Mark Lynas: Copenhagen Notebook

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The Independent Online

* Being a negotiator is like representing yourself in court when you're accused of murder – not a good idea unless you really know what you're doing. It's a lot better if you're surrounded by teams of lawyers.

p>* All of the more powerful countries, such as China and the US, have dozens of people coordinating things and keeping each other informed, making sure that their positions are properly represented and argued for at each of the sessions that matter...

* ...which is incredibly difficult to do if you are – like us – a small island state such as the Maldives, which doesn't even have an office. We have had to conduct our business over coffee tables. It's very difficult to coordinate a meeting when you're in a melee of several thousand people and none of you know where the others are. We have to communicate by phone and we've all had to buy Danish mobiles to keep bills down.

* The reality of negotiating is that you have to take part in the legalistic process of arguing over square brackets in the texts, while knowing that any deal that emerges at the end is already being cooked up behind closed doors by the heads of state and senior ministers of the powerful countries.

* Negotiators know what the language means, what the process is, and how to play devious games to advance their cause, but that doesn't tend to get you anywhere. If you had hundreds of negotiators in a room the process could take two years, let alone two weeks.

* Then when you take it to ministerial level, they're not necessarily well-versed about the way it works. Kevin Rudd has a team of 100 people briefing him and condensing what he needs to know for each crucial meeting, but small developing countries just don't have that.

* I just came out of a negotiating session in which I was trying to figure out a proposed sub-clause that the Indians and the Chinese had put in to paragraph 13 when I got an email about the latest sea-level rise projections. I suppose you need to have that brought home to you every so often – and remember that for countries like the Maldives, it really is a matter of life and death.

Mark Lynas is attending Copenhagen as an adviser to the Maldives. He is the author of 'Six Degrees', the Royal Society's Science Book of the Year

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