By Philippe Wealer, Caritas Luxembourg
188 days, 17 hours, 15 minutes and 32 seconds left until Copenhagen, it says on several electronic boards in the ‘Maritim’. Anyone entering the hotel where the ‘Bonn Talks’ are taking place from 01.-12. June has to undergo the same safety procedures as in an airport.
Commercial internet sites are offering rooms for 210 Euro per night, thus nuancing delegations’ facilities to accede, roughly depending on whether they are from industrialized countries, less developed countries or non-governmental organizations. Caritas delegates are staying in an area without such hotels at the other side of town.
When the 4216 attendants talk amongst themselves, they rarely use the name Copenhagen to only denote the name of the Danish capital. Much rather they are referring to the United Nations meeting that is going to take place there in December this year and at which politicians from around the world will have to agree on new strategies to combat climate change. Until that day not much time is left on the display – and on the shiny wristwatches of the 1698 governmental negotiators who are gathering with ambitions to prepare texts, conventions and protocols for their ministers to sign off. Interestingly the auxiliary verbs ‘shall’ and ‘must’ are considered synonymous in the underlying document.
188 days, 17 hours, 13 minutes and 11 seconds left, the Cape Verdean delegation rose to speak in front of the other 181 parties, saying that they will not be able to participate unless the technical problems with the French interpretation are solved. One of the working groups at the ‘Bonn Talks’ is dealing with long term cooperative action. During the second day of the meeting, its participants were sitting together until the early evening hours, elaborating nothing but the formalities of how to proceed with discussions during the following days. The importance of such formalities is easily understood, considering that each attending party brings in its own cultural background, language (register) and hermeneutics.
Outside these negotiations, 2075 observers from various NGOs are attending and/or setting up side events. Catholic organizations including Cartias have taken this opportunity to present a paper on ‘The Importance of Adaptation Technologies for the post-2012 Climate agreement’. Essentially this document urges industrialized regions to put their advanced knowledge, skills and instruments to the disposition of less developed regions in order to allow for the latter’s adaptation to changes in climate pattern. In presence of the Holy See’s representative, 46 attendants were following the discussions among the five panellists on the matter. In addition to this, Caritas is present with specialized information at a stand throughout the duration of the ‘Bonn Talks’.
There were 188 days, 15 hours, 35 minutes and 49 seconds left when we were carrying leaflets, brochures and banners from the place of our side event back to our stand inside ‘Maritim’. While we were walking, several negotiators – they had obviously ended their talks – came jogging past us. It was mostly white athletic males who had exchanged their dark suits for sports gear in order to recover from the effort of sitting, to enjoy the pleasant weather and stimulate their appetite before dinner.
As we went on walking we could recognize the drivers of the Indian delegation from their typical headdress. Their new Mercedes was glimmering in the evening sun. Also the representatives from other less developed countries had started closing time. Asked about his family, one of them remarked with a pinch of salt: This meeting is not so much about governments fighting climate change; the real negotiations usually take place at home, when we need to explain to our spouses, why we are going to be away for two weeks yet again. As we dropped our heavy box in the ‘Maritim’, we smelled the chlorine from the heated swimming pool.