Kyoto isn’t the only protocol being broken in Durban. Seems that I slipped at the launch of the UNFCCC Secretariat’s new Momentum for Change initiative.
Special guests at the event included South African President Jacob Zuma, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, and COP 17/CMP 7 President Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, with Lord Nicholas Stern as moderator.
I arrived at the plenary in good time and took a seat next to the centre aisle and waited. And waited. And waited some more. And while I waited, I made use of my time by catching up on some work. Forty-five minutes on, from the corner of my eye I noticed audience members start to stand as the frontline security detail made its way to the front, followed by the dignitaries. As I completed my work, a member of the entourage give my bag a swift kick. Curious, I thought. I looked down to confirm that it wasn’t projecting into the aisle. Bad day at the negotiations perhaps?
No, it was more serious than that. I came to understand that I had breached protocol. The assault on my bag seems to have been a result of my failure to stand when the dignitaries entered the room. Ironically, I was being shamed into action.
Ironic because here at the COP on November 29th, the World Meteorological Organization released a statement saying that global temperatures in 2011 are the 10th highest on record, the warmest year with a La Nina event, and that the extent of Arctic sea ice was the second lowest on record and the volume of sea ice the lowest. Ironic because the Secretary General himself is saying that the goal of a comprehensive and binding agreement is currently beyond our reach. And ironic because the so-called “Lighthouse Projects” highlighted in Momentum for Change show ordinary people around the world, people without fancy titles, working hard on climate change mitigation and adaptation projects.
So to all of the dignitaries at the COP, how about this: I’ll stand when you deliver.