Every morning, after standing in long lines to enter the Bella conference center, we pick up a Daily Programme at the front information desk. The programme is a collection of the day’s events: the negotiations, the press briefings, and the public side events among other things. For each event the programme lists the times, the locations and most importantly who is allowed into each session.
Just this morning, when talking to a Yaw Law/F&ES student, Paul Beaton, we found out that more delegation and working group negotiations have been opened to public observers than ever before at COPs. Apparently, this is because during negotiations last week the US, EU and China tried to start closing off some of the talks (prohibiting entrance to all members of civil society) in order to bully the smaller states into certain agreements.
Undoubtedly, this is relatively common at international conferences and has happened at previous COPs, but this time the small states refused to be pushed around. The world’s smallest nations, including many developing countries, are more united than ever before. They are on a mission to achieve a fair agreement and are pulling the industrialized Annex I countries with them. So there was a revolt, the small states refused to only negotiate behind closed doors. The UNFCCC responded hastily trying to ameliorate the situation by throwing open the doors to many of the negotiations, even ones that have never before admitted members of the public.
When I was leaving one of the Ad-hoc Working Group – Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) contact group negotiations last night I overheard one of the negotiators remarking with surprise that there were NGO members sitting in back half of the room (where I had been watching the discussion for nearly 4 hours by that point). “I had no idea NGOs were allowed in here,” she said.
It’s ironic, of course, that starting this morning only a third of the civil society will be admitted to attend these negotiations with fewer and fewer being submitted over the coming days. According to the Danish President of COP15 UN Summit, the primary reason for reducing the number of admitted people from the civil society is to accommodate the increasing size of country delegations.
“Security-wise things are getting very difficult,” Hedegaard explained. “It will be more difficult for press and NGOs to get in as we get closer to Friday. The heads of state bring very large delegations and that requires a lot of security.”
Ultimately the same number of people will be attending the conference, 20,000 total (which is the capacity of the conference center), there has simply been a cut back on civil society attendees and an increase in delegation attendees.