First impressions

Camilla Toulmin's picture
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5 December 2008

Long before dawn broke over London, I took an early train out to the airport and flight to Poznan. Chill mist was still rising off the fields as we landed, and temperatures below freezing. A goodie bag awaits all delegates at the hotel desk, including map, calendar, folk songs and sheepskin hat - the last of these very welcome outside the conference hall. Inside, and we're sweltering... as if we need a taste of what global warming might bring to drive home the science of climate change, in case of doubt.

The familiar circus of international meetings is laid out in stalls, theatre, coffee bars and laptops. I've got a choice of six side events to go to, in rooms evocatively named - Grebe, Otter, Raven and Wild Boar. If clever ideas and new initiatives could tackle climate change, it would have been sorted by now. But first impressions of the governmental negotiators are of desultory sheep, wandering without direction, in need of a firm hand. The EU has lost all ambition of global leadership, either on tough emission cuts or on offering a fair deal on adaptation for poor countries. Is it the financial crisis that's sapped the European resolve, or are we all in suspense waiting for the Obama team to come to the table? We'll get a better sense next week when Ministers turn up for a few days grandstanding.

Meanwhile, tomorrow is Forests day. What's the chance of designing a payment system to compensate countries for not cutting down their forests? Watch this space...

Camilla Toulmin, Director of IIED

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