Charlie and the Agreement Factory

This article is part of the Climate Nerd Chronicles

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Year 2015 – one of the biggest international events ever is happening in Paris: the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21). This conference, organized under the jurisdiction of the UNFCCC (United Nations Factory for Convention on Chocolate Conservation), aims at finding a global agreement to avoid the disappearance of chocolate through climate change. For example, the delegates have to find consensus on the very controversial chocolate mousse recipe. Before the beginning of negotiations the related paragraph looked like that:

Chocolate mousse [shall]/[should] be made with [milk products]/[vegan products] with [white]/[milk]/[dark] chocolate and [shall]/[should]/[may]/[must] be preserved in a [plastic box] [glass box] [can] [reusable box].

All the Countries (or Parties) came as negotiators, while the members of civil society are observers.

CF1.gifWilly Fabius when asked what to expect regarding the outcome of COP21

The latter were very worried as they entered the COP venue. During the last preparatory session, in October, a lot of discussions on the agreement were closed to them. Despite numerous protests, the uncertainty on the accessibility to plenary rooms remained. They quickly realized they were right  as most of the negotiations happened behind closed doors. The Paries delegates decided of the future of chocolate in utter secrecy. Unhappy with this lack of transparency, the members of civil society used the power of advocacy and demonstrations -which are pretty common during UNFCCC talks- in order to warn both the public and the negotiators against this unacceptable situation.

Those claims finally reached the ears of Willy Fabius, the COP president. However, he could not give access to the rooms where the most delicate subjects were discussed, because of the opposition of some of the Parties, like Japan. Indeed, the decisions taken through the UNFCCC are the result of consensus, which limits the power of Willy. He found however a way to reduce the unfairness done to civil society. He announced at the end of first week that (golden) tickets would be given to observers, so that they could access to some of the second week dicussions.

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A young observer getting a golden ticket to the plenary room at COP21

Observers welcomed this initiative, although Willy Fabius had not given any indication on the practical way to get the tickets. They waited for further news, wandering in the COP venue, filling from time to time their flasks with hot chocolate. They finally received a message from their focal points, the two persons in charge of establishing the link between their constituency and the oompa loompas (the members of the UNFCCC secretariat, the right-hand men and women of Willy Fabius.)

They discovered the modalities to obtain tickets: only a few would be available for each constituency, and their distribution would be delivered by the focal points. The exact number would vary but would never exceed 10. Sadly, there were thousands on the mailing list of the constiuency and hundreds present on site. A fratricide war had just begun.

For the youth constituency, the focal points chose the “first come first serve” rule. It quickly showed its limit when some thirty young people, eager to assist to negotations, waited at the entrance of the plenary room. For the research constituency, the focal points chose to attribute the tickets randomly. Later, the most observant observers realized they could get tickets directly from oompa loompas, if they were in a good mood.

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The UNFCCC oompa loompas in a joyous mood

Each new session was a new fight. Getting to the room early enough to spot the other young people waiting for tickets. Tracking every move of the focal points to be at the right place, at the right time. A few minutes before the beginning of the talks, the tickets masters arrived, light hearted, oblivious to the precioussness of their burden, which actually exacerbated the overall tensions.

The last day of COP21, as Willy Fabius was going to reveal the last version of the Paris Agreement, the competition got worse. The young people demonstrated twice the ingenuity of the days before, following the focal points even in the bathroom, joining other constituencies. Every move was allowed in order to get the golden tickets. Even the delegates had to get tickets due to the massive affluence. Everybody who mattered in the world of chocolate had to be seen on this fateful day. Going into the room meant you could have the selfie of the year with your favorite chocolate fighter. The wait was long and God only knows how the oompa loompas managed to avoid an open battle.
Those who were unlucky that day were condemned to watch the adoption of the Paris Chocolate Agreement retransmitted on big screens in other rooms. Worst, some did not even get a badge to enter the blue zone and had to watch the biggest achievement in the history of chocolate at home before their computers on the UNFCCC website.

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