Hearing no objections, it is so decided.

Author: Béatrice Cointe is a PhD student at CIRED where she works on policy issues related to photovoltaic energy. She holds a joint Master’s degree in Environmental Science and Policy from Sciences Po Paris and University Pierre and Marie Curie. She was part of a french NGO’s delegation to the 2009 Copenhagen Conference and has been obsessed with climate change ever since. She is also the former Research Director of CliMates.

Here we are at last. COP18 ended abruptly on Saturday evening, after nearly 24 hours of apparent stand-still and postponing. Friday night had managed to close both AWG-LCA (for good) and ADP, forwarding any unresolved issues to ministerial consultations and/or to the COP/CMP. And from then on… Not much happened as far as we could see, apart from the stock-taking plenary being postponed to 1am, then 3am, then 7.30am. Ministers talked in corridors or behind closed doors, people aimlessly roamed the plenary rooms, CCTV kept announcing Plenaries about to start 2 hours ago, Twitter stormed over Loss & Damage talks, Youth activists demonstrated in the empty dark halls, and people gradually collapsed sleeping on couches.

On Saturday morning, texts were released – on paper, which provoked some sort of good-humored riot, since everybody had been yearning for printed negotiation texts for the past two weeks (Papersmart wasn’t so smart, and mostly meant that nobody knew very well what was negotiated, when and where). The still very relaxed President Al-Attiyah gave a memorable statement, saying that he could re-open negotiations on the text, but that it would take too long and not lead anywhere better, that anyway, the better was the enemy of the good, and that the fact that nobody was satisfied with the package was a good indication that it was balanced. Nobody objected anything when he proposed to open the COP/CMP as soon as possible, and, very thankful for the Parties’ silence, he gave everybody 90 minutes to read everything and come back. Ninety very, very long minutes.

This was the beginning of a long day of waiting for something to happen and not daring to blink because it could just be any moment. In a faithful (though condensed) re-enaction of Buzzati’s The Tartar Steppe, we watched from the back of the plenary room, reading the texts over and over again.

Just when the CMP plenary seemed ready to start, the Secretariat called for Parties with commitments in the amended Annex B to the Kyoto Protocol to submit their written consent. That could have been quick, but wasn’t. It took a good deal of time (I’m not sure how much, your sense of time gets distorted in such settings) of blocking the central aisles, moving to a closed room, trying to reach Angela Merkel on the phone and God knows what else for the EU to get Poland in and finally be able to sign.
But then, for some reasons (related to Russian hot air and US pride, from what I’ve undersood), new clusters of disagreement filled the central aisle of the Plenary room, and things started not-happening again. Rumors of blocking coming from all sides started to emerge, and the outlook was as grim as it could be.

At around 7pm, the UNFCCC, in a tweet of despair, seemed to have no idea how this was all going to end – if it ever was?

unfccc oh dear

One hour later, all was over. The President opened the CMP, heard no objection, pounded his gavel, and so decided, closed the CMP, opened the COP, heard no objection, pounded his gavel, and so decided. In the blink of an eye, the four texts were hammered to adoption. The room clapped the newly found Accord. In less than five minutes, what was a tangly negotiating muddle turned into a not quite sufficient but unanimous Gateway to increased ambition in 2015. Parties gave long objections that could now be nothing more than mere comments, Filippino negotiator Naradev Saño expressed his bitter disappointment and issued a long round of thanks to Parties and NGOs that had supported the Philippines, particularly Youth. Parties congratulated themselves, some expressing strong dissastisfaction, NGOs lamented the lack of ambition of the text, and Youth organizations protested once again. And that was it.

by Béatrice Cointe

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