Mark Lynas: Copenhagen Notebook

Click to follow
The Independent Online

* Things are beginning to look very, very pear-shaped. The first I heard on arrival this morning was that the meeting president, Connie Hildegard, had resigned – and there she was, surrounded by media, outside the plenary meeting. After a week of struggling to reconcile the competing agendas of the deeply- divided groups here, she seemed to have thrown in the towel. The UN climate change secretariat, trying to make good news out of bad, put out a press release suggesting she had simply made way for the Danish Prime Minister to take over.

* This inauspicious start was soon followed by acrimonious rancour breaking out at the main plenary, as African and developing country delegates – many having already worked through the night – sought reassurance that all their input over the past few days is not simply going to be thrown away.

* Adding to the sense of crisis, most of the NGOs, big names like Friends of the Earth included, staged a noisy walkout over the withdrawal of many of the badges of campaigning groups.

* Meanwhile, thousands of protesters were being arrested not far away after trying to invade the conference centre. The protests were successful in adding a feeling of siege to the proceedings – delegates were inconvenienced by a metro station being closed for "crowd control". The protests make it clear that the eyes of the world are upon us.

* The state of the negotiations is not good. The optimists talk of a 50:50 chance of success, defined now as a political declaration rather than a legally binding agreement. Hardly anyone seems to recall that at Bali, two years ago, Copenhagen was seen as the absolute conclusion of a process – the idea that it could drag on for another six months would have been unthinkable. Yet that is now seen as a positive prospect. The pessimists are talking about collapse, with the subtext that this might be the end of the Kyoto process, and indeed global attempts to control climate change, altogether. I don't think things have got this bad – yet. But the fact is that with dozens of heads of state already in the building, there are hundreds of questions that remain to be settled. Another day has just been wasted in process wrangles... with only two more to go.

Mark Lynas, one of Britain's leading climate change experts and author of 'Six Degrees', the Royal Society's science book of the year, is writing for 'The Independent' throughout the summit. He is attending the conference as an adviser to the President of The Maldives