December 11, 2009

Politics at Play - III

A view of dias during COP-MOP Plenary
By Bhaskar Goswami
One cannot help but feel a sense of pity for Yvo de Boer, the UN Climate Chief whose cup of woes seems to be overflowing. First came “Climategate” which was followed by the leaked “Danish Text”, though it is debatable whether de Boer personally had much to do with drafting the text since it aims to strip his organization from most of the functions it has historically performed at the COP negotiations. Instead, the Danish proposal intends to rest it with the OECD countries.

With Denmark refusing ownership (or authorship!) of the text, de Boer has been left alone facing the ire of developing countries and civil society organization; the latter’s numbers as well as vociferous demonstrations at the Bella Center swelled manifold today.

No wonder de Boer looks gloomier than the overcast city.

Adding to his woes is a development that has brought negotiations to a grinding halt. A small island nation in the Pacific has stood up to the might of the world. Tuvalu earned the world’s respect by demanding binding and immediately actionable emission cuts yesterday and the Chair had no choice but to put it on record that the negotiations are “suspended”. However, the negotiations resumed soon after and everyone presumed that it is business as usual.

Tuvalu achieved the impossible by causing a suspension of COP negotiations yet again today. And this time round it is a suspension for real. Further, the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) group has claimed that it has the support of 100 member countries that are against the provisions of the Danish text. In this melee, one country that has lost credibility and trust is India.

A small island nation of around 12,000 inhabitants achieved where negotiators and leaders of an emerging power - India - failed miserably. Yet again India broke bread with the sole super power of the world and sacrificed the interest of developing countries to secure a seat at the high table. It however remains to be seen whether that seat (on the UN Security Council as per Jairam Ramesh’s leaked letter a month back) actually materializes. What does matter is that India today stands isolated at Copenhagen. No wonder India’s Chief Negotiator, Shyam Saran, had to rush back to New Delhi to seek counsel and fresh instruction on how to get out of this mess.

There is however another viewpoint that is holding fort: the Tuvalu proposal is a fallback option of developed countries after the failure of the Danish Text. The next few days would possibly clear the fog on this issue.

Multilateral negotiations are always an opportunity for sharing “authentic and exclusive news”. One such news doing the rounds today is that the Danish Text was drafted with full knowledge of and consultation with India. This is quite possible given that Jairam Ramesh had proposed something similar a month back. What is puzzling is the list of other countries that are now emerging as co-authors – Brazil, China, Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Algeria. The tentacles of climate betrayal seem to have spread across continents that have virulently opposed any concessions for developed countries.

Meanwhile, newspapers today reported that the police confiscated paint bombs, shields and other gear from an empty property in the city next to which hundreds of activists are staying. While it is not clear whether any arrests have been made, Bella Centre and COP participants may not get to watch multicolored walls… or blackened faces of negotiators who seem to have betrayed the cause for preventing further global warming. The big day however is Saturday when 60,000 demonstrators are expected to take to the streets marching from the Parliament to Bella Centre to demand a fair climate deal.


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