Friday, 11 December 2009


There are said to be some 30 ‘contact’ groups and informal working groups considering various parts of the text; it’s impossible from the conference floor to keep track of them all. Many are closed to NGO representatives but I’ve got a pass that lets me in. I step into one where the proposed text for the section on the clean development mechanism is being considered.

The chairman is of Chinese origin I think, and jollies the negotiators along with a few quips and humour; he starts with a tale about the price of his lunch and the paucity of its substance. Most of the people in the room are lower tier or specialist negotiators and will have met each other many times over the past few years. The meeting is in English, without interpretation.

The draft document is displayed on a screen and the chairman proposes that he takes the meeting through it paragraph by paragraph. If no one has an objection then it gets coloured green on the screen. If changes are sought then it is coloured yellow and the objector is asked to submit alternative text within the hour. If any country cannot accept a paragraph then they should call out red.’ “But let’s call it pink,” says the chairman.

The first couple of lines get a green, then it’s a flow of yellows with the occasion pink, followed by a few greens. Saudi Arabia demands that a paragraph on forest protection gets coloured pink, but they are probably just planning a trade-off because the next paragraph is about the inclusion of carbon capture and storage, which Saudi wants and Brazil does not. Brazil duly demands that it be coloured pink.

We move on through the document. Someone says “yellow”, another negotiator says “pink”. The chairman asks: “can someone give me the colour if we mix yellow and pink?” “GREEN!” someone shouts, and everyone laughs.

There’s a bit of time left after the first trawl so the chairman goes through the document again. As we come to each pink paragraph he asks the objectors if they really want to maintain implacable opposition, and if so why. “I’ll have to consult,” is a frequent response. Presumably they are voicing pre-agreed national mandates.

“Now get your inputs in if you want modifications,” says the chairman. “We meet again tomorrow.”

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