Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Initial Dispatch: the Warsaw Climate Summit

If the UN were serious about a new climate treaty, it would turf the activists. They are a distraction no one needs.


UNFCCC. That acronym stands for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This is a treaty between nations. In the parts of the world in which I’d want to live, national authorities are answerable to the populations they represent via democratic elections.

Here in Warsaw, a UN-sponsored climate treaty aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions is currently on life support. Chances of hammering out a successor to the Kyoto Protocol are bleak. Moreover, a certain amount of cynicism about the entire process is surely justified. After all, we were told that the climate summit held four years ago in Copenhagen was our last chance to save the planet.

Since different nations (and blocs of nations) have different approaches and perspectives on what any international treaty should include, and since climate change is allegedly a planetary emergency, summits such as this one are supposed to be focused on one thing: saving our skins, finding common ground.

So why in the world are there exhibit booths on two floors of Poland’s absolutely stunning National Stadium from a long list of groups promoting their own agendas? What are those people doing there?

They haven’t earned, via democratic elections, the right to speak for you and me. Nor can they claim to be educating the population at large. No one’s wandering in off the street to read their posters and pamphlets.

I only got in as a journalist because I jumped through a series of hoops that included producing a letter signed by the editor-in-chief of a daily newspaper.  When I showed up in person a few hours ago, I had to pass through the sort of security one finds at airports (belongings in a bin to be x-rayed, step forward through the metal detector).

I then had to be photographed. My photo ID badge was electronically scanned on the way out – as well as on the way in. Outdoors, numerous police officers patrol the perimeter of the stadium.

Presumably, the public is barred because important business is being conducted. There’s a time and a place for everything, and the time for public input is not now.

But if that’s the case, why is Greenpeace allowed inside? And the Gaia Foundation? And Gender CC: Women for Climate Justice? And the International Trade Union Confederation.

Surely the presence of these groups muddies the water. Surely it unnecessarily complicates what is an already near-impossible task  – getting all the countries of the world to agree on anything. Just when you think you might be getting somewhere, the last thing you need is the insertion of dubious activist ideas into the conversation.

The UN says it wants a new climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol. It says the world needs that climate treaty.

But it isn’t really serious. If it were, this would be a very different kind of meeting, with a very different tone.



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