Another update from the halls of Poznan. They really are halls too. Huge great cavernous things with terrible acoustics and miles of corridors. Hollow rhetoric resonates powerfully, bouncing off the walls and feeding back on itself to create the illusion of substance.

As I wrote yesterday, the key thing that needs to come out of the Poznan meeting is a “shared vision” for the negotiations. The “Umbrella Group”, in which Australia plays a lead role along with Japan, Canada and Russia, has been obstructing progress — largely through creating distractions or outright silence.

The Japanese negotiator spent a lot of time in this workshop explaining how lifestyle changes were the way forward (as opposed to reducing industrial emissions presumably) and he, for example, was prepared to reduce his personal showering time from 20 minutes to 15 and only bath three times at the weekends instead of eight. You couldn’t make this stuff up, honestly.

Russia said: It’s expensive to take much action because Russia is too big.

Canada said: It’s expensive to take much action because Canada is too cold (Canada won the “Fossil of the Day” award for this act of brilliance).

New Zealand said: It’s expensive to take much action because NZ has too many sheep but we will distract you with a lesson on Mitigation Cost Calculation 101, best summarised by this formula: mpi = f(mpenergy(i) x %energy(i)+ mpagriculture(i) x %agriculture(i) +..) If you’re thinking WTF? Me too!

Australia said: Australia? Hello? Anyone there? Could the Australian delegate please come back from the bar?


You have to wonder why the Australian Government paid for 30 people to go on this Christmas junket — flying business class, being put up in the Sheraton — if they weren’t going to discuss the issues that were on the agenda?

In earlier times, we might have hoped that our delegates would keep their mouths shut so they wouldn’t play such an obstructive role — but at this time, their silence is probably their most powerful weapon.

The key issue for the Poznan meeting is the development of a “shared vision” for the global community to take action on climate change. It’s important. This vision will define the goals for the levels of warming that the official global leaders of the world are prepared to accept.

What seems to be happening at the meeting is that the countries that want to delay action on climate change are talking down the possibility of success. If they can stall the process at Poznan, it will make it all the more difficult to reach an agreement at Copenhagen at the end of 2009, and then they can get away with delaying action on climate change for another few years.

Australians have every right to ask — what’s going on? They voted for Kevin Rudd and Penny Wong to act on climate change. We didn’t vote for another term of Howard era obstructionism.

Governments of the world agreed to a two-year timeline for negotiations for a new deal on climate action at Bali, 2007. Poznan is a very important step in these negotiations. The meeting needs to produce a clear plan for the lead up to the Copenhagen meeting in December next year.

When climate change minister Penny Wong and her counterparts arrive in Poznan next week, they need to step up to the plate and help the “shared vision” for climate action become a reality. There is no reason that the governments of the world cannot agree to an international climate action plan by December next year.

Read the rest of John Hepburn’s Poznan posts at Crikey’s environmental blog, Rooted, here and here.

Also on Rooted, Tim Hollo writes of Australia’s depressingly low aims:

I’ve written here before about the perverse view that Australia’s weak targets actually help in our international negotiations – the view that we need to be what proponents of this argument call “realistic” to bring others on board.

This is a nonsense. Everybody knows that, to get a real global agreement, we will need to bring China, India and the other developing nations on board. And anyone with any sense knows that, for those countries to sign up, we need the rich, high-polluting countries like Australia to sign up to very signficant near-term targets.

Already from Poznan we have South Africa’s delegation telling Australia, among others, to get with the program or scuttle the global deal…

Read more here.