Text Negotiations

Danish President and COP15 Summit Leader, Connie Hedegaard, finished the “Civil Society Briefing from the President” session by joking about the whole COP’s very frustrating stop-go-stop-go negotiations. “I don’t know why I’m doing this,” she admitted. “I hate COPs.” In the end, however, she was optimistic that the civil society (NGOs) has built up enough international pressure to push heads of states to act. She finished by saying that the outcome of the conference depends on the people. “It’s really about whether the citizens out there think the world’s leaders can deal with the global problems of the 21st century. Enough pressure has built up that I don’t think the world’s leaders will want to go home empty-handed,” she concluded.

I found Hedegaard’s discussion refreshingly blunt and impressively engaged with the concerns of NGOs and other members of the general public who were frustrated about being kicked out of the final days of the conference. The UNFCCC recently released reports limiting the number of members of the civil society allowed into the conference center even further – 1000 will be allowed in on Thursday and only 90 on Friday! More than 15,000 “members of the civil society” have traveled to Copenhagen so a lot of people are annoyed. It seems that Hedegaard gets just as frustrated about the COP bureaucracy, but ultimately believes enough in the importance of the acting on climate change. In the end her bluntness was entertaining, but was also somewhat depressing as it was a stark reminder of how easy it is to become disenchanted with international organizations.

After the briefing from the president we walked over to watch delegations from different countries try to draft the negotiate that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol. The text negotiations were a painstaking process. They took place in a large hall that was filled with of hundreds of delegates who went through the paragraphs of the proposed post-Kyoto agreement debating every single contentious word and line of text.

Even as an Environmental Policy major who knows that this is how the process works, it’s an unfathomable ordeal to watch live. Delegates sit for hours deliberating over minutia. For example, a Japanese delegate and an Australian representative debated for 10 minutes about the whether or not one word in a paragraph of text should be pluralized or not! But, of course, that’s how it’s always worked. Every word matters and everyone gets a say and so it takes a very long time, particularly when you’re trying to revitalize an international agreement to incite new action. Undoubtedly, the negotiations during the first week were more exciting when delegates were discussing the content of agreement. Unfortunately, when the second week rolls around negotiators have to focus on the more mundane nitty gritty details.

We’re looking forward to hopefully watching some bigger picture debates this evening starting at 8.30pm as the negotiations amongst ministers are reportedly up and running again.

– Alice


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