Battle until dawn

Guest post by Kartikeya Singh, co-founder of Indian Youth Climate Network

It is 6:13am on December 19 and in the Bella Conference Center I am listening to the chair of the AOSIS (Association of Small Island States) trying to fight off uncontrollable tears. I am almost certain that the Group of 77 (a behemoth of 130 plus developing country states) is coming to an end. Countries are divided and I am witnessing accusations fly across the plenary. Why has it taken us so long to arrive at this point? We sit here with the “Copenhangen Accord” staring at our faces. It is a document full of hot air and is not what billions of people across the planet had been promised to deliver atmospheric restitution. Once again the developed nations have managed to gain somewhat of an upper hand in the wake of greater sacrifices of the larger developing countries.

That aside, negotiators had feared from day one of the talks that the documents and the process of negotiating would not mature to the point required in order to allow negotiations to move into the high level segment where over 100 heads of states would come to sign a just climate deal. Their fears were realized. The process has been deeply flawed and the voices of nations regarding lack of transparency, conspiracy to kill off the Kyoto protocol has been true. I often found myself being witness to the injustice within the UNFCCC process (where had I not gone to certain meetings, I would have missed out on joint drafting sessions which I assumed were only scheduled G-77 coordination meetings). Text messages were sent, rooms were changed, information was not available to all.

All of this, in the wake of the greatest climate conference the world has ever seen since the birth of the Convention some 18 years ago. Why did it take us so long? How did we get so bitterly entrenched in this process? I have seen and learned more about the process as a negotiator in the last two weeks than I could have my entire life. As a result, I have become deeply disillusioned. Two nights ago, at the launch of the Maldives “Survival Kit” for nations, president Nasheed had all but given up on the process and called on youth to take to the streets and make this the absolute issue in politics. For nations like the Maldives that lie 1.5 metres above sea level at their highest point, this is an issue of their survival. I would agree.

After a bitter impasse, and stalling of the talks due to the flawed process, negotiators had still not made progress on many of the key issues. In the group discussing “enhanced action on mitigation” I found myself transported back in time as if no progress had been made between the developed and rapidly developing countries on any of the points on emissions reductions. On the issue of Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions by developing countries, the parties talked in circles and could not arrive at any concrete conclusions. Finally the heads of states arrived adding further confusion to an already impossible situation. Having lost a day and half due to the boycott of the talks by members of the African Group and other major developing countries didn’t help but probably was the only thing that kept the two track process (the Kyoto protocol) alive. Late last night, the heads of 25 nations were invited as part of a “friends of the chair” group to help broker a deal: United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Maldives, Grenada, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Algeria, Denmark, Germany, Korea, Bangladesh, France, Gabon, and three others. The leaders of this group tried to hammer out a rough document to provide the basis for further negotiations. This is the “Copenhagen Accord“.

The deal is far from perfect. It is non-binding for starters and has a range of base years from which the many countries putting up targets can choose. If one looks closely, there is probably no way that it meets the 2 degrees Celsius guard rail target that we need at the most in order to avert a run-away climate disaster (even though it claims to use 2 degrees as the upper limit). It is far from what the islands need, far from what the Least Developed Nations require and still leaves many questions to be resolved. Yet it is the only thing that can salvage the absolute and utter lack of trust and faith that has been built up over the last two years between parties of the United Nations. Climate poses the biggest question to humanity as to whether or not we are going to be able to save ourselves. That is after all, what we are trying to do here. At this time, what we need is trust, faith, and greater understanding to move forward. I am only 25 years old. I fear bringing children into this world and as I sit here listening to nation after nation make statements in favor of or against supporting the passing of the Copenhagen Accord, I am now as uncertain as ever as to the future of humanity.

We have not attained “climate justice” here today. Nor have we secured our future. Outside over 200 protesters mobilised to arrive at the conference center to organize a “Shame Vigil.” Mind you, civil society suffered the most fatal defeat during these talks by having been forcibly locked out in the final days. However, with an unprecedented over 45,000 registered delegates to the talks, I think we have indeed arrived at a crucial point where the movement is unstoppable and will only continue to grow. It is now 7:00am and I am unsure as to what the outcome will be. I leave you with this:

“In my anger, I am not blind, and in my fear, I am not afraid to tell the world how I feel.” –Severn Suzuki (age 12), Rio Earth Summit 1992