Here is Guest Poster Thom Mitchell’s latest missive from COP21:
The Paris climate talks are staggering to a close, folks. An unwieldy and cumbersome beast by nature, the Ministers who jetted in this week will put her down over the course of the next day or two, or three. It’s not clear.
The French want a weekend – to have the text nailed down on Thursday, ready to be legalled Friday. We’ll see. As I wrote last night, there’s been little movement on the big overarching decisions that need to be taken, and when I went for a kip – on the couches off from the upstairs press pool, at 3.30am Central European Time – there were still closed negotiations dragging through the frosty Paris night.
I hope Julie Bishop was in one of them, eyeballs stinging. The ridiculous nature of Australia’s positions at the talks – called out, as I reported at the time, by a series of coordinated actions that stalled coal exports along the east coast of Australia – was stripped naked by her ridiculous comments a few days ago.
“Barring some technological breakthrough fossil fuels will remain critical to promoting prosperity, growing economies and alleviating hunger for years to come,” she told an event focused on transitioning to a low carbon economy.
The fact words like these are still coming out of senior frontbencher’s mouths is the saddest indictment, perhaps, of Malcolm Turnbull’s prettier-than-Abbott government. I mean, actually, Julie, what’s difficult to see is how, without some marvel of innovation, coal could be made tasty.
Curing hunger? Really? Have some coal, poor people! Delicious!
Feed them your greedy death stare, more like it.
But there’s been surprisingly little of that; everyone is playing nice, congratulating the French on the admittedly admirable job they’re doing of keeping the hissing, booing and jumping up and down private.
If the French are going to hit their deadline, though, countries will need to resolve the ultimate ‘guardrail’ of how much warming the world will allow; the ‘collective long term goal’ on emissions cuts that will allow us to get there; who will pay; and what role developing states will be expected to play on a range of fronts.
Most of the good stuff has survived the latest prune of the Paris agreement, though. It’s come down to a very manageable 29 pages long, but the nearly 200 countries involved must come to consensus, which is always a big ask. And a lot of the bad stuff is still there, too. Either or will have to face the chopping block.
I suspect that a lot of the nuts and bolts will be deferred to the next ‘Conference of the Parties’ in Morocco, next year, where there’ll be a bit more space to operationalise the deal before it comes into affect in 2020.
And as you might expect, as the negotiation draws towards the pointing and possibly stabbing end, the antics at the Le Bourget conference centre where this political showdown is being staged are getting more frayed.
Last night funny man Dan Ilic, an Australian, presented Bishop with the ‘Fossil of the Day Award’ for her attempt to cram coal down the throats of the poor. And on the Saturday after the Paris summit is slated to close a pretty serious line up of mass demonstrations and creative actions are planned.
But there’s been a surprising sense of calm-before-the-storm to the last few days, because the big questions have remained fairly stagnant. The fact it’s come so late, though, could simply invite a more ferocious storm. There might be some fireworks today.
Or one would hope so, particularly if we’re all going to get that weekend the French President of the conference, Laurent Fabius, is trying to bag. I for one bloody hope so. I feel like I’ve been hit by a non-renewables-fuelled truck. After many nights of three, four, or six AM sleeps, I’m hoping for some time alone with a few bottles of middle-of-the-road vin de rouge.
I did have one brief soiree two nights ago, though, on the generous hospitality of Climate Councillors Tim Flannery, Amanda McKenzie, and Prof Lesley Hughes: I heard an interesting story about a certain rat, from a certain mammalogist (not Flannery), in their somewhat salubrious apartment. You might be hearing more about it, at some point. Again, we’ll see.
And I hate to repackage the rat metaphor I used when I last wrote to you good folk, but we’ll see what rats if any crawl up and die in the text of the Paris agreement. It’s increasingly clear it’ll be no panacea, but that’s no surprise. I’m more and more of the view that actions like those of the brave folk who shut down the coal export ports in Newcastle, Brisbane and Port Kembla this week will be the real means of operationalising the fandangled circus here in Paris.
It rolls up every year, replete with the carbon footprint of shipping in thousands or tens of thousands of journalists, observers delegates and politicians, but it’s clearer than ever already that something’s got to make it give. And that that momentum, like the commitments to cut carbon themselves, must come from the national level and domestic level.
As the President of Kiribati told me in an interview a few days ago, overcoming the drug dealer’s defence we in Australia use to persist in profiting from the coal exports that are sinking his nation, “it is a job for you people in Australia”.
“If you don’t believe your government is doing the right thing,” he said, “then change your government”.
Thank you, as ever, for your generous support.
I’ll let you know how things pan out.