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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Diary of a Kenyan delegate at the climate change conference

As one of the 30 official Government of Kenya delegates to the climate change conference, the experience here in Copenhagen, Denmark, is out of this world.

MONDAY: After arrival, the Danish sex workers association announced that they would offer free services to anyone who showed up with a UN badge and a postcard from the city’s mayor saying: “Be sustainable. Don’t buy sex.”

They are giving it all away for nothing, and quite honestly, it is so much better than sitting through the droll of the opening ceremony today. It appears, from talking to the eggheads from civil society, that this conference will only yield a political deal — power-sharing style — where no one is forced to do anything.

It is better for a civil servant to go heat up the winter with them Danish working girls! Why can’t Kenya’s version of working girls on Koinange borrow a leaf?

TUESDAY: The telephone rings at midday to interrupt sleep and provide the alert that members of the Kenyan delegation cannot be seen. Not even the five press officers? What do they think their job here is, if not to provide a body count?

After the exhaustions of last night, attendance could only have been in spirit. Just as well that the environment secretary is not here yet and those tree-hugging environment types were knocked off the delegates list. The 10 MPs were also excluded from the official Government of Kenya list. It would have been impossible to have a little shut-eye with those busybodies polluting the quietude of Europe with their politics.

At the Kenyan table, there is so much peace, you can see all the delegates sitting in a circle sipping tea. This is diplomacy at its best. Then someone sends out an alert that African civil society organisations are holding an embarrassing demonstration mourning the death of the continent, and Kenyans are in it! My word! When is a man to find the time to use all the postcards for entertainment?

The chair of G77 broke down and wept, apparently impressed by the strength of African delegations and their ability to lobby the Danish out of sight, out of light, and away from the conference and seminar rooms.

We used to think Kenyans are experts in leaking documents to the media. Obviously, the Danes provide useful lessons. The Danish Draft agreement has been leaked and the negotiations are in a tailspin.

WEDNESDAY: Anyone who says the climate is not changing has obviously never been to Copenhagen. It is snowing, so walking about is not very inviting. Impossible to find their flea market, and there is no way the per diem for the two weeks here is going to buying new clothes. Critical thing is to stay on the free side of things — postcards, UN hotel food, etc.

After a confrontation with some green Kenyan types who are demanding that the delegation puts in some work, you decide to mollify them by wandering into a meeting room.

If you stray into the ad hoc working group meeting on the Kyoto Protocol on reducing emissions, you might get a drift of what developed countries feel. They believe they signed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, in error and are looking for a way out.

They say countries like China, India, Brazil, and South Africa are emitting as much carbon into the air as any developed nation and should have as much responsibility as the US. All this is Greek to a humble civil servant.

African delegates with grey hair and beards are talking ceaselessly about a clean development mechanism that benefits their countries. They are also talking about carbon capture and storage technologies that cost billions of dollars. Any relation to biogas? Whatever, man. We will understand it when we need to. For now, time to find more of those postcards.

At some point, a strange fellow starts complaining and demanding a new protocol. Before you can say postcard, the Conference of Parties is suspended until tomorrow. Phew! Reading you must take away talks about the Bali Action Plan that was meant to create the second enhanced commitments after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. That is when we have an election in Kenya, silly. And where is Bali, anyway?

THURSDAY: Prime Minister Raila Odinga has arrived so have to wear suit-and-tie and show up on time. The Kenya delegation explains the difficulties developing countries are facing in the negotiations, especially since they have not travelled with translators to make their shopping easy. The eight MPs start whining again, and the Prime Minister gives them the time of day. Quite understandable, considering they can initiate a vote-of-no-confidence in Parliament.

The PM goes on to do his Africa delegation thing. Maybe he would like to succeed Gadaffi as President of the United States of Africa some day?

FRIDAY: It is downhill from here. The official talks have been suspended and delegates are informal talks — visiting the museum, using their postcards (Be sustainable. Don’t buy sex. Get it for free). Next week, Mzee — President Kibaki — will be in town, and on Friday, the party ends, sadly. Miss you already, Copenhagen!

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