Week two in Poznan starts with a small pause in the official meetings for the observation of the Islamic feast of Eid Al-Adha. While it is officially a day off, there is still plenty going on in the conference centre. The second week is when the majority of journalists and ministers arrive and the negotiations really start to heat up.
The first week of talks should make us very worried. Everyone is waiting for somebody else. Governments spent over twenty years twiddling our fingers waiting for the science to become conclusive, now in Poznan, officials are waiting for their ministers to arrive and the ministers are waiting for the Obama administration to do something – but the climate crisis waits for nobody. Every day that goes by without progress is cause for alarm.
While many developing countries are being constructive, there is virtually no leadership from the industrialised world.
Ministers arrive in Poznan on Thursday and will discuss what is referred to as a “shared vision” which should lay out ambitious goals for avoiding a climate catastrophe and set the parameters for a global agreement in Copenhagen at the end of next year. There seems to be a growing spiral of pessimism surrounding the negotiations, where the failure of developed countries like Australia to put forward targets creates uncertainty and lowers expectations, which makes other countries less likely to put anything useful forward.
The only visionary leadership at these talks is coming from the smallest country with the most to lose: Tuvalu, which has put forward its vision of a 1.5 degree C limit to temperature rise. The leadership from the small pacific islands has been the most inspiring thing to come out of the conference so far. It stands in stark contrast to the obstructive role being played by countries like Australia (yes Australia), Canada and Japan that are backing furiously away from an agreement on targets made only a year ago.
The pressure is on for Australia to commit to cuts of 25-40% by 2020 if we are to maintain any credibility in the negotiations. Penny Wong is due to address the conference at the Ministerial session on Thursday afternoon (Friday morning our time) where she’ll be expected to deliver on Australia’s Bali commitments, as well as the Government’s election commitment to the Australian people.