same man who held a breakfast meeting with APEC countries in Singapore, in November and told them all that it was not possible to get a legally binding deal! 2) the Danish president announced that he would be puttng a text on the table as the basis for further negotiation (which caused great confusion and uproar amongst parties, especially those from develpoing countries, as they wondered where that left the text that they had worked on for two years. It also made us all wonder - why the hell did we stay up until 7am trying to get this text passed the night before, if the Danish PM was now going to throw it all off the table and start with his own anyway?
Many agitated comments from G77 countries followed these announcements.
1pm: Managed to get into the Bella center - but had to get off one train stop later than normal (normal stop was closed due to demonstrations) and walked through snow flurries to get into the conference venue. Two words. Bloody freezing.
3pm: Waiting to find out what the heck is happening. Nobody (govts, NGO's alike) seemed to have any sense of what was going on. Rumors were flying. Climate Action Network mailing lists were working over time, and my phone was beeping constantly with rumors being sent in from NGO contacts. Negotiation drafting groups had all closed down, and the only 'negotiations' going on now were the non- transparent bilaterals behind closed doors - ie countries lobbying each other individually to talk about where to from here. Everybody trying to find out what was contained in the Danish text.
6pm: Really fed up with all the waiting, and starting to get tired again. Still no answers on when the plenary would happen, what was in the Danish text, who had even seen it, or how the meeting would proceed from here on in.
8pm: Realised that both the Tuvalu and Cook Islands PM's were about to speak. Found that the nearest CCTV screen to the WWF office was in the EU pavillion - not sure if non EU people were allowed there, watched both speeches via TV (Isn't it ironic that due to security measures we were locked out of the plenary where these speeches were being made, and they were presenting to EMPTY ROOMS? I could see all the empty seats in the plenary on the TV). Tuvalu's speech was especially moving. It really made me think about all that Tuvalu had done for us this last week - sticking their necks right out there, trying to ensure a legally binding agreement - while all the time being subject to so much negative pressure (sent a text to Ian to congratulate them, once the PM's speech was over). Watched our own PM on TV also - and thought the drafting team did a great job.
10pm: COP plenary finally started. Finally, it was confirmed that we would go back to the text that Parties had spent the last two years negotiating and that work (ie negotiations) would resume again tomorrow.
12pm (midnight) went to join my NGO colleagues who were strategising in the AOSIS office. NGO's are now pretty much locked out of the process. WWF, GP and Oxfam decided to stage a peaceful 'sit in'. Not a formal action, but decided that as a sign of solidarity we would work in the building until asked to leave. Isn't it ironic that the very Convention that allows civil society access to these UN meetings was actually signed in DENMARK - the first country which has had such terrible NGO access to these meetings?
2am: Finally got into bed - was delayed at the train station for 30 mins, due to delays on the train line. Was also freezing cold, as when we got out at 1.30am (considered an EARLY NIGHT!) I was shocked to find that a real BLIZZARD was going on - snow everywhere, and my foot wear was not really so good for this, so was sliding about all over the place. The train delay didn't make things better either. We had to stand on the open platform, exposed to the wind. It was made better by NGO friends from Brazil and India who where there too so we managed to huddle!
6am Thursday: Alarm went off - time to get up again -- but turned it off and decided that for once I was taking the second not the first shower out of the five of us in this apartment. We share a great apartment, but keep strict shower schedules! ENDS