The darkest hour

I made CAN’s briefing this morning despite being up till 3am. Not sure whether this is due to jetlag or excitement, but either way it’s working out pretty well – definitely getting the most out of my time here.

Today is the Kyoto protocol’s 10th anniversary and the front page of the daily conference programme lists four events to mark the occasion, from a Greenpeace celebration complete with “giant birthday cake” to a “poolside party” at dusk.

Yet there was not much of a party atmosphere at the CAN briefing.

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“It seems like it [Australia] is doing everything it can to block progress,” said Stephen Campbell from Greenpeace Australia and Asia Pacific.

“Japan, Australia, Canada and the US are trying to transform what is an anniversary into a funeral,” agreed Marcelo Furtado from Greenpeace Brazil. Ambitions to cut developed country emissions by 25-40 per cent by 2020 are “being picked apart now and may end up on the trash heap at the end of the week.”

And this, stressed Mr Furtado, as the Intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) was yeterday receiving its Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore for making these very recommendations. 

“If you don’t know where you are headed, every road will get you there,” warned Alden Meyer of the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists, “the stakes are too high for this kind of political game playing.”

Today’s gloomy prognosis stands in stark contrast to the upbeat assessment NGOs issued only a day ago to mark the halfway point in the talks.

Yet there is a ray of hope. In his experience of these UN talks, said Mr Meyer, the darkest hour is always just before the ministers arrive. Luckily, there is also a saying that the darkest hour is just before dawn.

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