Plenary Sessions

December 4, 2008

Dec 3rd –  Today I decided to attend one of the plenary sessions.  They are the main event, the real deal, where the rubber meets the road (see how deeply the old paradigm is ingrained in even the language).  They are also quite boring at first blush.  They are held in a huge room, with space for up to 4 member of about 190 national delegations, plus other organization parties to the talks, like the World Bank, UNESCO, indigenous peoples’ organizations, environmental organizations (not all, but some have ‘standing’ to ask for the floor).  These are the meetings where anyone with standing who wants to talk gets a chance to say their piece.

The tend to be very polite, and comment usually (but not always) start off with an expression to the chairperson, nation sponsoring the particular meeting (these things cost large sums to put on after all), and so on.  The statements are almost always written out in advance and read verbatim.  Hence they are not usually passionate statements; but there are exceptions.

The plenary session I attended today was one on CDM, or Clean Development Mechanism.  Statements at this one were limited to 2 minutes in respect of all the parties that need to be heard.  Most statements were relatively stayed affairs, good for catching up on email to.  But a few were noteworthy and I snapped to attention to get what was happening.   For example the speaker representing indigenous peoples just skewered the CDM as imposing things upon indigenous peoples.  That’s a theme echoed a lot here at the conference.

The speaker for the Climate Action Network, a consortium of climate change non-profit groups said the Clean Development Mechanism was ‘failing in it’s doables, that it actually undermines efforts to cut emissions in some ways, that it does not properly incentivize projects which create ‘additionalities’, decreases in emissions beyond what was already going to happen, that it permits too many ‘leakages’, loss of emissions controls inadvertently or by the intention of unscrupulous parties, that too few projects are being created in the least developed countries… The list went on and the speaker ‘timed out’, but the president of this year’s COP gave her additional time.

Tuvalu made many technical comments to improve the CDM framework.  I must note how sharp most of the speakers seem.  Small nations, island nations, ‘third world’ nations… we tend to think they own’t have the brightest people in their midst.  Think again.  Their negotiators are some of the sharpest most powerful and passionate speakers.

The speaker from Cuba got my attention heartily.  He cited the vast damage done to the island from the last 4 hurricanes that came by in 2008, two within one month’s time.  Even if they were compensated that amount we could not repair the damage.  He passionately documented the problem for the most exposed nations.

For the Earth – §