The leaders have started to arrive—though not all could physically get in to the conference. As the ministers came, the representatives of NGOs were evicted, and the conference centre was surrounded in a haphazard wall of concrete, makeshift fencing and riot police. Some NGO representatives prepared to barricade themselves in while others marched out, heading towards the demonstration gathering at the conference gates.
The crowd waiting to get into the centre included the Italian environment minister Stefania Prestigiacomo and the desperate Japanese chair of the working party on carbon offsetting. Some asked how the UN had succeeded in accrediting 20,000 more people than the conference centre could hold, or why two years was insufficient time to plan security. Dirk Forester negotiated for the US at Kyoto—that was a circus, he mused, but this is the big top. Everything just matters more now, he explained. Inside, the conference ground to a tired, exhausted, halt.
Outside a session I met with Bolivia’s chief negotiator Angelica Navarro. She had been up all night, her eyes shutting as she struggled to speak in her second language—few participants have slept properly for months. “We’re trying to make our voices heard, and I can tell you, it is quite hard. Not because I am lacking sleep—that I am—not because I am lacking food—that I am—but because the process is constructed in a very tricky way where it is very difficult, if not impossible, to have input from developing countries.”
At 2am that morning she had thought her talks on nations’ responsibilities to reduce emissions were going well. Then the US “bracketed” a key part of the text, instantly removing any firm target. By 7am the Danish hosts had suggested an entirely new draft which was instantly rejected.
The US position, she said, had knocked on to everyone else. “We just wonder what are the red lines. If you have other developing countries following this really not very good example, what you see is a race to the bottom.” Everyone should ask themselves, she added, whether they would sign a deal that was not acceptable.
On the conference floor, crowds gathered to hear the President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed. In contrast to the Bolivians he urged developing nations to abandon their…