So here I am in Bonn for the second round of climate change negotiations since Copenhagen. The end of Day 2. The first day of Europe’s summer. The clouds have lifted, the rain of the past few days has eased, the streets are filled with bicycles and people taking evening strolls. And, as a colleague reflected: there is a calm and gentle breeze a-blowing in Bonn this evening. Things seem, well, quietly positive.
It was, however, a slow and dull start to the week. For most participants, this was the first time back to the UNFCCC* scene since departing Copenhagen exhausted and with heavy hearts. There should have been a buzz in the air, to help us pick up where things left off; a global deal is so urgently needed.
But instead, the Hotel Maritim seemed filled with slow moving conversation, slow moving people, and significantly tempered expectations about what can be achieved in Bonn and throughout the remainder of the year. One Australian delegate commented: "The mood here seems really flat, everybody just seems really tired."
There was also a sense of an impending doom, with rumours flying that countries weren’t happy with the new negotiating text – some didn’t like it because it used Copenhagen Accord language too much; others didn’t like it because it used Copenhagen Accord language too little; some were going to block working on the text and demand a new one. A sense of Groundhog Day lurked in the corridors of the Maritim.
However, by Day 2, it seemed this was all pure speculation. Six hours of statements from delegates stretching late into the afternoon – and the feared explosion over the negotiating text didn’t eventuate. Most statements held a positive view of being able to work with the text. There was a certain sense of willingness to cooperate and move things along.
Yet, as negotiators sit in Bonn, things are happening across the rest of the world, a stark reminder of the urgency with which countries need to reach a deal. The northern parts of India are suffering through a record heatwave, pushing thermometers to nearly 50 degrees and setting new temperature records. Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Agatha has ravaged South America, taking over 100 lives and forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people in flooding driven by heavy rains.
After this meeting in Bonn, there's only two weeks of negotiations left before countries turn their focus to Cancun, Mexico in December. A gentle breeze today is nice, but will it be good enough to get us on track, to curb emissions and respond to the challenges of climate change? For now we will savour the mood, but things must get moving. Here’s hoping the wind doesn’t change direction.
* United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change