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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Executive

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading and innovative con...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue