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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bonn climate talks diary: Saudi name down the toilet, Yvo cooks a delegate, the World Bank gets a bashing and windy wonders

Bonn climate talks diary

Saudi name down the toilet, Yvo cooks a delegate, the World Bank gets a bashing and windy wonders

Bonn Climate talks: Yvo De Boer
Outgoing executive secretary of the UNFCCC, Yvo De Boer, holds a present during a farewell event at the Bonn climate talks. Illustration: UNFCCC

A diplomatic whodunnit

by John Vidal, The Guardian, June 11, 2010

Someone was so angry at Saudi Arabia's continual "wrecking" tactics – which have blocked several moves by developing countries to reassess the science of climate change and increase the commitments of rich countries to cut emissions – that he or she took the plastic nameplate that sits in front of delegates in the plenary hall, and broke it. They then dunked it in the men's, and then in the women's lavatories, taking photographs and writing graffiti on the pictures. This deep insult has led the Saudi ambassador to complain. But the UN is not planning an investigation.

Yvo's words of wisdom

The departing Yvo de Boer was clapped out of the UN by the press and others, but not before making some parting comments. On moving on: "I would recommend doing something different every 4-5 years." On optimism: "You have to fight and expect that there is hope in the end". On talking versus negotiating: "This [UN] process needs more dialogue and discussion [as opposed to more negotiations]." And some conference culinary advice: "How to cook a delegate: If a meeting lasts six days, you need to boil him for five days and he will be ready on the sixth. If the meeting lasts two weeks, cook the delegate for 13 days at a slightly lower temperature, i.e, people use the negotiating time available!"

Bash the Bank

One of the best sports in Bonn is called "Bash the Bank", which involves large groups of NGOs getting together to accuse the World Bank of hypocrisy, perfidy, calumny and even duplicity. Today, Friends of the Earth (FoE) International brought out its top guns from the US, UK and elsewhere to protest against the Washington-based outfit becoming the world's top climate banker, as rich countries would prefer. The figures FoE presented were alarming: in 2009 the bank was by far the world's biggest investor in fossil fuel industries -- a cool $4.7bn (£3.23bn). This, and the fact that the bank was set up to relieve poverty, make it unfit to control the billions of dollars that are earmarked for climate change, says the group. More than 250 organisations in 50-plus countries have now written to Obama to support the alternative -- a climate fund that is controlled not by the bank but by the UN. Strong rumours suggest that the US is now beginning to shift its position this way.

Wind power wonders

Climate meetings often wash up strange coves who know more than anyone else about something. Today it was the turn of Steve Sawyer, the world's only "walking wind power lexicon". He used to be the chief executive of Greenpeace US and international but is now the very grand secretary-general of the Global Wind Energy Council. Sawyer was not here to counter assertions made this week by Viscount Monckton that wind power will do nothing to lower global temperatures: "A crazy peer from the UK is not really my debating partner," is all that he would say on that matter. Instead, Sawyer came to chart the vertiginous growth of the industry. He reckons it is on track to generate 2m jobs worldwide and roughly 12% of world electricity supply within 10 years. Meanwhile, China is still doubling capacity every year and now eyeing up the vast potential of the east of the country, India and Latin America are exploding and even Antarctica is now 60% powered by wind. But he admitted that the industry was taking $3bn (£2.06bn) a year in subsidies (though "less than 1% of fossil fuel industry") and that "spectacular mistakes" had been made in siting some farms.


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