One Rant at a Time

Whatever heaves into view........better keep its head down.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


Greetings from snowbound Montreal, where 10,000 ministers, civil servants, associated flunkeys, environmental campaigners, industry lobbyists and journalists have spent the last two weeks horse-trading over the future of the world.

You'd think that "the future of the world" was something that wouldn't be up for debate, negotiation, horse-trading or bargaining, wouldn't you? But believe me, it's worse than the any car-boot sale.

At this moment, I'm sitting in the cavernous press centre, waiting for an announcement that talks will resume. We had hoped to see a final deal done and dusted by around 6pm, but nope, there are still some deals to be done and paragraphs of text to be mulled over, we're told.

What always amazes me is the degree of precision these sort of negotiations involve. For example, one delegation from a large country objects to the use of the word "process", because that implies a timetable and they object to timetables. Another country wants to strike out the word "developing" from a critical clause in a proposal, because they want certain options to be open to all nations, not just developing ones.

And these arguments, debates, negotiations take HOURS. Days, even. Boredom inevitably ensues. One colleague is playing solitaire next to me. A couple of others have gone to church to see a son-et-lumiere show. Others are phoning home, explaining that they have had to cancel their reservation on the 7:30 flight and may not be home till tomorrow.

In a few minutes, the public-address will crackle into life and tell us that the delegation from X or Y will hold a press conference in twenty minutes. We'll all scurry to the right room, sit down expectantly, notebooks at the ready, only to be told that "talks are continuing" and that "we are optimistic".

The minister or chief negotiator will tell us that progress has been made on the ticklish issue of removing this word, or re-phrasing that sentence. They might even drop in an amusing anecdote or two.

Then they'll take questions. Reporter after reporter will pop up, ask about the attitude of this nation or that one, and the answer will be carefully couched in diplo-speak.

Nobody would dare criticize anyone at an open forum, but if you're lucky enough to snag a private moment with someone who'll speak on the record, but on condition of anonymity, they'll tell you that they're "very annoyed" with nation X's attitude, and they are working "their arses off" to get nation Y back to the negotiating table.

But more often than not, the press conference is delayed, postponed, because the contact group hasn't had a chance to discuss the issue at hand, and so we're left drumming out fingers on the table, writing pointless colour stories or, in some cases, blog entries.

And all this hot air because we want to stop global warming.


Post a Comment

<< Home