On the last day of the first serious climate talks since Copenhagen and the first day of the FIFA world cup, Claire Parker, Head of Delegation and Ninni Ikkala, Climate Change Coordinator, teamed up to summarize the atmosphere and the work ahead, before the whole world turned to another kind of game.
The first ‘real’ round of UNFCCC negotiations since the Copenhagen summit is drawing to a close (the 3 day-meeting in April only dealt with procedural matters), The two past weeks have been unremarkable in terms of progress achieved in shaping the new post 2012 climate change regime. They have however gone a long way to restore trust, both between the Parties and in the UN process. That trust had been badly damaged by the events in Copenhagen. Whilst Parties have now taken steps to reopen negotiations and advance discussions, the newly built trust remains fragile
The Chair of the working group on long-term cooperative action under the Convention (AWG LCA), which is tasked with designing the global post-2012 regime, had prepared a ‘text to facilitate negotiations among Parties’ in advance of the meeting. She decided that the issues dealt with in that text would be discussed in general terms by the participants, rather than in the detail of the text; this was meant to provide everyone with a baseline of positions on the major questions at stake. It was a good initiative, and mainly worked well. However, when the Chair presented a revised ‘text to facilitate negotiations’ at the end of the two week sessions, which was to form the basis of the next round of discussions in August, almost all developing countries spoke to reject it. It is back to the drawing board for the Chair and her team. It remains to be seen what kind of text will be on the table for August.
This last day of the meetings also saw a serious diplomatic incident unfold: : last night, someone with access to the meeting premises- a UN compound for the duration of the session- caused damage to a flag of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and caused further insult to that country by a childish gesture. One by one the delegations took the floor to condemn these acts and to express solidarity with Saudi Arabia.
The end of the day was somewhat enlivened by the start of the World Cup; delegates were in a hurry to finalise the meeting to watch the match between Mexico and South Africa. The South African delegation was in yellow and green shirts, whilst some other delegates were also wearing their national football shirts. The lobby of the Maritim hotel, usually a place for hushed political discussions, started to fill with people and turned into a live match pub. The plenary session of the LCA continued with delegates loyal to the process. Just before 6pm, the Chair finally slammed her hammer to close the meeting – the plenary screens then projected the last 10 minutes of the football match, to the joy and relief of the delegates. For a change, country battles could take place in a jovial atmosphere on the football field, rather than in drab meeting rooms.