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Funny stuff behind the curtain at the Madrid UN climate summit

By David Wojick

If you hold your nose and look closely there is some pretty funny stuff going on at the UN climate summit in Madrid. It is hard to hold your nose and laugh at the same time, but if you want to be UN watcher it is a necessary skill. I have been doing it for a long time, but then I have a big nose to hold on to while rolling with laughter.

First off there are the national delegations. International travel is expensive so you would figure the richest countries would send the biggest delegations, right? You would be wrong.

By far the biggest delegation is from tiny Côte d’Ivoire, with a whopping 348 delegates. Only a handful of these could possibly attend the negotiating sessions. Second biggest is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with 293, still a staggering figure. The other Congo is fifth with 165, exceeded only by Spain and Brazil, which are rich.

The big guns like France and Germany, which are within driving distance of Madrid, have just 124 and 102 delegates. The U.S., which is still a member pending official resignation, sent 78 delegates. Surprisingly this is up from just 44 at COP 24.

Also amusing are the registration totals: 13,643 people representing specific countries or groups, 9,987 more from observer organizations – especially business groups and numerous green non-governmental organizations – and 3,076 journalists. There is a lot of luxury (and carbon intensive) tripping here, especially for the journalists as there is almost nothing to write about for the folks back home. The travel and lodging for all these folks must run to tens of million dollars.

What these funny numbers mean I have no idea. It may have something to do with who expects to make big bucks out of the UN climate racket. Africa in general has been very aggressive in this regard, which may explain their big numbers.

Speaking of African aggression, that is the next funny story, which is about the Cop 25 agenda. Before the conference can officially start there has to be universal agreement on the agenda. So setting the agenda itself often requires a lot of wheeling and dealing. I have seen Entire UN conferences that never got beyond trying to set the agenda.

In the COP 25 case there was a great stew over something called special status. The Paris Accord confers this status on just two groups of nations, supposedly because they are especially threatened by nasty climate change, or sea level rise, or something. There are huge compensation implications here.

One group is the Small Island Developing States or SIDS. There are 38 of these, including 16 in the Caribbean, including Cuba. The other group is the 47 Least Developed Countries (LDCs), most of which are either in Africa or Southeast Asia.

Well, the Africans came into Madrid and said they wanted an agenda item about giving the entire African continent special status. They were led by Egypt, which is certainly not an LDC. Honduras then jumped in and said that in that case they wanted South America to be given special status. It got really funny when Nepal then said that mountainous countries should also be special. Saudi Arabia then proposed that Arab nations be a special needs group.

It quickly became clear that if any new group was going to get special status, then an unlimited number of combinations of nations would also demand it. At this point the issue was dropped, hopefully with the laughs it deserved, so COP 25 could proceed.

Then too, at an early meeting of heads of delegations, everyone said they wanted to resolve the contentious issues with emission trading, which is the big target issue at COP 25, worth billions of dollars.

This superficial agreement was widely reported as a sign of progress, but hey, these are diplomats. What else would they say, that they did not want to resolve the issues? Of course not. They just each want to resolve the issues their country’s way. So this proud proclamation was merely laughable.

As an aside, my favorite example of diplomatic language is when the diplomat says “in that case we will have to consider our options” and it is a threat of war. A lot of UN speak is equally cryptic, but well understood by the other diplomats. This is why the COP negotiators argue endlessly over individual words. Simple words mask deep meanings.

Perhaps the funniest thing of all was the way the UN leadership took to mouthing hysterical voices in their opening statements. Keep in mind that the grand goals of the hysterics (Greta, XR, AOC, etc.) are completely different from those being pursued by the UN moderates.

The UN secretary general has warned that the world is “at the point of no return,” whatever that means. Return to what he did not say. The head of the treaty that this COP is a COP to said that humanity itself was at stake. And so it went speech after speech, waving the emergency flag while knowing full well that no big action was on this COP’s agenda. This was hypocrisy at its UN finest (and there is a lot of competition).

Some skeptics get mad at everything the alarmists do, but I prefer to laugh when I can and COP 25 has an abundance of funny stuff going on. Just hold you nose.