The COP18 UN climate negotiations have kicked off without too much fanfare. Host country Qatar is hosting its largest ever conference, with an expected 17,000 participants, including 1,500 media (although I heard only about half of these anticipated media actually got accredited). So far, expectations are quite muted for the conference, with Doha meant to be mainly an “implementation” Conference of Parties (COP) meeting that will not end in the high drama and pressure of its predecessors, Durban, Cancun, and Copenhagen.
With this backdrop in mind, the DecisionMakr smartphone and web app launched on Nov. 26 to allow Twitter users to rate the quality and content of negotiators’ statements (you can read more about it here on The Huffington Post). Although we need to get more observers involved and sending their tweets via the app to realize the app’s full potential, it is encouraging to see that so far we’ve gotten some quality ratings.
So far, the leaderboard has Norway topping the charts, followed by Ecuador, the European Union, The Gambia, and Nauru. Although the United States walks away having the most number of ratings, the general feeling from observers is that they were not impressed with the U.S.’s statements during a press conference that it has already made “enormous efforts” on its part to combat climate change. Head of the U.S. delegation, Jonathan Pershing, was also put on the defensive, telling the Guardian that the world doesn’t recognize the “scale and extent” of actions taken in the U.S. I empathize with JP to some extent (and not just because he was my former boss), but also because it’s true that though domestic efforts in the U.S. are consistent with the 17 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2020 pledged in Copenhagen in 2009, these actions are arguably not enough to close the “emissions gap” that will almost surely mean a global temperature rise above 2 degrees C. Furthermore, countries’ and observers’ dismissal of U.S. action is likely also partly due to the fact that the U.S. has resisted strong legally-binding language for a new deal – what observers are saying is that they want to see the U.S. send strong signals on the international front as well.
Most entertaining bits of commentary go to the AWG-LCA (see here for a guide on the climate change alphabet soup) discussions, which featured a spritely China bringing in food analogies on the plenary floor (hey, I’ll take a food analogy over a sports metaphor any day):
Apparently all the talk of rice was making the AWG-LCA chair hungry:
If you’re using Twitter to give your feedback on countries’ statements and proposals, why not use DecisionMakr to accomplish the same thing but put more power behind each tweet? A quantitative rating and record of each tweet in DecisionMakr means there is a real-time feed of what each country has been doing in Doha so far. But it won’t work unless we ALL get on the app and use it! We need to show negotiators that civil society is watching and we’re crowdsourcing to hold them accountable.