03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Acronym Hell and the Path to a Global Climate Deal

My dad used to tell me that nothing ever gets done in a meeting that lasts more than a half hour. The latest round of international negotiations for a global climate change treaty have been underway for two years now. Some would argue that there's been more than ten years of meetings and we still don't have an effective climate treaty in place.

Observing the climate talks that wrapped up in here in Bangkok this week, there's one thing that stands out for me as a symptom of a bogged down process - acronyms. LULCF's, BINGO's, ENGO's, KP, papers and, dare I say there's even non-papers.

I hate acronyms. For me they symbolize institutionalization. And the UNFCCC process has sadly become an institution, not a temporary measure to deal with a global crisis. But I don't blame all of the people spending so much time away from their families working long hours at these talks. I have seen how hard and dedicated the ENGO's (Environmental Non-Government Organizations) and the negotiators work. They are not to blame in any way for this.

The blame lies solely on the heads of our world leaders. Our elected (and in some cases self-appointed) representatives.

We only need to look at how fast world leaders acted during the global economic crisis to see how quickly they can get things done when they have the political will. Both the economic and climate crisis are serious and complex issues involving the cooperation of many parties with competing interests. One took mere months to address while the other continues to drag on with no end in sight.

Imagine if the meetings to deal with the economic meltdown had dragged on for two years. There would be riots in the streets. Politicians knew this and it was for this reason that they acted so quickly. It was this fear that prompted world leaders to act so quickly.

Essentially it was the greatest fear of every politician that was invoked. The fear of not being re-elected.

So in my humble opinion, we need to make politicians fear for their political future if we want to end this bogged down climate treaty process and put in place a fair, binding and ambitious deal. There's still time to do this between now and the big show at Copenhagen in December. We need massive displays of voter displeasure in the streets of the world.

We need scathing headlines that are critical of those politicians who refuse to take the issue of climate change seriously.

There are many great organizations trying to do just that. Here's a few that you can get involved in:


(These are my favorites, but there are many more organizations doing good work, so please feel free to leave a comment below to let everyone know about others.)

You need not become a hardcore activist to do what needs to be done. You just need to stand up in your own way and make your voice heard. If enough people stand up the politicians will be forced to act.

I'm writing this article while observing the talks in the "Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action - First Part of the Seventh Session in Bangkok, Thailand." They are considering the wording of non-paper No.22. The Canadian negotiator has the floor and is going on and on about Paragraph 2a and the inclusion of NAMA's in Annex II technology transfers. He's making the point that the NAMA's that are currently included in Cluster B should be moved to the Appendices.

He's been talking for more than a half hour now. My father would not be pleased.