Simon Hillier: Atmosphere on the final day

Thursday afternoon. For the last twenty-four hours COP has been a pressure cooker. Negotiators have been working around the clock; observers are slowly going insane. We have run out of things do to so we wait, build a fortress out of couches, refresh Twitter and lap up any new information. Information Chinese whispers its way through the convention centre. It feels as if we could have an agreement at any moment - or it could all fall down at any moment. Many have given up, face down and fast asleep at their desks. As expected, the 6pm deadline for agreement comes and goes. Despite a desire to be part of the action we decide against camping in Le Bourget for the night. Of course, we don't sleep when we return to the hostel. Someone knows someone on a Party badge who is taking notes from inside the indaba, so we park up at the bar and watch each word breathlessly.

Friday morning – After numerous last minute delays, the Comite de Paris reconvenes at 11:30am. After some blandly passionate speeches from Laurent Fabius, Ban Ki Moon, and Francois Hollande, Fabius announced what we all wanted to hear: the final text is ready. You can read it… after lunch. Bon appetit.

Friday afternoon – As promised, the text was released at 1.30pm. Everyone, government officials and civil society alike, pour over the specifics of the final text. A general consensus emerges: it reads well! Its a logical landing zone based on the progression of drafts! It seems to balance everyones viewpoints! Now that we are here, it seems so simple.

Of course, not everyone is happy. Most have tracked a pet concept through the talks and can't help but think what could have been. Outside the walls of COP, thousands of activists gathered at the Eiffel Tower, expressing doubt over the agreement and alleging that the bar was set too low for success. Yeb Sano tweets what many are thinking: “[I] hear 2 different things. The people in communities think the Paris agreement is weak. Those wearing suits and ties think it is good.”

But inside, one can’t help but feel hopeful when you can here “Don’t worry, Be Happy” floating from the Alliance of Small Island States pavilion.  While nobody is under the illusion that the Paris outcome is enough to combat climate change, Parties seem to have got the most they could have out of the UNFCCC forum.

Friday Evening - Although the final Comite session was scheduled to begin at 6:00, typos (a stray “shall” that should have been a “should”) and other technical issues delay proceedings until 7:15pm. During the waiting time, COP President Laurent Fabius and UNFCCC Secretary Christiana Figueras entered, and promptly leave again in a huddle with various important people. The atmosphere in the room changed and rumours begin to ripple again. Do we have another all nighter?

Finally they return. 7:15pm: Some brief technical chatter, the final text is advanced to the floor, and the COP isinvited to adopt the Paris Agreement. Fabius' gavel goes down and before you can blink, its all over. Well, the Comite wasn't over, there is a few hours of clapping to get through first. But there we have it, team: a globally inclusive climate plan. Just like that.


All posts by Institute delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences, and do not reflect those of the Institute

Posted on December 13, 2015 and filed under UN Climate Talks 2015.