The past few days in Copenhagen have been chaotic beyond imagination. As can probably be seen in the news right now, riots around the conference have started to get violent, and I just saw a menacing bicycle rider tackled by seven police officers as he tried to approach the Bella Center a tad too fast. While the first week of the COP seemed to operate smoothly aside from a few registration hiccups, it is now clear that the city was not prepared for the sheer number of people that showed up for the COP.
Lovely UN bureaucracy
Rumors have spread that the UN allowed over 50,000 people to register for the conference, despite its capacity to hold a mere 20,000-clearly a recipe for disaster. Many of those 50,000 arrived this week, including some Stanford delegates, some of whom waited over 12 hours outside without even being able to register or enter the massive complex on Monday. In an unexpected turn of events, NGO entry has now been restricted to compensate for the UN’s organizational brilliance-with only 7,000 being allowed in on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, 1,000 on Thursday, and–wait for it–a grand total of 90 on Friday! Many from the Stanford delegation have had the fortune of being around since early last week and exploring the COP, but countless people lost hundreds of dollars by coming to the COP for just the second week without being able to enter. The Stanford delegation was told they could register as many people as desired, and they probably said the same to every other NGO in attendance. How this even happened is honestly incomprehensible and could have easily been avoided with basic foresight.
**Thoughts on the plenary
A lot of attention has been given to the recent resignation of the COP 15 President, Connie Hedegaard. It seems as if this so-called “dramatic turn of events” may actually have been a routine procedure to make way for a more prominent figure-Danish PM Rasmussen- to chair the plenary, where hundreds of heads of state will be speaking. Still, I have to admit my suspicion she was probably tired of hearing a speeches from delegations expressing disagreement with the COP’s president’s decision to hold informal consultations to discuss the formation of a contact group to address one article of the Kyoto Protocol (and yes, this really did happen…). The plenaries ooze with procedural minutiae, and it is evidently hard for anything to ever get accomplished. Given that so many of the real negotiations likely occur in hotel bars behind the scenes, is it really all that necessary to implement overly formal discussion sessions? While I certainly cannot claim to have uncovered the panacea to all the UN’s ills, it does seem clear to me that eliminating most of the formalities embodied in the plenary session would go a long way to improve the efficiency of our paramount international institution.