“Welcome to the Hotel California. Such a lovely place. Such a lovely place.”
That Eagles’ classic was playing on the taxicab radio when I arrived in Poznan, Poland last night for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The cabbie, who doesn’t speak a word of English, couldn’t be blamed for the set-up, but it was a perfect theme song.
This is a climate change conference at which nothing is expected to change. As reported earlier, no one anticipates anything positive from the Americans or (naturally) the Canadians, but even the European powers that once showed admirable leadership on this issue are backing away from action.
Thus, you have a conference centre bristling with action and concern - its corridors crowded with booths, staffed by science and ENGO spokesters who can frighten you half to death in even the shortest discussion on the likely implications of climate change. And yet even here, among people who know the stakes, there is a calm resignation to the disastrous status quo.
At a daily briefing by the Climate Action Network, Stephen Guilbeault of the Quebec environmental group Equiterre tried to brush off the pessimism, saying that these massive negotiations (there are 183 “parties” - mostly signatory countries - involved in the talks) always look bleak midway through. But the pressure of concerned citizens around the world always pushes the politicians toward action.
Of course, if you’re waiting for the citizens of (English-speaking) Canada to rise up and demand a more responsible performance from their negotiators, you might be disappointed, While there are two reporters from the French-language Quebecois media, as of Tuesday mid-day, there wasn’t a single accredited reporter from Canadian mainstream media. It’s hard to know for sure if that represents disinterest or despair, but I would guess the former - that the biggest news organization in Canadian history, CanWest Global, just doesn’t care enough to put a reporter on a plane.
Still, it’s hard to believe that 8,000 people can have gathered from every corner of the world to no good effect. Stay tuned.