I'm here at the the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC -- one of the many long-winded acronyms that only a UN meeting can produce) and I have to say I am rather disillusioned about the entire process.
Maybe it's just a combination of the heat and exhaust fumes that are making me grumpy so I will try to keep myself in check. I heard a story once about how Mark Twain used to write nasty letters to friends only to have his wife never send them off in the mail. This post may be one that I write and never hit "publish," but we'll see how it goes.
There's only this meeting here in Bangkok and one more week of negotiations scheduled in Barcelona before the "big show" this December in Copenhagen. My first observation would be that we could probably put a big dent in carbon emissions by doing all of these meetings by video conference instead of flying so many people across the globe.
I'll be the first to admit that I'm guilty as charged on this point.
Video conferencing would probably have about the same effect as the face-to-face meetings with government negotiators here in Bangkok -- which, I hate to say is not much at all. There remains a huge gap between where we need to be in the process and where we are right now.
Two big issues remain unresolved.
The first being a solid indication that developed nations will agree to subsidize developing nations to help them move away from an over-dependence on fossil fuels. While this continues to be a stumbling block I would hasten to add that developing nations are far from shining examples on this point.
Which brings me to the second stumbling block. Developed nations like the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Japan have yet to articulate their commitment to hard caps on their own greenhouse gas emissions.
At the pace I have seen here in Bangkok there is little hope that these issues will be resolved by the time the negotiations end here on Friday. If these issues couldn't be resolved in 2 weeks here, it would take a miracle for them to be in the can for Copenhagen.
So where does this leave us? Is there anything that can be done between now and December to get these negotiations back on track?
Well, that's a good question and I'm glad I asked myself. There is still hope that we could come out the other end of the Copenhagen summit with a strong deal, but it will take a perfect alignment of the stars at the very moment we need it.
First, we will need to see world leaders, like President Obama, German Chancellor Merkel, UK Prime Minister Brown and French President Sarkosy put their money where their mouth is. Both, along with many other leaders, have talked a big game that's winning them political brownie points back home but have failed to translate this supposed political will into action at the bargaining table.
Second, environmental organizations need to step it up.
The time for talk is over and ENGO's need to go for the hail Mary pass. The time for going head-to-head with negotiators over the minutiae of a climate treaty is over. With the clock ticking we are behind by 20 points and any good coach will tell you that finesse plays are not the answer in this situation. What we need is brute force -- we need protests in the streets of the world, phone calls to leaders, advertisements in the papers. We need to hammer through the message to our respective national leaders that they are putting themselves in the political risk zone if they do not step up to the plate. Sorry enough with the mixed sports metaphors, I promise.
So there you go. One person's humble observations. This didn't turn out as bad as I thought it would, so as you can see I decided in the end to hit the "publish" button and let the chips fall where they may.
I hope Mark Twain's wife would agree.