In the belly of the articulated beast

Blog by
7 December 2008

So far, the Poznan COP is panning out nicely for memory stick collectors. As one IIED researcher pointed out, the goodie bags include not just a handy fake sheepskin flapped hat and a jar of Polish honey, but an eco memory stick encased in bamboo and an even more covetable one embedded in a rubber bracelet.

Once you set foot on the garish carpeting of the COP, you’re in the porta-UN, the belly of a gigantic articulated beast. As such, it’s a place with a law of its own — a sore disappointment for smokers here, who can follow their urge in Polish restaurants but must abide by UN antismoking regulations within the confines of the climate talks complex.

The bizarre architectural hotchpotch of COP central enhances the otherness of this event. A Soviet-style rocket-shaped radio mast looms over monolithic buildings that point to a conventioneering past to rival Chicago’s or LA’s. Inside at first glance, it’s a trade fair, media honeypot and school reunion rolled into one. People hare off in all directions, huddle everywhere. Furious networking is the thing, to capture the brainpower you need as it shunts along the gargantuan corridors. Corners of the cavernous halls are festooned with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment. UN agencies, NGOs, government agencies market energetically over their stalls.

This outer face of the climate talks induces the kind of trance state common in Western shopping malls: there’s too much choice, leading to overstimulation and, eventually, stupor. As the only decision at this COP will be on adaptation funding, I nipped into the Adaptation Fund Board negotiations, thrilled to be admitted — most are closed to the hoi polloi. Twenty minutes later, surrounded by rapporteurs beavering away in nine languages, I had to nip out again. The heat dangerously approached the 4C rise predicted by top UK scientists, the proceedings were coma-inducingly slow.

This was only the official face of the negotiations, however. What, I wondered, happened in those huddles?

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