Dec 172009

(Setsuko Kamiya photo)

Will the world change after COP15? (Setsuko Kamiya photo)

In 1997, I covered the COP3 conference on climate change, which was held in Kyoto and produced the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas reductions. The final day of the conference was pure chaos. After 13 days of negotiations, developed and developing countries remained far apart, the U.S. was accused of trying to scuttle a deal, and everybody was angry at the endless bickering, posturing, pontificating and speech-making that characterized the process.

For those of you reading the COP15 reports in The Japan Times, the above will sound as familiar to you as it feels to me. Thankfully, no oil lobbyists have tried to sneak into press conferences with fake press badges, no fistfights have broken out between NGOs competing to drop their press packets on top of the keyboards of journalists while they bang out copy and, remarkably, none of the delegates or journalists is (yet) walking around in their underwear or staggering around in a drunken stupor, made worse by too many days of bad food and too many nights of little or no sleep, wondering what on earth is really going on in the closed sessions. And if Kyoto police ever sprayed tear gas into the eyes of protestors or physically beat them up, which is what happened a few hours ago, none of us in the media room ever heard about it.

But in many other respects, the Copenhagen conference appears to be heading for a Kyoto-like finish, which is to say, an overtime finish. Talk in the hallways is that the conference will be extended “a few more hours” past the Friday deadline to “well into Saturday afternoon.”

But will it do any good? All 3,000 journalists currently in the media center and adjacent hallways are asking three questions: (1) Who will blink first and offer up a serious compromise to move towards a deal? (2) Will whatever be offered pass muster with the two 500 pound gorillas in the room (the U.S. and China)?; and (3) When will I finally be able to eat real food, not plastic-wrapped sandwiches and quiche (the main staples of all the cafes)?  The last question is the one I think all of us want answered the most at this point.

Eric Johnston is covering COP15 and will occassionally blog during the conference. For the latest news on COP15, please support quality journalism by buying The Japan Times or visiting us online at

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