Page last updated at 13:45 GMT, Friday, 11 December 2009

Harrabin's Notes: Inside Copenhagen

In his regular column, the BBC's environment analyst, Roger Harrabin, offers an insight of life inside the UN climate summit in Copenhagen.

Climate protester dressed as an alien (Getty Images)
Everyone can have their say at the climate summit in Copenhagen

The Bella Centre is a vast conference village on the outskirts of Copenhagen.

But it's not big enough for this conference so the halls sprawl out into temporary buildings each with its warren of offices for delegations.

Getting through security is a morning nightmare. Ask the Chinese climate minister, He's been turned away three times by the guards.

It's caused a lot of upset - the concept of face in China is deep-rooted, and China's feeling pricked in many ways here; bludgeoned by America and betrayed by some of its traditional friends. More on this shortly.

If you manage to get through the barrier, you're into halls with firms hawking some new clean technology, or giant globes and indoor trees, as well as wide corridors thronging with earnest suited UN types marching in step.

There are also businesspeople, and teenagers chanting for climate justice when you're trying to eat the slabs of grey meat they call lunch here. You'll also encounter aliens with green faces intoning "take me to your leader".

George Soros speaking at the Copenhagen summit (Getty Images)
George Soros was in town to launch a $150bn climate proposal

Almost none of them know what's actually going on.

These climate meetings are the most complicated meetings in the world trying to solve the most complicated problem in the world.

So, apart from all the side events with millionaire financiers launching ideas for getting money to poor countries, and ocean scientists warning that the oceans are turning more acidic because of CO2, and forestry experts explaining all the different and often conflicting ways of funding the protection of the forests, you have the main negotiations themselves.

Everywhere there are TVs with split screens showing the two tracks of negotiations: one track for everyone, and the other for those who signed up to the Kyoto Protocol 12 years ago.

If that's not complicated enough, as I write the tiny Pacific island nation of Tuvalu has brought a halt to negotiations for the second day running with its demand for a third track of negotiations.

I heard this from an Indian journalist I bumped into after stopping for a cup of tea with a man who knows what's happening on climate change in the US Senate.

Just before seeing him, I met a British journalist who told me he was getting most of his information from overheard conversations in the gents' loo.

Now tracks one and two of the conference are discussing trying to stabilise emissions at a level projected to have a fair chance of avoiding a 2C (3.6F) temperature rise. That's the threshold considered dangerous by the official climate science.

Yet Tuvalu is likely to lose its entire territory if there's severe sea level rise, so it considers that 2C could be fatal for the nation. This prospect tends to focus the mind.

So now Tuvalu is demanding a 1.5C degree target, which the UK Met Office has said in another side event here was virtually impossible given its projections based on the current level of emissions.

No matter, this is the UN; everyone has a say, and this is a very challenging say because a 1.5C target implies huge emissions cuts from rich nations and - this is significant - very forceful action from countries like China India and Brazil as well.

Which brings us back to the Chinese environment minister. He's not happy. His old allies at the poor end of the G77 bloc are turning against his country.

The fissure between the rich and poor of G77 may be one of the legacies of this conference.

I wasn't able to make the Chinese press conference which was held in Chinese in Hall C6, that's the one at the end past the Karen Blixen plenary hall.

And because I was trying to follow up a document I'd been leaked on the African position but I couldn't find the man from Lesotho who'd written it.

And this is just week one. This time next week the world's leaders will starting their session of 24-hour climate poker in these towering halls - it's one of the most extraordinary meetings the world has ever seen.

Are you feeling dizzy from that blizzard of information? Try being here.

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