Today, CNBC pulled me aside asking for a few sound bites on the major issues at COP15 and the importance of technology in reaching a climate solution. The amount of media here is incredible. Reporters, recorders, cameras, lights, and microphones are truly everywhere, all competing for stories and shots.
They have a minimal presence, however, in the plenary sessions, where countries piece apart the text of the treaties and other documents themselves. Given the media’s frequently cursory treatment of extraordinarily complicated issues, with climate change being a prime example, it’s not all that surprising that they avoid getting into the weeds, instead focusing on high profile speeches and demonstrations. But this leaves the public with little understanding of what much of these negotiations actually consist of.
In international treaty negotiations such as this one, countries create draft language leaving words, sentences, and numbers upon which they cannot agree in brackets. Often, most of the text on a page will be left in brackets until the negotiations themselves, leaving a huge amount of work to do to reach agreement in a short period of time. Today, in the plenary session of the contact group on reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries, various countries rose to speak, debating whether brackets surrounding various words could be removed, thereby finalizing the language. This debate of language is not interesting to many, and doesn’t have the same sort of entertainment value as demonstrations, art exhibits, speeches, and concerts do, but that is what international negotiations really are. And the devil really is in the details–placement of a comma almost derailed the Bali negotiations leading up to COP15!