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Director’s Cut - Friday, 5 June 2009
Helping Communicate the Periphery As It Becomes Central to the Debate
By Kimo Goree, Director of IISD Reporting Services (IISD RS) - kimo@iisd.org
Kimo Goree
Director of
IISD RS
This week in Bonn, during the Climate Change Talks, IISD Reporting Services team members can be found not only in the negotiating rooms, but also taking notes and photos at a number of key side events. Each morning, side-by-side with the Earth Negotiations Bulletin at the documents counter, you can find copies of our “companion” publication at this meeting, ENB on the Side.

From 1996-1997, during the negotiations of the Kyoto Protocol under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the nature of the climate change meetings began to evolve. The annual gatherings called the Conference of the Parties, the negotiations of the Berlin Mandate and the meetings of the UNFCCC subsidiary bodies began to grow in both size and importance, with many participants coming not to participate in the negotiations but only to attend the growing number of side events held concurrently with the official meeting.  It was my feeling that the side events provided an increasingly fertile arena for the development of new ideas, many of which eventually fed into the main negotiations. In addition, many of the side events provided information on the activities of specialized agencies, governments and non-governmental organizations involved in new research and implementation. The organizers of these side events invested considerable resources to assemble experts for fascinating presentations that sometimes were, unfortunately, sparsely attended. In 1998, at the UNFCCC COP held in Buenos Aires, in an attempt to capture the rich content of these side events and communicate the ideas exchanged during them to our larger, internet-based audience, IISD began publishing a separate report each day on the side events.  

As a result of our success, in 1999 IISD Reporting Services developed a new product called “ENB on the Side,” to be distributed side-by-side with the Earth Negotiations Bulletin and to report on side events at meetings covered by the ENB. This publication was supported by the UNFCCC Secretariat at meetings of the UNFCCC from 1999-2005 and in 2002 the UN Development Programme (UNDP) provided funding for our coverage of the two final preparatory meetings in New York and Bali for the World Summit on Sustainable Development and at the Johannesburg Summit later that year.

In March 2006, IISD Reporting Services published ENBOTS from the Eighth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, held in Curitiba, Brazil. Then, in 2006 and 2007, with financial assistance from UNDP, IISD published ENBOTS from CSD 14 and CSD 15 in New York.

Now, after more than ten years publishing ENB on the Side from key meetings, our archives contain a rich history of ideas that were first discussed publically in side events and eventually were mainstreamed into the negotiations. If you do a text search for “REDD” (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries), you will find references to REDD in side events covered by IISD Reporting Services far before the concept reached the official UNFCCC negotiations. Many other discussions of funds, emerging issues, institutional initiatives and trends that we now consider to be central in the climate policy debate were first presented in meetings captured by our reports. Our coverage is often the only record of these side events and we would hope that the ideas that germinated on the margins of the negotiations were promoted through our coverage and distribution to tens of thousands of readers, projecting the ideas far beyond the handful of participants in each side event room.

IISD owes the success of ENB on the Side to both the UNFCCC Secretariat, who funded our coverage of climate change side events for many years, and to UNDP, who has partnered with us to provide coverage during the World Summit for Sustainable Development meetings and two sessions of the Commission on Sustainable Development, and now, more recently, in the preparations for the Copenhagen climate change talks. We are very proud that both the UNFCCC Secretariat and UNDP have joined to support our activities “on the side” here in Bonn at this round of negotiations.

Be sure to visit our ENB on the Side coverage of the current climate change talks in Bonn: http://www.iisd.ca/climate/sb30/enbots/. During this crucial round of negotiations, ideas that emerge in the side events will no doubt find their way into the solutions being negotiated as delegates prepare for the final debates in Copenhagen this December. For certain, the record of these events will show how vital the discussions on the margin are to the long-term health of the climate policy ecosystem.
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