Get Green or Die Tryin’

Tuesday we made our way to the conference centre which took a huge amount of time. After what must have been about 2 hours we got there and did our accreditation and met the rest of the PEI team, including  a few of the GSC (Global Scientific Committee) members.

The first impression that one gets is the scale of this operation. 50,000 registered delegates all bustling about in a conference centre that comprises 5 buildings, each the size of the Newcastle Metro Radio Arena, one just for the food court. There there are the side pavilions too.

In order to ease traffic for the event, Rio has declared a 3 day holiday forcing all public schools and some non-essential public services to close. (Fortunately as I write this on Wednesday the traffic is noticeably better.)

Then there is the security presence. All the police are out in force and there is a huge heavily armed military presence too. But once we arrive on UN international territory things seem a bit more organised and peaceful; as far as I know there are no guns allowed here and if there are they certainly aren’t on show.

We attended one session hosted by the DARA Climate Vulnerable Forum which discussed, for example, the costs of adaptation required and costs already borne through climate-related events. For developing countries, then comes the consideration for mitigation policies for which there are rarely any funds left. Education and public health? Everything gets shifted down the list when extreme weather events devastate a country. Increasingly countries like Cost Rica and Bangladesh are simply fighting to survive.

Today James and I left early for the conference centre to try and attend some more sessions before the first GSC meeting. It’s the first morning of the official 3 day conference and there are heightened energy levels.

That said, many, many people have not been happy with Brazil’s leadership in the conference up to now as they have pushed through a document that is weak and non-committal. It seems that most agree on it however, although there is the risk it may be blocked by Denmark for its lack of ambition.

The lack of ambition is what really perplexes me. Why are so many nations afraid of failure – surely it is better to at least make an attempt doing soemthing meaningful, even if some countries fall short of the mark? The rapper 50-cent springs to mind – Get rich or die tryin’.

Whilst most of our memories are short the atmosphere’s is very long – about 100 years in fact. We have long moved on from the fact that the USA didn’t ratify Kyoto and I won’t forget that Canada abandoned Kyoto in order to avoid almost $14 billion in non-compliance fines. But let’s not forget that there were many success stories – there can be many more.

Ed Byers, PhD Civil Engineering and Geosciences

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