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Boat building in Copenhagen

Posted by Molly Walsh on December 08, 2009 at 11:21 AM

leaky canoe - lets not get into a leaky canoe
lets not get into a leaky canoe

The night train to Copenhagen is unusually late. The crowded platform in Cologne train station is dominated by interesting looking characters. There is a tall bearded man with a black stetson carrying a very battered leather briefcase. There are two scruffy punks form Belgian with very advanced cameras. There are a two people who joined my journey in London and seem to be from a UK NGO. They have long since exhausted their political discussions of what the weeks ahead will hold and are now much more animatedly discussing their cats. All these strange characters waiting for the train, myself included, are going to Copenhagen for the UN climate conference. From Monday thousands of delegates from around the world will gather at the Bella centre in an attempt to negotiate a global deal on climate. The train finally arrives at the platform and we all get on. I love night trains. Perhaps it is because we don't have any opportunities for international train travel in Ireland, perhaps its the idea of going to sleep in one country and waking up in another. Anyway I find them really exciting. There is a certain sound that night trains make that is different to the noises of other trains. The tone of the rattle seems lower and flatter, they are calm beasts that carry us sleeping to our destinations.

Copenhagen is our destination and my home for the next two weeks. The opening day of the COP (Conference Of Parties) is full of enthusiasm and anticipation. There was a buoyant youth action demanding we don't delay with dancing and chanting of "Its getting hot in here". Hopes are high. Obama is coming! The Youth are dancing! Welcome to Hopenhagen!
Hmmmm, Lets be careful here, momentum can be good. We need momentum to get this show on the road. We need a global deal on climate change more urgently than we need a global deal on anything else. Let me chance an analogy. Imagine that world governments have been stuck on a beach building a boat for the last few years. In Bali we thought we had agreed on a diagram of what is should look like. World governments are not very good at this boat building lark though, everyone wants the boat to be the exact size and shape and material that will best suit their interests. There has been some bullying going one and not everyone is equally responsible for us being stuck on this beach with a rising tide. Anyway they're being slow about it and the tide is already lapping around some people's feet. Now suddenly there is a huge boulder coming over the sand dunes towards the beach. This is the boulder of Copenhagen hype. Its full of heads of state and 24 hour news channels. Quick lets get this boat launched! The hype boulder is coming down on top of us. The boat is not finished but we really need to get something in the water. Suddenly Denmark whip a canoe out from behind a rock. "Here's one we prepared earlier quick everyone get it!" We don't know about the integrity of their canoe we don't know it inside out like the one we've all been working on for years and examining its integrity as we go along, but it seems finished and that boulder is rolling closer. I can see the temptation to get it.

This is what it will be like if we accept, at the last minute, the high level political text that is being prepared by Denmark for the arrival of the Heads of State in case nothing else is ready.
We must not take the easy option and act like we've finished a process when we haven't. There is still time to do the hard ground work and get the text that everyone's been working on ready. We just must not get distracted by the boulder of hype and the secretive noises that Denmark (and is that the US?) are making behind that rock. Not matter who gets the credit for sealing this deal, if its not the right one and its not good enough, we're all going to sink.

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