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Bald Ambition to Save Chaotic Climate Summit in Glasgow

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With only a few days to go, chaos reigns in Glasgow. But top climate veterans keep their spirits up. They hope that the ‘unashamed ambition’ to save the climate will find its way to the negotiators.


The hopeful thing about chaos theory is that behind apparent disorder hides a system that leads to results orderly. It is the last point of reference for the participants in this week’s climate summit in Glasgow, where chaos reigns and the prospect of success is still far away.

More than 40,000 people are accredited for this 26th UN climate summit, including 14,124 lobbyists from various organizations and 22,274 delegates from the nearly 200 participating countries. In addition, there is a technical staff of 4,000 employees, about 4,000 journalists, plus a few thousand security officers, bar and restaurant workers and cleaners. In all, approximately 50,000 people.

Fortunately, not all of them are in the convention centre at the same time. As soon as the number of visitors shoots well through the ceiling of 10 thousand, the organization will close the door due to covid restrictions. But even then, there are many, too many. Long lines for a badge, coffee, a sandwich, the toilet. Journalists on the floor, because there are no more chairs. It feels as if the inhabitants of Haarlem and Amsterdam – threatened by the rising sea level – have already moved en masse to that one mound on Marken. People don’t get any friendlier than that.

A logistical short circuit sometimes arises amid that sizzling beehive. It starts with a few alert participants – ‘Obama is coming!’ – then within minutes, a few hundred journalists and lobbyists are waiting for an hour for the former US president, who indeed shows himself for two seconds (cheers!) as he comes down the stairs on his way to a meeting. Then, an hour later, the scene repeats itself because Obama has to leave or go to the bathroom.

Moments later, US climate envoy John Kerry walks through the convention centre unconcernedly and on the phone. On the way to one of the rooms where actual negotiations are taking place. In the meantime, his ‘dear friend Barack’ amuses the plenary hall with a 45-minute speech.

Obama speaks the right words (‘This takes time, the time we don’t have anymore.’), calls for reasonableness (‘Half-baked compromises also push things forward.’) and asks the young people above all to remain angry. He gets an ovation; no questions are allowed. Someone could have told him that if he hadn’t personally (along with the Chinese) killed the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, Glasgow would have been a party.

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