$200 and 9 bureaucratic hours later…

I made it to Bonn, Germany! I’m finally able to attend the 42nd Session of the Subsidiary Bodies (SB42) of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC), discussing the negotiating text and detailing plans for countries’ Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

Kalifi #SB42

If you’re thinking to yourself that the entire above sentence makes no sense, you’re not alone. It’s almost like these conferences make up an entire new language. International negotiations like these leave a trail of new lexicon, identifying streams of simultaneous discussions.

But it doesn’t have to be complicated…

This is all you need to know:

Since the establishment of the UNFCCC, countries have attempted to agree to reduce emissions two times. For a variety of reasons, both attempts failed.

It should be noted that many countries who signed both agreements succeeded in reaching their targets, so I’ll try not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Also, that is the worst saying ever but my brain’s fried and giving me no other alternative.

Same old, same old?

I’m at the conference before the conference.

Countries will sign a final agreement in Paris later this year. But – at the risk of sounding like a fortune cookie – in order to sign an agreement, one must be written. As I sit in the high ceiling, glass-walled World Climate Conference of Bonn, country representatives are rounding up talks on the actual words to be used in the text.

It seems as if political representatives, NGO members, and conference facilitators are running around with an air of familiarity*. It’s as if they’ve known each other for a very very long time. Almost like they are sick of seeing each other’s faces. Perhaps this is a good sign. This means that the very same people who have been working together over the years, and weathered two failed attempts at agreements, are seasoned veterans. They know what will and won’t work.

The hope here is to come out with a text that respects the lessons learned over the last two decades. The draft text must have these four qualities

  1. Binding: the terms must bind countries to their commitments
  2. Specific: the actions to be taken must be specific and well thought-out.
  3. Shared: the methods used to monitor results must be applied evenly
  4. Objective: the person or group assessing the success of a country must be independent of

While these principles seem simple, there have been 8 12hr-days of official talks and behind-door discussions on “doting the Is and crossing the Ts” of this one text. Each word can mean many things to many countries and groups.

So Far…

There’s a kind of scuttlebutt here that gives a daily reading of the conference mood. It has reported a short range of “careful optimism to deep skepticism”.  I think this is accurate – beleaguered international negotiators are eyeing my bright-eyed enthusiasm with suspicion… or pity.

Nevertheless, I am confident that that there is movement forward. The Gods wouldn’t have actually given me a 24 hour turnaround on a new passport for nothing.

* Possibly only because I arrived like yesterday


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