Durban, redux.

There's an eerie sort of an ambience here at the Stadion Narodowy.  

This stadium is as empty as the promises likely to be made in it. Photo credit: David Tong

This stadium is as empty as the promises likely to be made in it.
Photo credit: David Tong

We're into the 26th hour of the conference's final day, 'Friday 22nd', and the stadium seems empty.  All the Emirates-sponsored beanbags, bar those my group have managed to secure, were trucked out - along with the water coolers - hours ago, and the decals and posters that had decorated the (once white) walls of the many, many corridors have gone, leaving ripped paint and scuff marks and a tangible fog of disappointment.  The LCD screens have been turned off, as has the air conditioning, and the host staff have all but left.  Every now and then a guy with a vacuum cleaner wanders by.  

The quiet is only interrupted by the occasional footsteps of a negotiator (who's probably lost) going past - and they're probably amplified by the ridiculous amount of caffeine in my system.

The food stations have closed.  The COP19 apples don't quite look as fresh as they once did - like the conference air, they're a little stale.  I just witnessed someone walking past with a pre-packed salad, telling someone it was free.  God only knows what that means.  We're surviving off an industrial quantity of Polish snackfood that we brought in earlier this afternoon.  There's also still a can of Red Bull left from the ten or so we bought - they were half price outside the conference centre.

At first this felt like we were going into a Durban - tired faces and a Friday that ended on Sunday morning with an outcome that made us feel cheated and betrayed.  But at least in Durban, the negotiations kept going.  The plenary stayed open.  Exciting things happened.  And the NGOs hung around.

Most civil society representatives walked out in protest yesterday.  Left behind are a few hardcore youth (some of them in pyjamas), adamant on seeing these talks through to the end, and a handful of NGO policy strategists who are wrestling with uncertainty, confusion and a lack of sleep.  One of the two plenary rooms is empty.  But for no logical reason, the Ad-Hoc Durban Platform (ADP) negotiations have been held in a small room without recording capacity, leaving a line of NGO badges sitting outside waiting for hours for space to get in and frustration at the lack of a live stream for them to watch.  Our worries about the democratic implications of this are summed up pretty well here.

In the ADP: Perhaps it's less an issue of lack of space and more an issue of how they've used it...  Photo credit: Andreas Nagl

In the ADP: Perhaps it's less an issue of lack of space and more an issue of how they've used it... 
Photo credit: Andreas Nagl

The ADP has just resumed after a long 'huddle' (basically a standing meeting involving all negotiators occupying as little space as possible), but the COP plenary is yet to reconvene after choosing to break nearly four hours ago, and shows no sign of doing so in a hurry.  When it's come to making predictions, rumours have flown between 'informants' from negotiating teams and NGO delegates tired enough to accept, at this point, any reason to justify leaving.  It's anyone's guess when this will finish - CAN International has been taking bets and so have the New Zealand diplomats.  Right now, noone's really sure what's going on - probably not even the negotiators.  Based on past experience, I won't be surprised if they're still going when I leave on Sunday morning.

Nevertheless, this all has a sense of disappointing predictability about it.  At each COP I've attended, deadlines have been pushed back and ignored, and negotiations have gone overtime.  Every year, everything is left until the last minute, when in desperation and exhaustion the Parties scramble to assemble something.  Anything.  And then frame it to the mainstream media as a success - or, at least, not as a failure.  

By the time they come to agreement, many negotiators - and even entire delegations - have left, their governments unable to afford to reschedule flights or pay for extra accommodation.  Others run out of energy and willpower to do their jobs properly, approving texts they haven't been able (physically or mentally) to read.  'Consensus', the system upon which the negotiations here is based, becomes a farce.  Equity isn't even a consideration.

There's still plenty they need to get through.  Tonight, there are three key things left on the table: finance, loss and damage and the ADP's overarching roadmap.  Word is that the finance text, which proposes a structured approach for ensuring countries pledge (and meet) commitments for climate finance between now and 2020, isn't actually too bad - hardly ambitious, but still progress.  We'll see if it survives the night.  The loss and damage negotiations, though, are rife with conflict; the developed states - particularly the USA - are unwilling to support a proposal which based on their historical contribution to the problem, would give them the obligation to compensate vulnerable states for losses resulting from climate-related events.  While it's considered by most of civil society as a moral responsibility, it can only mean additional economic losses for developed nations who already face the expense of significantly restructuring their economies to curb emissions.  And finally, negotiators are yet to finalise a road map to get them to 2015 - the deadline for the new international agreement that's effectively been postponed since the landmark 2009 Copenhagen summit.

It's a lot to get done when your conference is meant to be officially over.

While they work, we'll do our best to stay awake.  For now.  Already, in the next room, someone's snoring.  

Posted on November 23, 2013 and filed under UN Climate Talks 2013.