Kyoto Summit: Sketch: Global Warming? Pah! Just give me some clean socks

Late the other night, as the clock ticked on the Kyoto environment conference, a ghastly rumour began to spread among the 9,000-odd delegates, journalists and green campaigners. It was not that the conference might fall apart (although that was a distinct possibility), or that the agreement would be watered down (everyone knew it would be).

The awful possibility, which spread a frisson of fear through the meeting rooms and negotiating huddles, was that instead of ending as scheduled last night, the conference was going to continue until today, or even tomorrow. Global warming, rising oceans, malaria epidemics and skin cancer suddenly paled into insignificance. Nothing, nothing, could be worse than another day of this.

Future generations may or may not look back on the Kyoto conference as a historic moment when the nations of the world put aside greed and self-interest for the sake of their unborn grandchildren. Those of us who were present will remember it for very different reasons - as a tedious, migraine-inducing waste of time, an orgy of dismal food, pompous rhetoric, short tempers, and bad jokes.

Several things have made the conference nearly unbearable, first among them its setting - the Kyoto International Conference Hall (Kich). Reports from Kyoto have all described the city as Japan's "ancient capital", a Shangri-la of temples, palaces and exotic beauties in exquisite kimono. The truth is that since COP3 opened 10 days ago very few delegates have stepped beyond the grey portals of the Kich, a modernist concrete spaceship, appropriately pronounced "kitsch". Instead of exploring the surrounding mountains, they have spent 10 days drinking cups of coffee and eating sandwiches containing cold pork cutlets (a Japanese favourite).

Kich is huge, but so is the conference and all week journalists, politicians and NGOs have trod on one another's toes with increasing grumpiness. John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, lost his rag on Monday night after being kept waiting for an hour by the American delegation. Michael Meacher and several of his European counterparts narrowly escaped being crushed yesterday when a mob of cameramen almost knocked down a temporary cubicle on their heads.

Even the best-natured stunts have fallen victim to sense of humour failure. One green group mounted a wacky allegoric stunt involving members dressed as world leaders kicking around a ball representing the planet. But when an Italian journalist stole their globe, they called security and tried to have him chucked out.

It is one measure of the conference's awfulness that a meeting of the some of liveliest minds in the world has so far generated just one COP3 joke. Q. How many Americans does it take to change a light bulb? A. None. Free-market forces will change it all by themselves. Har-har-har.

If, like me, you failed to secure a hotel room the requisite three months before the conference your plight has been doubly wretched - 10 days dependent on the generosity of better-organised friends, with personal belongings scattered across various parts of the city, moving from place to place in unchanged shirt, reeking socks, and recycled underpants.

An average collection of conference literature fills one suitcase alone, but even the most disciplined delegates have been reduced to shambling bag ladies, bent double under the weight of recycled paper press releases.

It is not even as if this effort and expense has fulfilled expectations. The situation was drolly summed up the other day by Raul Estrada-Oyuela, the Argentine roly-poly who revels in the title of chairman, Committee of the Whole. Goaded to distraction by the possibility of an extended conference, one journalist pinned him down: what, he begged, was the final deadline for the conference.

Mr Estrada tipped his head to one side and leant into the microphone: "The deadline? It is the end of the world, no?"

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea