Negotiators Past, Present, and Future

Posted by: Linkesh Diwan on

The fossil awards presented the second dishonourable mention to an unprecedented trio of Austria, Finland, and Sweden, for their shameful and atrocious actions in the very first day of COP15. Their claim to dishonour arose from their promotion of a new text, that would allow countries to set their reduction targets against baselines that are projected into the future. In effect, some countrys could say that by 2020, it will have reduction of 40% on projected 2020 levels... Who thinks of these things?

Hearing of these fabulous, unbelievable, and completely incomprehensible, reprehensible ideas, one may be excused for asking themselves the very prudent questions: What are these negotiators thinking? Are they thinking? Who are these "people" who can do such dastardly things with our future?

And finally... Are they monsters or people?

It's hard to answer this positively, when you see the state of our Mother Earth, and the state of irresponsibility in the negotiations. It's hard to remember that the ones making these outrageous policies are still people, still human like the rest of us. But the fact is, they are human, just like you and me. They are exactly the same as the legions who will have to leave their homes to the rising ocean, the ones who will be hungry due to food shortages. They are exactly the same as the hundreds of millions of people who will die of thirst when the glaciers of the Himalayas are gone.

The Past

Today Arun and I ran into a German based in Australia, who was manning the booth of University of Technology, Sydney, and University of New South Wales. We had gone to pay our respects to the university that is paying for our accomodation, and we started talking to her about the negotions. By the by, she mentioned that she had previously been a negotiator for the German delegation, for about 10 years! Arun didn't miss the great opportunity to question her about the negotiation inside story. It was nice to get an idea of the process that goes into these papers, which hold so much doom, and so much promise, for so many people, animals, ecosystems, lives.

What she said was very interesting. By and large, the negotiating teams are made of a mix of experts, burocrats, and politians. If there are disagreements within a delegation, the dispute goes up to the higher levels, and whatever is said, is usually final.

During the negotiations, every morning, each delegation has it's own debreifing, wherein they decide on points to push for the day. It really is a lot of work for them, too.

Our German-Australian friend being a past negotiator, we found her very frank and engaging, willing to teach us, and very knowledgable. I asked her specially whether the people doing the negotiations actually cared about the environment. Arun grilled her on the parlimentary process back home, how their decisions were arrived at, and how they represented their countries.

It seems that, in her experience, all the policy positions are decided by the delegations themselves, not by a parlimentary process back home. For some years, there are people who really care about the environment, and then negotiations really go forward. Other times, some people manage to hold things up, or insist on backwards regulations. It really all depends on the people running the delegation - a very personal manner. Decision can only be taken when each and every country agrees on the topic at hand. This requirement for consensus has been the cause of many years of delay, as just one country disagreeing pushes the decision further to the future. It's shocking to realize that the individual personalities of the head negotiators have such a heavy influence on our future!

The Present

In my ramblings around the Bella Center (mostly in search of free food), I've found that the delegations from Africa are the most approachable. They are by and large friendly, and talking with them I find that we all have a common, unifying approach, of Climate Justice. Another feature common among the African delegations seems to be a feeling of frustration, a feeling that the negotiations are largely futile, that the decisions have already been made, and there will be no ground moving legislation coming out of this.

Other delegations that I have run into are Thailand, and Denmark. Tomorrow I'll be meeting with the USA delegation, via their breifing session. Overall, I've found that these delegates are reserved at first, and thaw only after a bit of conversation.

The Future

Who are the negotiators of the future? What would if the youth of today were the negotiators of the future? Would we have a progressive leadership - OUR leadership, that we wish for today? Growing from meddlesome and insistent youth would we mature into kind, caring, and responsible "grown-ups"? Or would we also, like those before us, forget our vision of a beautiful, equitable future, and quarrel and block the future of our own children's generation?

Our future is in the hands of the negotiators, but it's up to us to tell them what we want it to look like! And it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to raise our words and our actions in building a future that is sustainable, equitable, with Climate Justice for All.