Wilful blindness… the curse of optimism.

I have been following the progress of negotiations on the Kyoto protocol. Although calling it “progress” might be too generous. After hours of deliberating, the parties’ positions are so distant and entrenched that a fleet of bulldozers would be needed to bring them any closer. Oh, and we have until tonight to reach an agreement. How can anything be agreed when the developing countries want to make second commitment period targets conditional upon legally-binding, economy-wide commitments by the US? (We know how likely that is.) When no one knows what to do about the “hot air” undermining Kyoto’s already fraught environmental integrity. When you can hear the fragile truce between G77 and the developed countries strain ominously each time Japan declares that having two climate change agreements operating concurrently is untenable in the long run. I think I saw steam coming out of the Sudanese negotiator’s ears.

Given this, you can imagine my shock when the Chair of the session, after 2 solid hours of hearing these polarized positions in no uncertain terms, stated, “I look forward to reporting back to the President on the consensus that we can see emerging here.” Really? I don’t know what negotiations he was listening to…. Or maybe he had his translation device turned to Russian. Only possible explanations. Having parties voicing opposing views in an open forum, even if they don’t resort to swearing or throwing things, does not a consensus make. No matter how much your Chair hopes and prays it does. I almost applauded when China took the floor and demanded that the Chair tell us exactly what these supposed points were, because the only point of consensus that China could see was that there had been no consensus reached.

Negotiations are starting up again. I am curious to see whether the Chairs of the respective working groups, in the dying hours of the COP, can salvage something that looks even remotely like a consensus. But even if they can, I don’t think it will be a very pretty consensus. I think it will most likely look like Picasso’s Weeping Woman after 3 rounds with Mohammad Ali. Or maybe, like Japan (and, more quietly, many other developed countries) would like, Kyoto will be left gutted and ignored and gathering dust in a corner.

Yes – am feeling very positive right now.