17 December 2009

news from the inside

The US Climate negotiator seems to be a good guy

It was a very tense day on Wednesday at the Climate Conference as the process stalled. Negotiations were going on behind closed doors, with public plenaries delayed or postponed. There had been a sit down protest all day in the main hall. Officials from UNFCC told an angry crowd (including a non-angry me) that just 300 observers (down from 15,000) will be admitted to the Bella Centre tomorrow and Friday. Apparently nobody has ever staged a meeting like this with 110 heads of state and the security team says the risk is too high and they can’t be distracted by NGO protests. So tomorrow the BioRegional team will all go to the public event Klima Forum where we have a stand. We are not going home till Saturday.

We had another great day of making contacts. We went to an event of the world's Mayors organised by ICLEI. The Mayors basically said we will show the world leaders what can be done. In fact we are already getting on with it. Lord Nicholas Stern gave the keynote speech at the meeting.
Afterwards, I gave Lord Stern a copy of Capital Consumption our latest report showing how London can reduce its carbon emissions by 90% by 2050. I asked if he would be interested to work with us and the London Sustainable Development Commission to paint a picture of the economics of a sustainable London. He was being hustled away but he said “Yes, I’m London born and bred. You know where Aldwych is.” That’s the London School of Economics where he  works.

But despite this and other good people we had met, I was feeling pretty sad about how badly things seemed to be going for the climate treaty. I was about to leave the Bella Centre for the last time at ten pm when Freya called. She filled me in on her day at Klima Forum and then asked “Are the protestors still there?” I decided to have a look and they were indeed. I wished them luck and thought I’d see if anything else was going on.

One of the plenaries which had been scheduled for about 5pm had started at 9.30pm. I went in to see what the mood was now. Speaker after speaker said we are ready to negotiate and work hard and through the night if necessary for the next two days. I thought great, sounds like they really want to do this, even the US man. Most of the developing countries were asking to be kept informed and to be included, they felt sidelined. At the request of Chile the chair adjourned the meeting so they could go and rest and come back and do two days hard work.

Afterwards I thought I’ll see if our mate from the Bosnian delegation is here. On the way I noticed Jonathan Pershing, one of the two chief US negotiators. I recognized him because Freya had tested us on spot the negotiator. Good work Freya. I was prejudiced against him. I thought he was a bad guy. But I thought I’ll just go and talk to him and tell him a low carbon future is do-able as we have been doing for the last two weeks. I proffered my brochure and started chatting. He seemed to be one of us! He said enthusiastically “Yes I know, I know we can do it! The trouble is convincing everyone back home.” I told him Sir David King had offered to go and meet the senators and congress if it would help. He said “We need to reach people in the deep south, not the senators, the people.”  He also shared the other immediate problem he sees “How can we have 192 countries in a room negotiating on this.” I said “Please get the deal we need”, told him that we were right behind him and wished him the best of luck. He gave me his card, said “keep it up” and “contact me after all this”.

These events made me think that maybe they really can get a reasonably good deal in the next two days. The vast majority of them will work very hard for it and have the right intentions. How can 110 world leaders go away without quite a good Climate Agreement just before Christmas. They would look so foolish and scrooge-like. Outside the Bella Centre several inches of snow had settled and the snow was still falling. I felt much happier.

Sue Riddlestone
Executive Director and co-founder

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