INSIDE COP21: NO PLANET B

COP21 Four days into the climate negotiations, Vattenfall’s Ivo Banek is reading the draft climate agreement using pedal power.

At the COP21 meeting in Paris, you can cycle through the text of the climate agreement. 
I have been at the negotiation centre in Le Bourget the whole week, but it’s not until today that I discover the pedal power generator: a round machine with three seats where you can produce electricity by pedaling. I need to charge my tablet, so I sit down, plug in my device and download the draft text of the planned agreement that has just been published, after four years of preparation and three days of intensive work in Paris. Exciting!

Ivo Banek reads the draft climate agreement using pedal power

Legs moving, I start reading the 50 pages of the document. First stop of my reading velotour is Article 2, describing the "purpose" of the agreement: to "hold the increase in the global average temperature [below 1.5 °C [or] [well] below 2 °C] above pre-industrial levels". - Oh my!

With the brackets marking different alternatives, the text offers at least three options to choose between. And that continues all the way through the document: there are up to five different versions for certain paragraphs.

Some of the passages have "more brackets than words", as one observer puts it at the morning briefing of the International Chamber of Commerce. The observers are reporting back from the working groups that since beginning of the week are discussing the topics of the planned Paris agreement.

At the convention centre in Paris we can follow those discussions in detail: Big screens are announcing the upcoming meetings, for example "Informal consultations on the proposal from Papua New Guinea and Mexico to amend Articles 7 and 18 of the Convention, 16.00 h, meeting room 17, open for Parties and Observers only". (You can get the same information with the free app "Negotiator" of the United Nations, available both for iPhone and Android.)

Looking at the program of the negotiations

Delegates of 195 countries give input on all questions of the climate agreement. How concrete the targets should be, how they should be measured, how responsibility and costs should be shared between developed and developing countries (and whether these terms should be used at all) are issues on which the Parties of the Conference have different opinions.

It's like at a bazaar where everybody shouts at everybody, only organised in workstreams and spin-off groups. And while the first negotiating week is turning towards its end, the number of amendments and brackets is increasing. It seems impossible that the Parties should be able to agree on one single text next week. "It's the normal frustration in this phase of the negotiations", says one of the experienced observers.

Now COP21 President Laurent Fabius has set a deadline: Saturday at noon the draft agreement shall be in a form that can be used for the final negotiations with the ministers next week, meaning: not so many brackets.

Still cycling through the Paris agreement on my pedal power generator I come to the very last paragraph of the document, one of the few in the draft text without alternative formulations. It states that the original of the agreement, in the six official languages of the UN, "shall be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations".

And this man, Ban Ki-Moon, does not want to leave Paris with empty hands. No agreement is not an option. Or, as he says: "There is no plan B, because there is no planet B."

Vattenfall’s coverage of the COP21 climate change talks in Paris
Vattenfall's Head of Communications Ivo Banek is attending the climate conference COP21 in Paris as an observer. Here, he writes about his personal impressions.
Follow him on Twitter for live coverage
All about COP21 and Vattenfall at the climate meeting

 

 

 

Related content