Monday, 28 December 2009

The Holy Innocents

The bit b'twix St Stephen's and Hogmanay should always be spent thus, drinking G&T and listening to passable Radio 4 Comedy. Oddly, Kate & I haven't watched any TV over this Christmas period. Hopefully this signifies a deep and fulfilling social life. Or summat.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Hello, and Merry Christmas from Buntingsdale Hall. The fire is flaming, the turkey was scrumptious and the lake frozen.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Wrap-up

Hello

I have a cold. Yuk. I couldn't taste a thing at dinner.

I would like to do a wrap up of Copenhagen. I think it was a very important event, and one which both Kate & I, in our own small way, played a part. However, I am still employed by the UK Government as a negotiator, and therefore feel a little restrained in what I can say.

On 31st Jan two things happen. First, the deadline for submission of mitigation actions to be registered under the 'Copenhagen Accord' passes. Second, I finish my current job and move on to something new.

I would beg your indulgence for another month, then.

In the meantime I will take Sudafed and I encourage you to do so, too.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Debugging

Hi

Not ready to do a digest on Copenhagen yet. Need distance. That's probably just about as precious as it sounds.

But it's very nice to be back in the real world. Very nice indeed. We did a lovely, dull real world thing, together today. Kate & I fixed our computer.

This involved some complicated(ish) stuff. We opened the command prompt (the older readers may remember MS DOS) and played with 'debug' (which was new to me).

This person suggested we "d C000:0010" which led to us discovering that our video controller was the good old Intel 915G/915GV/910GL chipset. Having obtained the appropriate drivers our new monitor now displays 1440 x 900 resolution, with the added benefit that DVDs now run smoothly.

Next up, the decorating. If we manage to get that done before the East London line reopens we will both be very happy.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Bang!

Everyone was in plenary. Turned out I was allowed in too (the first time I had been in the main hall). I wander in, and the Chairman read out, very quickly, the decision and banged his gavel.

Huge round of applause, driven, I think, by the desire for sleep rather than any satisfaction on the actual outcome. So far as I understand it, the Copenhagen 'Accord' is not agreed, merely noted. This is significant. If my understanding is correct, the accord has no legal status.

Ghost town

Hi

Well, said Sam, I'm back.

I left the Bella Centre at around 1800 last night, content that negotiations would go long into the night, but that I wouldn't be needed in the slightest. Technology is hardly going to be the deal breaker. And so it proved.

I'll give you an overview of what, if anything, this conference has achieved when it has actually finished. And when a bit of time has allowed me to put things in perspective.

Right now I'm sitting in a virtually abandoned conference centre that looks a bit like the day after Glastonbury, but with less mud and more weirdos. The UK delegation room is locked. Where is everyone?

Locked in a plenary hall, the decision makers are unable to make a decision. I can't get in there, so I'm going to wander around like a tramp and see if I can find some colleagues, or slouch back to my hotel and check out.

Thanks to Kate, for writing a blog that actually looked like a blog. Normal service resumed next week.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Hi, Kate here, this will be my final guest blog post. Hopefully James will step in in a day or two with an analysis of whatever on earth comes out of this process.

I'm back in Copenhagen, with helicopters circling the Bella Center and security people of all description everywhere. (And may I just say that providing outside security for a building in a Danish snowstorm is not a great job, I hope these people get paid enough.) My colleague on the inside had a great time yesterday seeing some of the head-of-state speeches, but all the real work was going on behind the scenes where no observers may enter.

There is now no pretence of anyone getting any sleep, talks have been constant. Apparently more progress has been made in the last 12 hours than in many days preceding, but there are many issues unresolved and right now it is not clear how this conference will end. There is a widespread feeling of amazement and incomprehension that things could have come to this pass after so many days, weeks, months of preparation. Those of you who try to make social arrangements with James will be aware how often he has been away this year at EU or international meetings, adding up in total to somewhere between two and three entire months out of 2009. The same goes for every one of hundreds of international negotiators at these talks. Yet heads of state who are here to sign a document are finding that the text has massive gaps in it and that positions on some issues are still miles away from each other.

The rather dramatic stepping-up of the helicopter presence is doubtless something to do with the fact that Obama is here. The poor man is expected to step in like Superman and resolve all the issues. I wish him well.

Back in the domestic sphere I pootled around at some climate change events in the morning. In the afternoon, after realising that it would cost £900 to fly out of Malmo at this notice, I mounted Escape from Sweden for myself, my luggage and James' luggage before they really did close the bridge. Unlike Escape from New York or LA this simply meant spending a lot of time in snowstorms, and trying to avert wrath on overstuffed delayed trains for being the annoying person travelling with two giant suitcases. The sniffer dogs that are now active on the trains showed no interest in our bags. James managed to effect a brief exit from the Bella Center to pick his up, then dived back in to continue talks. Both of us will be coming home tomorrow, hurrah.

