The atmosphere at the UNFCCC conference in China seems to be quiet and subdued, compared to the chaos at Copenhagen. Delegates comment that the negotiations are “slow”. One Kenyan delegate commented with frustration that the room full of lawyers had spent 45 minutes arguing about the definition of one word. He said that there were too many lawyers, and not enough scientists in the negotiations.
In addition, the Great Chinese Firewall has blocked access to many NGO websites (including this one!) which may hinder the access to information. Although the UN conference is supposed to be international and independent, even the UN conference computer room is subject to the firewall!Initial results from the ‘Filling Information Gaps’ Survey have found that some country delegates did not know that the ‘webcasts’ of meetings were provided on the UNFCCC website. It seems that access to information is clearly unequal.All delegates interviewed so far have been extremely interested in this project. Some different suggestions have been made for making the UN fairer; one suggested that there should be a limit to the number of delegates that are allowed, and a few suggested there needs to be more translations in the smaller meetings.
Transparency is still an issue, too. Most of the meetings are closed to observers. That means that only government delegates and the observer states are allowed in. Actually, there seems to be more meetings labelled with ‘CLOSED’ than there was at the previous talks in Bonn in June. I do hope this is not a growing trend. Unfortunately, at this crucial stage in the talks, with so many closed meetings it is still difficult to work out exactly what is going on.