I've never been saluted before in my life. Why should I have been? After all, I have never been in the armed forces, nor am I a member of the royal family! So when I was saluted three times on the way to the Climate Conference this morning, I started to wonder what was afoot.
There was certainly something in the air: the tourist police on the corner had been replaced by soldiers in battle-dress and the Balinese police had been replaced by the military police. I arrived at the convention center to find we couldn't use the normal entrance and access to the printing center was sealed off (rather annoyingly as I had a press release to distribute!).
Then I saw the sign: "Heads of State and Government Officials Only". So that was it. Playtime was over for the NGOs and other observers, the big boys and girls had come to claim their patch. Negotiations had now entered the seriously high-level stage and drew everyone's attention. The plenary was full to bursting and the media scrum that formed outside the entrance was more reminiscent of a Hollywood premiere. So, with journalists, officials and observers all on tenterhooks at what was happening in the main session, wouldn't it be great to have a bit more space and relaxed atmosphere around the periphery? Well yes it was a bit more pleasant, the only problem was; our delegation had planned to hold a side-event! The Chair of the World Future Council, Bianca Jagger along with Tariq Banuri and Anders Wijkman from the WFC and Christine Loh from Hong Kong would be speaking on the issue of climate justice.
How we'd rejoiced to find we had no competition from any other side-events — the stage would be ours to press the message home that climate change cannot really be solved without addressing the question of development for the world's poorest countries. The euphoria was of course quickly dampened by the fact that negotiations were still going on in the main auditorium. However, like the guards outside, we soldiered on and in the end it turned out to be a great success. The room was well filled and the audience receptive.
It was our second side-event and afterwards the feeling was that the big push was now over. We'd done what we could and offered the best solutions to pending climate chaos. Now we've entered the final straight of the conference. The end is in sight, negotiations are expected to last well into Saturday morning before a result is announced. Will the high-ranking officials finally stand to attention and deliver a compromise to benefit us all? The world is watching.
Image credit::Balinese Military Policeman, via MSNBC