What happens when prejudice and individual agendas permeate the negotiations of a collective goal?
This may have sound cynical, but I can vouch for this since I’ve been a part of the prejudiced egocentricity. And no—I’m not reporting from Doha, Qatar—make that Brussels, Belgium—so I sincerely (most gravely) apologize if I led you down some skullduggery path of misgivings. I did, however, play the part of the infamous USA in a ‘United Nations simulation’—if that counts for anything. The critics (figuratively) slammed their computers in two and burst out in childish snickers as a panel of like-minded green youths found themselves incapable of agreeing on anything—neither on what’s actually required to meet the 2-degree target nor on the adoption of an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol that would implement a second commitment period. “Pourquoi?” a francophone may inquire. Well, the honorable mock-delegates were told they had the freedom to integrate their personal values with those of the country they had been assigned. Being democratically minded, however; most participants found themselves incapable of intertwining their personal agendas with those of the people they were representing: real philanderers—preachers of representative democracies, I know. Instead, you’d find an entire room of people garrulously exhausting their satirical versions of the USA, China/G77, Least Developed Countries, European Union, African Union, Canada, civil society, and Non-governmental Organizations.
As the critics’ melodramatic gestures might insinuate, the platitudes of the Parties one refers to when speaking of the Conference of the Parties (COP) were not that far off. You’d hear the mock-delegates of the USA preaching the doctrine of liberty and a staunch of unwillingness for commitment, China/G77 that of economic prosperity as well as the right to develop with a sprinkle of the first-hand climate awareness, Least Developed Countries looking for guidance in both economically and ecologically tough times, European Union blending a progressive perspective with a monetary one, African Union trying to get their two cents in, Canada being Canada, and Non-governmental organizations tirelessly trying to force to be reckoned with. One may note that I haven’t even mentioned what role civil society played in all of this, but I see no need for doing so—given that they were nothing but neglected throughout the conference1. I do, once again, want to pardon for the stereotypes—but based on what was said in the updates given to participants in Brussels by youth delegates who were reporting from the actual conference in Doha—they were, indeed, not that far off.
The USA were, as usual, dragging other Parties down a path that was in the stark contrast with what their President so fondly spoke of in his acceptance speech2. Poland did, inevitably, eloquently parade the European Union’s inability to present an united progressive front by standing in the way of adopting the 30% emissions reduction target—a target which is not only thus, but also an important political stance which may go wasted if not reciprocated by countries such as the USA and China. Nevertheless, there were a lot of talks of “equity, ambition, and leadership,” yet that’s all there was—talks and no actual action. Well, until Monaco and the U.K. proudly voiced their ambitions regarding striding in an admirable path (I doth my cap at thee) as pioneers in the field of decreasing emissions—one which Greens hope the rest of the world will follow. Although, a want to take responsibility for the part that we as citizens of the Earth have played in the climate change—a systematic change from brainwashed individualistic consumers back to sociable human beings, as well as an unification of the eminent nations is needed for actual change to happen (or stopped, in the context of this article). I’d still like to distribute credit where it is due to, by cyber-applauding nations such as Monaco and the U.K. for leading the way through the dismal times we are currently facing (melodramatic, I know, but don’t worry—I haven’t even mentioned the under-representation of youths at the conference which mainly concerns their future).
One of the objective comments made after the United Nations simulation was that we, perhaps, were incapable of reaching a concrete resolution or compromise due to our blatantly biased black-and-white pictures of these entities. And as much as I do believe this is an unaddressed, as well as critical issue. I also think that an inability to see past national needs and look at a binding climate agreement as a step in the right direction rather than the wrong, cripples even the most prominent minds.
As a green I’ve always thought it disturbing that the only thing standing in the way of progress is us. I’ve always thought it disturbing that the hubris of a creature dubbed doubly wise and ego of a nation paralyses a vivid and well needed dialogue—and can for my right mind not see why 1+1 doesn’t equal 2 at climate conferences (well not only, but I’m trying to keep a common thread here). To me, it is quite ironic–paradoxically idiotic, really.
I suppose our simulation differs from the actual conference at one point: the conference leaders could at the end of the negotiations hail an agreement as, “the Gateway to the future.”3 Although, the extension of the Kyoto protocol was made, the critics condemned it as a vague and weak deference of difficult choices. The Executive Director of Greenpeace, Kumi Naidoo, declared that, “Any government walking out of these negotiations saying that this was a success is suffering from a terrible case of cognitive dissonance. When the reality is telling us that we’re running out of time, the science is telling us we need much greater ambition—we have to call this as a substantial failure. All we’re seeing are just baby steps in a positive direction. Our governments have to now recognize that the science is non-negotiable. We cannot change the science, and we have to align the political realities of these conversations with what the science actually says.”4 Moreover, the closing plenary also faced the Least Developed Countries who noted that a number of key elements were missing in Doha, as well as strong statements by countries like Russia. Civil society’s representative also voiced a firm “No” to Doha by stating that, “You call the text Doha Gateway—it’s a gateway to four degrees and climate injustice. We will not be complacent with this text, we reject this text /…/ we will name and shame you, and our only hope is to mobilize a powerful justice movement.”5 Once again, a twofaced front parades the climate negotiations…
I’d like to end this text with some of the words the member of the Philippines Climate Change Commission, Yeb Saño, said in a heart-wrenching appeal. Saño made a plead for global effort with a husky tone and tear-filled eyes, given that the Least Developed Countries will inevitably face the harsh reality of whatever decisions the richer and more prominent countries adopt, “Please … let 2012 be remembered as the year the world found the courage to … take responsibility for the future we want. I ask of all of us here, if not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?”6
1 & 5 Civil society’s representative has firmly said “No” to Doha, showing the lack of dialog between the UN delegates and the actual people they are supposedly representing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWNt-NjpGVU
2 President Barack Obama’s 2012 Presidential acceptance speech, “And yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet, because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They are a threat to our children’s future.” (November 6th, 2012) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nv9NwKAjmt0
3 “Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah said the final extra day of the UN Climate Change Conference had been historic as all parties had reached consensus despite complications and many hours of extra consultation” http://www.cop18.qa/news/singlestory.aspx?id=296
4 NGOs condemn Doha Climate Gateway: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=3MmyRQFtqXg#!
6 Yeb Saño’s grippin speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=OpI-PD6weG8