Parallel worlds at U.N. climate talks

December 18, 2009

protesterWhile UN climate talks involving world leaders descended into chaos and farce in the rooms and corridors of this immediately forgettable Copenhagen exhibition centre, a parallel world flourished in its main conference hall.

Meetings of world leaders and environment ministers through Thursday night and Friday yielded a series of draft climate texts, each more toothless and lacking in ambition than the last. NGOs despaired. The assembled media veered between disbelief and boredom. And outside in the snow the vegans, climate activists and other protest groups kept up a steady drumbeat of protest in the snow.

But inside the main conference hall, bureaucrats continued the deliberations they started two years ago to negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Unfazed by the chaos around them they worked their way laboriously and methodically through articles, sub-sections and clauses. All beamed live in to the press room but incomprehensible to the media.

At times of crisis people cling to certainty. Human nature is predictable. Will they still be running through the protocols when the first Pacific island sinks?

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