As the world’s climate negotiators reconvened in Bonn this week it quickly became apparent that the dates of this session had been deliberately chosen to coincide with so-called “Back to the Future day“.
Fans of the 1989 film Back to the Future II will remember that the intrepid time traveller Marty McFly leapt forward in time to the precise date of 21 October, 2015. In a little-known scene that did not make the final cut of the movie, a bemused McFly accidentally rides his hover-board into a stuffy UN conference hall in the middle of climate negotiations. At first shocked by the paucity of the wifi signal of the future, he soon becomes agog to discover that in 2015, over 25 years since the world woke-up to the dangers of climate change, negotiators were still banging on with the same old entrenched positions and flimsy national excuses for non-action.
On day 2 of the negotiations in Bonn this week negotiators decided to re-enact the scene as a mark of respect to this great landmark of cinematic culture. Although the planned entrance of Christiana Figueres on a hoverboard dressed as McFly had to be cancelled due to technical issues, the rest of the reenactment went ahead more-or-less as scheduled. Many Parties chose to react to the succinct and progressive draft negotiating text by returning to long-held positions and clinging on to ancient ideologies around national interest. They also insisted on taking most of the negotiations back into confidential sessions, closed to observers. This caused consternation among the ranks of NGO representatives, many of whom had worked hard to justify their essential trip to Bonn but now found themselves with little more to do than try out the World Conference Centre’s very scarce coffee facilities.
Meanwhile, the build-up to COP21 grinds on, the hype and tensions rising everyday in a seemingly endless and excruciatingly drawn-out media circus. The length and breadth of the COP build-up is matched only by the interminable length of the Rugby World Cup, an event so extreme in its long-and-drawn-outedness that pundits are starting to wonder whether the current tournament will be finished before the next World Cup begins in four years’ time.