9 June - cool humour in heated debates

Professor Richard Ottinger, Climate Change specialist for IUCN's Commission on Environmental Law, writes about the insiders' jokes and anecdotes that tell the story best in the climate talks.

Pr. Richard Ottinger

The big difference between the Bonn conference and that in Copenhagen is that the vocal animosities exhibited in Copenhagen and later have been abandoned and all parties are seriously addressing the complex issues that need resolution. Even some humour has been introduced. One country observed that the chances of success here could be compared to the chances of South Africa winning the World Cup soccer title.

The EU, responding to an assertion by Bolivia that targets for land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF)  could be implemented before determining the rules that will be applied for their measurement because the average impact was already known, presented a chart that showed very large differences between the results for individual countries depending on which of four proposed rules was adopted. Its delegate observed that using average figures was like saying of a man with his feet in a freezer and his head in an oven that on average his temperature was satisfactory.

Perhaps the funniest was an assertion by Saudi Arabia, with a straight face, that it should be eligible to receive adaptation funds to compensate it for oil production lost due to actions by the conference to reduce oil consumption.

While there were plenty of adamant assertions of differences on virtually all issues, and none of the stickiest issues was resolved, the mood of the delegates at the conference has been upbeat and the leadership of the sessions is good and much more in control than in Copenhagen. However, the same positions that were taken in Copenhagen are repeated over and over by the same countries on each issue, making progress very slow. Indeed, if these countries just made recordings of their positions and posted them on the web, it would save lots of time and energy.

It has been said that a conference is a gathering of people that don't know what to do to decide that nothing can be done. So far, that seems like all too apt a description here.


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