Climate Talks, COP18 - Doha

The Doha Bulletin: November 28th, 2012

This article is written by Sébastien Burgess.

I have not been able to keep up with the plan with the blog work-plan. That was to be expected with the overwhelming amount of work that I have here. I’ve decided to share with you on a daily basis the newsletters that I write for cliMates, updating them on my activities here at COP18 in Doha. 

This first blog post is my November 28th entry. By Monday, I’ll have caught up and will be posting my daily bulletin here.I’ll try to edit the cliM’blog to make it « non climate-geek » friendly  Cheers! 

Today, I attended a 1h30  meeting consisting of presentations of successful low-carbon measures by various countries. It was also one of my first opportunities to get a feel for how countries established their positions within in smaller meeting settings.

I was particularly struck by Chinese and Saudi Arabia’s response to the presentation. China stressed the common but differentiated principle and called for developing countries’ support in terms of financing. More interestingly, they mentioned that intellectual right laws were perhaps a barrier to getting North/South technological transfers which is an integral part of getting to lower carbon standards in the developing world. Saudi Arabia then went on to highlight the length of the process that this initiative should take to ensure proper work standards, that it was of primary importance but that years of discussion and development of mechanisms were needed in hopes of institutionalizing it in the UNFCCC framework (read: even more working groups, indigestible technical jargon, teams of technocrats working on an abstract issue that is probably more easily dealt with at the domestic level).

I basically saw a form of diplomatic diversion happen before my eyes, by calling for institutionalizing a process -which sound virtuous and responsible – but that is notoriously known amongst most negotiators to be very unproductive, they ensure continued dependence on fossil-fuel (which as we all know powers over 80% of their country’s economy) by making sure that this important issue gets lost and drags on for years in the intersidereal complexity of UN work processes.  Meanwhile, China drops a word on the very touchy issue of intellectual right which as we know is not particularly their forte in 2012. The curious thing is that country’s vaguely attempt to bluff their way out of this first week when in reality most of their positions can be read like an open book.

Plenary sessions are painfully slow. Today I sat in and listened to the delegate for Togo spending five minutes of his allocated time in a plenary session on saying how honored he was to be in the imminent presence of the prime minister of Qatar, how amazing of a place the Convetion center is, and congratulating South Korea having been name the host country for the Green Climate Fund. I then listened to Swaziland congratulate Namibia for 2 minutes in an open plenary (that’s usually over 300 people waiting and listening to you speak) on being such a courageous African candidate to host the Green Climate Fund and for being such a responsible and gracious loser when it did not get the selection. Then South Korea couldn’t restrain its pride and emotion anymore and spoke, thanking the list of countries who had congratulated them and saying how much of an honor it was to host the Fund. Then the chair wanted to add his two cent s about the selection process and how in a record time of 6 months South Korea was selected. And the co-chair spoke too! And he talked about the merits of the methodology used for South Korea being selected. And then the assistant to the co-chair’s limousine driver added… no I’m joking on that part… the rest however is true. And meanwhile, silently looming over the procedures while these distinguished dignitaries spend precious hours over diplomatically seducing each other, carried by the petroleum fueled air-conditioned breeze of the convention center is this sense of absurdity, that everyone is engaged in a Kafkaesque display of courtship while our global temperatures keep getting warmer, while reports today show that sea-level s are rising 60% faster than predicted by the IPCC, that Artic sea ice has melted to its lowest level ever in 2012, that the Green Climate Fund lacks any form of structure for sustainable funding, that the situation is getting so desperate for the adaptation fund that their website invites negotiators to symbolic give away a day’s worth of tip spend for the fund, while this happening,  COP18 advances in what appears to be a parallel dimension where the real issue climate change and out future falls into a dark and bottomless pit of oblivion.

Congrats South Korea. Yours truly,

About the author:  Sébastien Burgess, born in Paris in 1989. Graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Conservation and Resources Studies. Lives in Mexico City where he works as a cartographer on local environmental projects and sports commentator. Has been involved in environmental activism since his college years and is a proud member of CliMates since its creation in 2011.
Follow me on Twitter @BurgessSeb

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