Like many who took part in this year’s UN climate talks, I leave Warsaw tired. Not as tired as those that spent two weeks talking, drafting, wrangling, redrafting and horse-trading, followed by an almost 40-hour marathon final session. But I do feel tired. I’m tired by the fact that all of that effort, energy and, in the main, goodwill has again resulted in so little progress.
Where does it go wrong? Nobody can now dispute that climate change is a threat to human society, to the planet as a whole. Nobody can genuinely be confused about what we need to do to reduce this threat. But still inaction seems to be an option, for some the preferred option.
Should we blame those tired negotiators and their governments? Did they draw too many red lines? Did they turn the negotiations into hopeless rhetorical tangles? Can we blame them for putting the interests of their citizens ahead of citizens from other countries or continents? Can we blame them for looking towards re-election? For remembering who put them in office? For reflecting on who donated the most to their campaign coffers?
Or should we blame the UN process? Are there too many voices at the table? Too much semantic hair-splitting, procedural squabbling and high-level posturing? Too much politics? Too many egos? Too much pride?
Or should we blame ourselves? Our own selfish human nature? Our animal genes? That which makes us reluctant to give up what comfort, wealth, strength and security we have for the sake of those who are more exposed, poorer, weaker or more vulnerable? Are we simply hard-wired this way? Is it survival? And the greater the threat, the more we are likely to act to save our own skin? Are we too clever and prolific as a species? Too smart to see that the secret of our modern success (fossil fuel) may well be our downfall?
The UN climate talks are an opportunity to take bold and courageous decisions, demonstrate the very best of human nature, act together for the weakest and most vulnerable, do what is necessary, not what is easy.
Baby steps towards a new emissions agreement and towards help for the poorest and most vulnerable nations were made in Warsaw, but there was little that was bold or courageous. And for this reason it has been a wasted opportunity.
How many more chances will be squandered before we come to realise inaction on climate change cannot be an option? By then I hope, for the sake of my children, it’s not too late.