Everyone who has been to Lima knows the traffic there can be horrible. During COP20, many more people learned that the hard way. Whether it was during the morning commute to the COP, the visits to side events outside the COP compound or especially the massive flow to Miraflores in the evening to have dinner or drinks on the sea side. Thinking about it, the traffic in Lima bears a strong resemblance to the COP negotiations.
There are first of all the taxi and bus drivers who deal with traffic every day. To the annoyance of their passengers, they are remarkably calm. They know it is useless to get upset and accept the daily reality of queuing cars. In the COP negotiations, some people have been around for more than 20 years and they know the drill, to provide text before any deadline. Paris next year is the deadline. Whatever you try, nothing concrete will be agreed before then.
Then there is the process. I am sure I have seen traffic lights, cross overs, signs and even police officers with a whistle on the streets. That only has a very limited effect on the traffic flows. Especially as a visitor, you really wonder why there are so few accidents; such chaos can’t possibly be sustainable and acceptable. The rules and structure of negotiation in the UNFCCC are probably there, but during my seventh COP, I am still amazed how delegates discuss content. There must be a magic wand somewhere which guides the process and delivers text at the end of the day.
Finally there is the reassuring feeling that people get to their place of destination at the end of the day. People re-join their families; others meet in a restaurant for a delicious Peruvian meal or enjoy the sunset at Miraflores. Despite the chaos, I see happiness. In Copenhagen, the international community failed to find a solution to combat climate change. During this COP, I feel that Paris will result in an agreement. It may not be a very detailed agreement; but it is hopefully an agreement countries can use to take action at home.
The traffic in Paris next year is not expected to be better than in Lima. At the end of the day though, people are happy to be home and forgot how they got there. When there is an agreement in Paris, I suggest we collectively forget how we got there and use the agreement to look forward.
Koen Dejonghe, Statkraft