Science and Politics
The section of the SPM that I was involved with came up early in the proceedings. It was quickly apparent that it could not be agreed in the Plenary Session where all the delegates sat. So we authors of that section were sent as a “Contact Group” to a smaller room to negotiate the details with some tens of countries. We worked for three and a half days on one page. Meetings each day ran from 8 am till midnight with hardly time to eat. The page grew to three. The delegates made comments, we authors went away to rewrite the text on the basis of the comments, the delegates made further comments, we rewrote again, and so on. Several delegates in the meetings were sending their governments photos of the text on the screen as it was negotiated, and taking instructions from their governments by phone.
One delegate advised us not to depart far from his version of the text, because his delegation was close to deleting the whole section anyway. This was the moment I began to enjoy the whole event.
Late on Wednesday evening, during a brief break, the delegates formed a huddle in the corner, trying to agree on text between themselves. We, who would be named as authors of the final product, were left as spectators. The US called in a more senior delegate. The main issue was whether we should mention a “right to development,” as the developing countries wanted. Eventually we were presented with a few sentences that, we were told, the developed countries would reject, and an alternative few sentences that, we were told, the developing countries would reject.
As he left the room, one delegate privately advised us not to depart far from his version of the text, because his delegation was very close to deleting the whole section anyway. This was the moment when I began to enjoy the whole event. The threat was not frightening. We authors privately pointed out in return that, if our section was deleted, we would no longer be authors of the SPM. We would be free to go to the press and publish what we liked. Moreover, all the ethics would have been deleted from the SPM. That would be embarrassing to whoever had deleted it, since the IPCC had been making a big show of incorporating ethics into its report. Mentioning all this seemed to calm the delegates.
Wednesday evening’s impasse was unblocked by behind-the-scenes negotiation during Thursday, and by Thursday evening the Contact Group had accepted a version of our whole section. We took it back to the Plenary. When it eventually came up at 1:20 am on Friday, it went through in a few minutes without opposition. There was applause around the room. It was the first bit of text to be approved without argument in the Plenary.
Some brief paragraphs on ethics survived all the way to the approved final version of the SPM. They have been mauled, and their content diminished, but they are not entirely empty. We were lucky. Some sections were cut to pieces because the different views of the delegations turned out to be irreconcilable.