Poznan: Surrealism Reigns at Climate Conference

“Welcome to the Hotel California. Such a lovely place. Such a lovely place.”

That Eagles’ classic was playing on the taxicab radio when I arrived in Poznan, Poland last night for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The cabbie, who doesn’t speak a word of English, couldn’t be blamed for the set-up, but it was a perfect theme song.

This is a climate change conference at which nothing is expected to change. As reported earlier, no one anticipates anything positive from the Americans or (naturally) the Canadians, but even the European powers that once showed admirable leadership on this issue are backing away from action.

For example, Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose German government has been a world leader in climate change policy, said Monday that she would fight any EU climate deal that jeopardised German jobs.

Thus, you have a conference centre bristling with action and concern - its corridors crowded with booths, staffed by science and ENGO spokesters who can frighten you half to death in even the shortest discussion on the likely implications of climate change. And yet even here, among people who know the stakes, there is a calm resignation to the disastrous status quo.

At a daily briefing by the Climate Action Network, Stephen Guilbeault of the Quebec environmental group Equiterre tried to brush off the pessimism, saying that these massive negotiations (there are 183 “parties” - mostly signatory countries - involved in the talks) always look bleak midway through. But the pressure of concerned citizens around the world always pushes the politicians toward action.

Of course, if you’re waiting for the citizens of (English-speaking) Canada to rise up and demand a more responsible performance from their negotiators, you might be disappointed, While there are two reporters from the French-language Quebecois media, as of Tuesday mid-day, there wasn’t a single accredited reporter from Canadian mainstream media. It’s hard to know for sure if that represents disinterest or despair, but I would guess the former - that the biggest news organization in Canadian history, CanWest Global, just doesn’t care enough to put a reporter on a plane.

Still, it’s hard to believe that 8,000 people can have gathered from every corner of the world to no good effect. Stay tuned.


What criteria was used to approve attendees? There should not be thousands of people traveling from all over the world to attend a conference on climate change, adding to the problem.  When will the foolhardiness end?    

The alternative to having 5,000 activists come to lobby 3,000 bureaucrats and politicians would be to let the bureaucrats and politicians operate in the dark. I suggest that might extend the foolhardiness rather indefinitely.

I am far more comfortable with the 5,000 activists travelling to Poznan than I am with the thousands who travel by air on vacation or unnecessary business without a care for what the impact might be.  During the protests against airport expansion at a British airport last week, one woman who was interviewed was on her way to her second home across the Channel somewhere – she commutes!  (You know you’ve got too much money when …). 

Perhaps one of the items on the agenda ought to be how the goals of the conference could be achieved by consultation via electronic means.


There are hopes that Poznan, which runs, will produce a text, accompanied by a detailed work programme, that can provide the basis for detailed negotiations to prepare for a global deal during the December 2008 conference in Copenhagen. But while the European Commission has high hopes for Poznan, which has repeatedly championed its own ‘leadership’ in global efforts to address climate change, has been increasingly flirting with a loss of face and international credibility as its member states bicker over the details of their climate and energy package.