An analysis of forces at the climate conference – pink, orange and yellow

In my limited experience as a conference participant, I have never seen a conference where the non-governmental organizations (NGO) were seen as an important  part of the talks. The Copenhagen United Nations climate conference opened my eyes.

Participants registered with the General Assembly all received a badge granting access to the venue. The badges are divided into four colors; the blue ones are for UN staff, the climate conference hosts; the pink ones represent the “Party,” for government representatives of participating countries; the orange ones are for “Press” and are used by media reporters; the yellow ones are for NGOs and are used by members of non-governmental organizations.

Leaving aside the cold shade of the UN staff badges, their staff simply erected the stage; the warm tones of pink, orange and yellow were the main performers in this opera.

From the opening of the meeting until the closing ceremony, the forces of pink, orange and yellow co-starred in drama after drama.

United Nations conferencesalways emphasize openness, transparency and public participation, especially when it comes to such a public issue, like climate change. In this spirit, the secretary of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) threw open the doors to all types of people. From observing both the inside and outside of the venue, it seems that as long as it registered, any media organization or NGO, no matter what size, could attend if it wished. Three or four thousand people came with the media and more than 20,000 with NGOs, in addition to over ten thousand government negotiation representatives and more than seven thousand members of the huge United Nations working group,  the total number of registered participants was over 45,000. This overwhelmed the venue provided by the Danish government — the Bella Center — which at most could only provide food for 15,000 people.

One table of food would be served, but enough guests would show up to fit around three tables. The UN’s unreliability made Copenhagen a tough experience. Looking back now, the chaos of the four or five hour lines for registration during the first few days can be forgiven; Denmark’s government was really involved and working hard.

Government negotiation delegations, media and NGOs all brought hordes of back-up troops to send into the chaos.

In general, the negotiating teams represent their countries’ interests; the media represents the public interest while NGOs represent more complex interests. Wang Xiaojun, from the Beijing office of Greenpeace, promoted a motto which left a deep impression on me: “Water, animals, forests, land, atmosphere cannot speak, Greenpeace will give them a voice.”

To classify it ideologically, government negotiators are generally seen as defenders of patriotism or nationalism, and NGOs are seen as spokespeople of internationalism, because many NGOs are transnational and many are structured like multinational alliances. As for the media, it is hard to classify them completely in one camp. One aspect of the media is simply to provide a voice for both sides in order to satisfy the public right to knowledge. Nevertheless, everyone knows that not only does the media defend the position of their governments, their ‘party allegiance’ is relatively strong. .

Thus, even if each country’s government negotiation representative was locked in a bitter struggle and stifling meetings, they collectively represent the interest of humanity, together “struggling with nature.” NGOs represent nature’s interest, battling together to “struggling with people.” The media struggles with both nature and people – hah, a great game.

Perhaps the whole world has asense of official position; the quality of treatment which people received was in relation to the shade of the badge they were carrying. Government negotiation representatives enjoyed special “luxury” office areas with tighter security and each country’s delegation had a good single room or suite. Reporters had a special media center. Wealthy and influential media outlets could reserve a small room, while general media reporters could only share a big common room and line up to write the story at rows of the media tables. The NGOs are to be pitied— no space was provided for them to use at the venue, they had to work in any given spaceand sleep on the ground. Turned out on the streets, NGOs transformed Copenhagen’s spacious streets and squares into their office spaces, holding many protests and demonstrations on behalf of nature.

Of course, the various forces have also played a complex strategy of befriending distant states while attacking those nearby. Government delegations leaked information to the media and NGOs, which would lay unjust responsibility for the climate on other countries, letting them go report or go protest based on this information; NGOs assisted government representatives and media reporters with expert knowledge in order to support the position of a certain country in attacking another country’s position, and whatever dirt they could dig up about certain government representatives, they handed to the media; the media, in turn, naturally eats it up, and extensive coverage of NGO operations in itself puts pressure on the government.

However, government officials, after all, are strong. In the last two days of the meeting, more than 100 heads of state poured in, and with that, the sky above the Bella Center began to fill with hovering helicopters, and the operations of the media and NGOs became increasingly restricted. Within the venue, reporters were not allowed access to many areas, and NGOs were not even given the opportunity setoff setting up operations on the ground.

At that time, the three groups/forces staged their most exciting act.

On the evening of the 17th, the Danish Queen organized what may have been the biggest ever state banquetin order to welcome each nation’s head of state. As the heads of state took their seats in turn, a female head of a certain state who was dressed in an evening gown, with First Husband in arm, suddenly opened two posters: "Politicians talk, Leaders ACT!".

What sort of head of state is this crazy? Apparently Greenpeace, unhappy that the Queen had only invited heads of state, omitting representatives of the earth, angrily sent two people to  play a female head of state and First Husband, renting a Lincoln limosine to sneak into a State convoy, reportedly trailing behind Hillary’s car. When more than 100 heads of state are arriving all at once, how could the Palace Guards recognize all of them?

But rather, they chose to use posters on the red carpet, simply because that’s where most of the cameras were. A member of Greenpeace revealed that it was staged for the media. Sure enough, the next day the streets were filled with newspapers that had printed large photos of the “Earth” female head of state and her First Husband.

Translated by G.Gong