As a climate deal nears, power players want accountability (just not for themselves).
LE BOURGET, France—When I meet new people here, the first question I usually get is a variation on, “Are these your first climate talks?” What they want to know is if I’m an expert like them—if I know the jargon, the unwritten rules, the backstories of who’s been fighting who since Kyoto ’97.
The answer is, yes, these are my first talks. And that’s made for some humbling learning curves (look, “ADP” and “informal informal” aren’t exactly self-defining terms). But the good part is that I got to come here with the outsider’s perspective of someone who’s spent more time covering disaster, social upheaval, and response, particularly in Haiti, the country ranked as the third-most affected by climate change so far.
In other words, I’ve seen a few things—things that leave me with a question right at the center of what is likely to be the major battle in the final stage of these talks.
I think everyone gets the importance of money and power at these negotiations by now. The operating assumption is that rich countries who’ve benefited most from carbon emissions will pay something to alleviate the effects of global warming on the poor, while helping the new major polluters, such as India, get off carbon before they burn us past the point of no return.