Pardon my absence the last few weeks, but this month has been an unbelievably busy one in the green arena here. Bonn, Germany’s former capital city and the current seat of many NGOs and UN divisions has seen back-to-back conferences and I’ve been inundated trying to keep up with the conference happenings.
First, we had the UN Conference on Biodiversity – something that seemed really exciting at the time, with delegates from nearly 200 countries gathering to decide on ways to conserve habitats, develop across-the-board rules on GMO food, and find ways to prevent the extinction of endangered species.
Although Germany has a mixed track-record when it comes to preservation – some of the national parks here are surrounded by coal power plants which pollute the nature preserves – Chancellor Merkel pledged 500 million Euros for preservation. A positive step, but overall the conference went nowhere. The main reason? All 191 countries have to agree on the resolutions passed. All 191! Which means, for example, that although Brazil was asking for help protecting indigenous tribes that had never had contact with the outside world, if that help meant instituting rules on biofuels, they weren’t having it. Understandable for nations to protect their own interests, but seriously, where’s the compromise?
I suppose the UN still hasn’t learned its lesson from the Kyoto Protocol – which despite being effected by most developed nations remains relatively ineffective because the US won’t sign it. One way the UN did learn from the experience, though, was that even if a compromise among countries can’t be reached, there’s no reason to give up hope. Which is why different UN delegates from 150 nations descended on Bonn right after the Biodiversity conference to start hammering out the details on the follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol. Though they haven’t said just exactly what came out of that two-week conference, one thing was made clear: even if the US isn’t interested reducing carbon emissions, the UN still is.