Thank you very much for reading (if you are) and I hereby hand you back to this blog's owner.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Well, where do I start today? Two full days to go and things just get weirder. First up - negotiation progress. My first text of the morning from my dearly beloved c.9.30am, says: "No news here. Feels bad...". Negotiation sessions were running all through the night, as they were also on Tuesday night. Did I mention that one of the main sessions on Tuesday started at 4.50am?

I haven't actually seen the man for quite some time. Just as my train was pulling into Malmo last night he called to say that the bridge to Denmark was going to be shut for security reasons so he had been posted back to the hotel in Copenhagen (and would anyway be in the conference centre for the foreseeable future). This left me trapped in Sweden! Luckily for me the other hotel booking still stands so here I am.

Meanwhile, intense negotiations between NGOs and the conference organisers finally came to a conclusion at midnight last night. 300 named NGO observers would be allowed into the conference centre on Thursay and Friday. My organisation was allocated 1 non-transferable place and I had to submit the name by 5am (see above, these people are simply not sleeping.) I decided to allocate this to one of my delegation who had expressed a strong interest in getting a place. She got the pass, and also got one of the very few plenary passes which means that she'll be able to watch Obama et al in the flesh. Many thousands of other registered NGO observers are totally out in the cold so we have been very lucky indeed.

This morning I am delighted that we are in, but sad not to be there myself especially as it turns out that the bridge to Denmark is open today (although it really will be shutting tomorrow) so I could have taken the place myself which is a bit gutting. However I am glad my colleague is getting the opportunity. I am trying to decide what to do myself, I think I will go into Copenhagen today as there are various events on and a few colleagues still around, but might leave tomorrow. So this is probably a near-final post.

Finally I would just say that reading the online news about yesterday's demo, arrests, violence etc was very strange when I had been right there and not seen a thing beyond a few shouty people inside the conference centre. It really illustrates how hard it is to do a direct action that is actually visible/audible to the Heads of State. Perhaps online petitions etc are more effective since at least they'll (presumably) at least register on the radar when they are considering their public mandate for negotiating positions. Suspect James would be able to say more on this.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Hello, still Kate. Everything is confusing today. Heads of state are here and security has gone up ten notches. Most of my delegation who are here this week never got to use the secondary pass system as they could not get their primary passes due to long queues. NGO delegates are not allowed to enter the area where heads of state are speaking and even governments are allowed a small number of passes. And now there is a tertiary pass system for tomorrow which will only allow a tiny minority of NGO delegates into any part of the conference venue as observers. My organisation ran its final two events yesterday so those of us who managed to get in are now pretty much giving up and going home. Our exhibit stand is already boxed up and sent to the couriers since I doubt we'll get back in until late Saturday or Sunday (when I plan to be gone, gone, gone).

So what I hear you cry, we want to know about the negotiations. Well as I said in one of my earlier posts you will get better news from the BBC than from us in this rather chaotic heart-of storm. All we know is what the person next in line in the lunch queue tells us. One minute it's failing, the next there will definitely be an agreement, the next it has gone all wobbly again. I was privileged to spend enough time to have a conversation with my husband last night (as he was negotiating until small hours for several nights previously), he tells me that from where he is sitting everything is completely opaque. The deal-making is now at such a high level that although he knows where the issues have got to in his area, he has no idea how this is being played and bargained with by the top negotiators. He was meant to text me hours ago to say whether he'd be asked to stay to the end of the talks or not, I have received nothing which I suspect means that this is still not clear. So perhaps we will both come home early.

There was a massive demonstration outside today which meant we were sealed into the Bella Center for quite some time. Again, my main news on this was from the BBC and Guardian websites, in fact you would never know from here that there was anything going on out there. There has been a small amount of sympathetic demonstration on the inside, in particular some effective heckling from outside the high-level plenary which is audible in the film footage from the inside. And by the way, if you are truly interested there is pretty good coverage on the UNFCCC website including live streaming from the head-of-state plenary that we are not allowed into!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Evening all. This is still Kate guest-blogging by the way. You are not likely to hear from James for some time. In fact I will quote you a text exchange that we had a mere 30 minutes ago, at approx 11.30pm CET on Monday night:

James: " Will be here very very late"
Kate: "Hi, on train home"
James: "I love you. See you... Wednesday?"

So as you can see from the above the (remaining) negotiators are holed up in little rooms trying desperately to overcome the G77 walkout from talks, and to get something together before 100+ heads of state arrive in about 24 hours.

Meanwhile, in NGO world, I have run 3 side events in 4 days and have sleep deprivation. Also half my delegation went home over the weekend and another half arrived. This second half tried to register today, unfortunately the registration system collapsed causing a large crowd (including several of my poor little chicks) to spend 9 hours outside in freezing conditions, hemmed in by Danish police without food or water, and not even managing to get a pass at the end of it. This is before we even go into the NGO secondary pass system (the 'tickets' I mentioned in previous posts) which starts tomorrow and could hardly cause any more chaos than already exists.

