No I haven’t missed a day; we actually had Sunday off!

Monday night was my first late session (10:00 pm – 1:00 am) and I’m definitely starting to see a pattern in the negotiations. I had expected all sorts of subtle groupings of nations and shifting alliances depending upon the exact issue. That’s not what I’m seeing. I’m sure I’m missing many minor distinctions in positions but all the meetings I’ve been to, so far, have followed the exact same story-board.

The meetings are introduced by two co-convenors who, after asking if all parties are happy for observers to remain, then invite “interventions”, i.e. statements from nations or groups of nations raising any concerns about the meeting topic. Without fail, the first intervention is a long one from “the G77 and China”  (G77 is the coalition of 134 developing countries). This intervention inevitably includes requests for “balance” and for “all views to be represented”. Nearly all of the subsequent interventions are then from groups such as AOSIS (the alliance of small island states), LMDC (the like-minded developing countries) and AGN (the African group of Negotiators) who start by “aligning themselves with the statement of G77 and China”. Interspersed into these are a small number of short interventions by individual nations such as the US, Australia and Japan which express bland support for the process and request that negotiations concentrate upon the already agreed topics for discussion.

I think I’m seeing a classic division between those who want to split the negotiations up into tractable, bite-sized problems and those who understand that all issues are inter-related and that the horse-trading reality of such negotiations is that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” (where have I heard that recently?). Of course, both points of view are valid but it’s interesting that the parties divide starkly according to “the West versus the rest”.

I don’t think this division is for cynical reasons. Less developed nations do have a point (in my opinion) when they say that the problem was largely caused by richer nations and that only the richer nations have the resources to pay the costs of avoiding dangerous global warming. Given this, it makes sense for them to want to combine all the issues so that they have some leverage but it does feel a bit like the cold war threat of mutual assured destruction. There must be a better way.

Dave Waltham