Bail Conference, Day 4: The eye of the storm

It’s Thursday, and the negotiations at the UN climate conference in Bali have moved behind closed doors.

Following my rather long and introspective post yesterday, I’ll try to be a bit more focused on the (in)action today. Not only will this spare you my musings, but it will also allow me to get a couple hours of sleep before being woken for the graveyard editing shift on ECO, the Climate Action Network’s widely read daily publication that gives a voice to the environmental NGOs.

As I indicated above, most negotiations are now occurring behind closed doors. When I walked into the conference center today, I thought I felt a distinct lull. But as the day progressed I learned that, far from a lull, things are likely happening much faster now—though perhaps not fast enough.

At this point, most information about who’s saying what in this-or-that closed session is obtained from “spies.” It’s not actually cloak-and-dagger stuff, but simply that some of the friendly delegates share information about how things are progressing. Personal relationships between delegates and NGOs are very important at this point. Not only does information get passed along, but some delegates also run proposals by the NGOs.

I’m a newcomer and thus nearly spy-less, but through the veterans and a briefing today from the U.S. delegation, which of course must be critically evaluated, I get the gist of what’s happening in the main event. Countries are beginning to wade through what would be on the agenda of negotiations for a new climate pact, and after that they will attempt to define the process by which those negotiations would occur. It’s slow-going, and there is some concern that too much distance between parties will persist into next week to allow for a quick conclusion in the high-level negotiations.

This description is basically consistent with what I witnessed today in the one open meeting I attended of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) group. It took 45 minutes just to decide if they should be talking about what the Chair suggested they talk about. It was a 45-minute meeting, so it ended with no progress. Now that discussion moves behind closed doors as well.

Bicycles Transportation between sites remains a bit of an adventure, but with the right attitude it can be a fun one. I’ve been taking advantage of the public bicycle service that has been set up (see photo, right), as have many other participants. Between scheduled event times, an amusing stream of yellow bicycles weaves along the path between venues. From the wobbling, I’d say it’s been a while since some have been on a bicycle.

Yes, I’ve also hopped in a taxi on occasion. Gasp! My new favorite trick is that when I see someone else hail a cab, I invite myself along. “Oh, didn’t hear me ask for a lift? You can hear me now that I’m squeezed in next to you, right?”

I’m kidding, mostly. To some extent, everyone here is in the same boat: working long hours and running from place to place, so there’s some camaraderie there. And my rideshare tactic isn’t just getting me from place to place—each time, I’ve had a great conversation about international governance, biofuels, renewable energy, etc…

Now for a bit of sleep before my shift...