Now the real negotiations begin at the UN climate conference | WGN 720 radio

GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) – Princes, Presidents and Prime Ministers are gone, and now the real mask-to-mask climate negotiations are beginning.

For the next 10 days, perhaps longer, professional diplomats at the crowded United Nations climate conference must convert the marching orders left by their heads of government into compromises and deals. Talks are taking place in a limited number of meeting rooms in Glasgow, with a deadline of Friday 12 November and a record-breaking agenda listing 104 items that need to be addressed.

The negotiations are restricted by the pandemic but aided by a year and a half of virtual meetings, instant soup brought from Norway and chocolates from Swiss and Australian diplomats.

By next week, the pressure on deadlines is sure to intensify. Meetings will be held 24 hours a day. Food and sleep will be set aside, except when someone dozes off in a seat or on a colleague’s shoulder.

“We have meals together and spend hours locked in conference centers with little sleep and bad food. It’s a bit of a crazy bonding experience, but it builds trust. And trust is the key to compromise, ”said Kelley Kizzier, vice-president of the Environmental Defense Fund, who spent 15 years as a negotiator for the European Union.

At least 120 meetings were scheduled for Wednesday, with more chances to be added. But only 25 meeting rooms are available in the sprawling conference complex where half of the structures are temporary, with makeshift roofs and rows of crisp but cold portable toilets. And those rooms allow a limited number of people inside due to social distancing rules designed to keep everyone 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) away.

Between meetings, everyone should come out for 15 minutes of clean-up, which the Scottish government insists on, said Laura Lopez, conference administrator for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, who is leading negotiations on a site technically owned by the UN. .

“The problem is, our people aren’t that disciplined,” Lopez said. “They keep talking and don’t leave the room.”

The rooms where it happens are often the rooms next to where it happens.

“Agreements are made very often outside the room,” said longtime negotiator Yamide Dagnet, now head of negotiations for the World Resources Institute. Countries give their positions at the table, but it is in the corridors, during coffee breaks, snacks of meals and other times of absence that compromises emerge, she said.

That’s why face-to-face meetings cannot be replaced by virtual meetings, said seasoned negotiator Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, who chairs one of the UN’s two main negotiating groups.

“In the hallway you meet someone, and that’s where you agree on that comma versus that semicolon, and that’s what’s missing” in virtual meetings, he said. .

The 18 months of virtual negotiations brought people together and made them work more together. But they must seal the deal in person, said Mpanu Mpanu and Marianne Karlsen, who heads another negotiating group for the UN.

“People need to stand eye to eye,” Karlsen said.

They both attribute the pandemic and the months of virtual meetings to improvements over previous meetings.

“I really think the pandemic has provided additional flexibility,” Mpanu Mpanu said.

In recent years, the UN has been installing bean bag chairs in meeting rooms and offices for naps during the final crisis, Lopez said. But the pandemic killed that this year.

Karlsen said one of the keys to survival is having a supply of snacks, crisps, chocolate and fruit – as well as your personal contribution.

“I always bring extra baggage with instant soups,” Karlsen said. The Australian and Swiss financial trading teams are well known for bringing chocolate.

“And there are no conditions,” Mpanu Mpanu said.

When talks are behind schedule and people are tired, bigger, richer countries that have additional negotiators get a head start on smaller countries, he said.

“If you are not in top form, people will benefit,” Mpanu Mpanu said.

In the past, negotiators were often joined in the rooms by observers, often from associations. But talks are now closed to these groups and the media.

Due to the virus, the United Nations climate office attempted to offer more remote access to meetings. With several poorer island nations unable to send negotiators and room occupancy severely constrained by health rules, the remote system is crucial, but it has been fraught with problems.

Observers and activists complained that they could not attend the meetings or watch them online.

The biggest diplomatic event ever in the UK saw the UN apologize for the video issues, the lack of accessibility for people with disabilities for a member of the Israeli cabinet and for the long, slow lines of security.

Security lines were slow as 25,000 people collected passes. But at any given time, only 10,000 people may be present due to the pandemic, and the lines need to be wider and fewer for social distancing, Lopez said. The conference had to briefly stop allowing people to enter due to the 10,000-person limit.

But the difficulties are only part of the deal with the negotiators, Karlsen said: “There are no easy children to be born in this process.”


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The Associated Press’s Department of Health and Science receives support from the Department of Science Education at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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