Rio+20 - A Question of Power

Rio+20 – A Question of Power

International political negotiations are very much about power. Rio+20 is no different, but besides political power, it’s very much about electrical power as well. Electrical power is proving to be one of the major challenges of the conference. No, I don’t mean energy issues – actual electrical power.

The host country Brazil committed, in the spirit of sustainability, to holding a paperless conference. A laudable decision, certainly, and with negotiators poring over pages and pages of documents from multiple sources, using electronic documents may actually be easier. There’s just one problem – the organisers neglected to provide enough electric power outlets in the conference rooms, and with negotiations running to over twelve hours some days, laptops and even tablets quickly run out of juice.

The result has been a constant, comical waltzing of electronic devices and charger cables around the handful of power outlets in each room, as delegates desperately try to snatch a few minutes of charging time during quiet periods.

Perhaps this is for the best, though. Everyone understands that we all need operational devices for the work to continue, and the trust and accommodation that the sharing of outlets entails sets an outstanding example of the cooperative spirit in which negotiations should proceed. Whether countries learn to share the global commons as we have been sharing power outlets, however, remains to be seen.