This morning when we arrived at the Bella Centre, we noticed thousands, and i mean thousands of people milling around the entranceway below the train platform. While we had scoffed at our policy manager’s warnings to arrive there early to ‘avoid the queues’ we weren’t quite prepared for what lay below. Thousands of delegates, journalists and NGO observers were milling about in the cold, in barely contained chaos.
While we found our line and thanked god we were already registered we passed by two journalists in the registration line who were still a good 750m away from the centre and who had already been there since 8am. My stomach began to sink.
1.5 hours later, after the metro started skipping the Bella Centre station and 1 Chinese Environment Minister’s pass was torn up when he asked to jump the queue, we were in – frozen and alive. With 22,500 NGO delegates, 11,500 government representatives and 3,500 journalists in a centre for 14,000 overcrowding is a serious threat.
Shortly after we were admitted we heard that since the centre was at capacity a nightclub system of ‘one in, one out’ was being applied – leaving television crews and iin some cases key members of delegations unable to negotiate or broadcast because the UNFCCC had allowed more 50,000 people to register.
The UNFCCC’s response has been to severely limit the amount of NGO observers permitted – tomorrow only 7,000 will be allowed, and we’ve all been given secondary cards – proverbial golden tickets. On Thursday that number will drop to 1,000 and by Friday only 90 observers will be allowed. Press will be allowed only in the media centre where press conferences and plenaries will be broadcast.
The changing logistics overshadowed many aspects of today’s activities – meetings were in disarray diplomatic incidents abounded as important delegates were treated as imposters or refused entry despite their explanations of the important role they played inside. How ironic that progress on a climate deal was literally stalled today as some countries were kept out in the cold.
I’m planning on arriving early tomorrow to make sure my fingers and toes stay 100% frostbite free – 7,000 delegates or no 7,000 delegates.