A few days from the end, chaos reigns in Glasgow for the moment. But the best climate veterans are keeping their spirits up and hoping that the “shameless ambition” to save the climate will always become skilled negotiators.
The hope in chaos theory is that behind an apparent disorder hides a system that leads to results in an orderly fashion. It is a final landmark for participants at this week’s climate summit in Glasgow, where chaos reigns and prospects for success are still distant.
More than 40,000 people are accredited for this 26th United Nations climate summit, including 14,124 lobbyists from all kinds of organizations and 22,274 delegates from nearly 200 participating countries. In addition, there is a technical staff of 4,000 employees, nearly 4,000 journalists, plus a few thousand security guards, employees of bars and restaurants and cleaners. In total, about 50,000 people.
Fortunately, they are not all at the convention center at the same time. As soon as the number of visitors crosses the ceiling of 10,000, the organization will close the door due to the covid restrictions. But even then, there are many, too many. Long queues for a badge, a coffee, a sandwich, the restrooms. Journalists on the floor, because there are no more chairs. It feels like the people of Haarlem and Amsterdam – threatened by rising sea levels – have already moved en masse to this mound on Marken. People don’t get any friendlier than that.
“Obama is coming!”
Sometimes a logistical short-circuit occurs in the middle of this sizzling beehive. It starts with a few alert participants – “Obama is coming! – after which in a few minutes a few hundred journalists and lobbyists wait an hour for the former US president, who indeed shows up for two seconds (cheers!) As he descends the stairs to a meeting. An hour later, the scene repeats itself as Obama has to leave, or maybe just go to the bathroom.
Moments later, US climate envoy John Kerry walks through the convention center without caring and on the phone. On the way to one of the rooms where real negotiations take place. To be ‘dear friend Barack‘entertains the plenary hall with a 45-minute speech. Obama pronounces the right words (“It takes time, time we don’t have any more.”), Calls for reason (“Half-baked compromises also make things happen.”) And especially asks young people to stay angry. He receives a standing ovation, no questions are allowed. Someone could have told him that if he hadn’t personally (along with the Chinese) destroyed the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, Glasgow would have been a party.
On Tuesday morning, Kerry will take to the “pavilions,” a sort of car show for countries and organizations that want to be heard and seen at the climate summit. “The biggest challenge we face is keeping our promises,” Kerry told an audience of just under 50. For the protest ‘the children there‘The 77-year-old American also has a message:’ We are the answer. ‘
A little further, in the Benelux pavilion, it is quieter: three men on stage (“Investing in recovery”), four in the room. Among Danish neighbors (“Danish Journey to Renewable Energies”) there is more momentum, but maybe that’s also because the cafe-bar is across the street.
Then there is the Resilience Lab for a “holistic ecosystem approach” to human health and well-being. It is about overturning production systems (no waste), assures the representative. “And no one is right,” she also knows. “To be open.”
The Cryosphere works to preserve all that is frozen on Earth, the South African stand has “a lot of pebbles thrown in the pond,” and the UAE arguably has the brightest pavilion. A little sidelined, Nuclear for Climate, a club that insists on the reliability of nuclear power plants (not dependent on the wind or the sun) and on the absence of CO2 emissions. And this radioactive waste should not be exaggerated: half a cup of coffee per year.
Climate veterans say all the beautiful sounds in the pavilions are only gradually entering the trading rooms. Except that of the fossil fuel lobby, which is richly represented in the delegations of oil and gas producing countries. UK climate summit chairman Alok Sharma has been raising his hand for days in the face of persistent criticism of this over-representation: “We don’t make up these delegations.”
These same veterans bring an optimistic note to the downcast chaos. It is simply a UN summit, they say. This means that 200 countries – by consensus – must come to an agreement. The EU suddenly looks like a petting zoo.
“It’s gonna be a hell of a tour”
Small countries in particular benefit from the required consensus. This puts Prime Minister Mia Mottley of the island of Barbados (population 290,000) on a par with US President Joe Biden, at least in theory: Small island states themselves see things differently. However, their voice is better heard in the UN context than outside.
“It will be quite a journey,” admitted President Sharma on Tuesday afternoon. New reports indicate that the rise in temperatures will reach 2.7 degrees – well above the 1.5 degrees set in the Paris climate agreement – according to him, sparking “unabashed ambition”. Citizens will be “outraged” if there is no convincing result on Friday evening, Sharma said. “The next two days we really have to step up a gear.”
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