Gordon Brown has decided to fly in early which is probably a good thing given the state things are in. A minor side effect is that due to the need to screen the UK delegation hotel for (bugs? bombs?) James has been shunted out to Malmo. Yes, that is in a different country. We dithered about whether to move into some of my organisation's accommodation in outer Copenhagen instead (there's a spare room this week) but in the end decided to go with Malmo since the commute is actually not that different. Oddly, Sweden is a lot cheaper than Denmark. We suspect that office workers take the train out here at lunchtime to buy their sandwiches.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Last night over drinks a government delegate (not UK) gave me an explanation of the row I mentioned in the last post that conspiracy theorists would love, roughly along the lines of Syriana crossed with The Business. I had gone to bed when James came in from his own negotiations at 1am. I asked him if he thought it was true. He said no. Then he said, "I have been talking to the Argentinians until midnight, I can't talk to you now" and went to sleep.

Sadly that was only 7 hours ago, I am back here in the Bella Center ridiculously early. It's going to be a busy day for me so thought I might as well post now. My NGO has quite a few delegates here now and we are hosting a number of events in quick succession between now and Tuesday, it's all getting a bit hectic.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

It's all a bit quiet here, Connie Hedegaard (Danish Climate & Energy Minister) just had to shut down one of the main negotiating sessions because consensus was proving impossible. I saw her do this on the TV screens but had not been watching the entire session, however I think the cause was the same issue that shut down talks yesterday. Tuvalu + others and Saudi Arabia + others are having a bust-up over whether it is better to continue the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012 or write a new treaty. Usually the G77 (i.e. developing) countries negotiate in one bloc, this split is an interesting development with lots of pros and cons for the prospects of getting a deal.

The Bella Center is virtually at capacity now. The proposed access restrictions are likely to start soon, apparently each NGO is likely to each get tickets to cover 30% of its delegation. While this is not music to my ears I expect it is a bit of a relief to the government delegates, they will be tripping over a few less youth and polar bears on the way to their meetings. One of the UNFCCC Secretariat staff said to me on Tuesday as we walked through the NGO exhibit area, "it's getting like a street market in Bangkok".

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The main debate among gossipers of all stripes last night and this morning was - who leaked the Danish paper, and why? You might have seen this story in the Guardian. Denmark has been leading a process of writing a parallel text for a Global Deal that can be whipped out at that last minute if things get sticky.

Seasoned observers here are pointing out that this is perfectly normal, and it's traditional for COP Presidents to have something up their sleeves, some have also said that the content doesn't deviate much from principles set out recently by the head of UNFCCC. But you wouldn't know that from the news coverage. A few people have mentioned that there is a precedent for a similar paper being leaked at such an early stage, that was in The Hague in 2000 and the talks failed partly (it is said) as a result. An alternative theory is that there is some devilishly clever media management strategy going on.

In other news, I have now seen people dressed up as trees, people dressed up as aliens and many people in colourful national dress of all kinds. Plus lots of "youth" (this is actually the official term, there are "youth delegations" here) wearing t-shirts saying 'How old will you be in 2050?', to which my answer is 'A lady never tells'. Despite the cold, the conference metro station is permanently surrounded by happy devotees of the Grand Master something or other who are promoting veganism and have a poster with a picture of a goat saying, "Don't eat them, they love you."

I would love to give you news of James, but I think I have seen him (awake) for about 1 hour in the last 48.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Well, I found the brochures, the registration queue is 4 hours long and some of my delegates are still in it, and given that we are surely approaching 15,000 delegates registered today the dreaded NGO ticketing system looks likely to be implemented. Boo. On the negotiations side there is a fair bit of gossip flying about regarding progress, much of which doesn't actually need repeating here since it is captured pretty well on this BBC blog. I'm not sure I can compete with that. Not a peep from James, which means that he is up to his eyeballs in meetings.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Hello, this is Kate. I'm with James at Copenhagen (I am co-ordinating the activities of the NGO I work for, which is an official observer to the talks) and since he's not allowed to talk about what's going on I thought I might offer the odd update for interested parties. He has been in meetings all day (UK, EU, EU + others) whereas I have been setting up my organisation's exhibit stand and discovering that all our boxes of brochures are missing in the aether somewhere. Judging by the number of people already in the conference venue today, the official opening tomorrow is going to be carnage with registration queues half way to Sweden. NGO passes are likely to be rationed on a ticketing system where we get less than our total number of delegates, which is going to be quite interesting to co-ordinate (and alas this is my job) as you can bet that the people holding the tickets on any given day will go awol or drop them in a Danish puddle somewhere so that they can't be used by the next people on the next day. The venue holds 15,000 and apparently there are 27,000 who want to get on the list and can't. There are more press than government officials. Etc. James says, "It appears that no-one whatsoever knows what is going to happen."

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Somewhere else

Hello

Tomorrow I shall find myself elsewhere. Thankfully, Kate join me elsewhere on Saturday.

Will try to post some impressions on how things are going.