From blue skies to haze

Food & climate change article written on the 06 Oct 2010

This morning I had the opportunity to speak with a senior negotiator from a different delegation to Australia. When I asked about progress he was tight-lipped. After a few moments he paused and said “well, you can think of it this way, there were blue skies yesterday… but today we can’t see far at all because of the haze”. I think the negotiator was correct in both literally and metaphorically.

Physically, today was far more hazy than the previous days. Smog seemed to engulf the city of Tianjin. I am told it is because a Chinese holiday is over and the factories have been switched back on. In terms of the negotiations, a few conflicts did emerge that bode ill for the rest of the week.

I had the opportunity to attend one of the few negotiating sessions that was open to NGOs. This was my first chance to get amongst the real action. The place where real progress is supposed to occur. I was bitterly disappointed.

The session was supposed to explore the legal framework of a future climate agreement. A critical component of a fair ambitions and binding deal. Alas, before the chair of the session could even finish his opening statement about the goals of the session several countries called a point of order (this is where they can stop what is happening and make a comment). One after the other several countries objected to the plans for the negotiating group. A few different countries subsequently challenged these objections. Then the same countries objected to these counter objections. And so on.

To cut a long story short this consumed the entire hour and no progress was made in the negotiating group. Australia did play a role in this slow and tedious drama, but I am still trying to figure out exactly what happened before I will cast judgement. Some of these negotiations are elaborate, planed and staged dramas. It can be very difficult to discern what is really going on underneath the surface. It is safe to say that the negativity cultivated in this session impacted other parts of the talks.

In other news I had a long meeting during the afternoon with Australia’s Ambassador on climate change, Louise Hand. I had the opportunity to get a handle on Australia’s negotiating position in our new political context. Her comments provided a unique insight into Australia’s game plan as we move towards Cancun. Stay tuned for more on this soon!

Tracking for you (and perhaps not sleeping enough)

Phil

P.S. An article I wrote from China was posted on the ABC. Leave a comment!