Confessions of a climate doubter

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Courtesy of European Energy Review (EER)

What were 12,000 people from 186 countries, including 1,000 journalists, doing in the Polish city of Poznan for two weeks this last December? One thing, really: talking. They were the delegates to round 14 of the UN climate change negotiations, the global warming travelling circus that gives one performance each year in cities across the globe – from Montreal to Rio de Janeiro, from Bali to Johannesburg – chalking up air miles that most business executives can only dream of. In Poznan, all 12,000 travellers were welcomed with a present that you would expect to see at any commercial exhibition: a straw bag containing two CD’s, a calendar, a t-shirt, an armband with a USB-stick and a big carton box with a jar of Polish honey.

What these global messengers were talking about exactly, is not so easy to say. There was a daily meeting called BINGO, a daily meeting called TUNGO, there were meetings of various groups, such as the African Group and the Environmental Integrity Group, there was a 7-hour round-table discussion on “The future of ecological vehicles and their impact on the Polish market”, there was even a session on “gender justice in climate change policy”. Those were just some of the side events. The main event consisted of a two-week long plenary session, in which delegates from each country held forth at great length about how climate change affects their country, what they intend to do about it, and particularly what they expect others to do about it. Needless to say, there were also a great many press conferences and behindthe- scenes meetings where, presumably, the real negotiations took place.

So OK, it is easy to be sceptical about a UN event like this, but is it fair? We are, after all, talking about a highly complex, momentous process: hammering out a worldwide climate treaty that will affect every human being on the planet. What is 15 talking sessions (if we include next year’s crucial one in Copenhagen) and 150,000 pots of honey when the future of the world is at stake?

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