Do IPCC NGO observers have silent non-functional mics?

In my previous post on the “transparent” behind closed doors gathering of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is now apparently running into overtime “deliberations”, one of the things I forgot to note was the rather conspicuous absence during each of the speeches of any mention of “members of civil society”.

Typically, at such UNEP sponsored gatherings each speaker’s address would begin with a recitation of all the names on the dias, as well as a tip of the hat to “members of civil society”! Civil society is UN-speak for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). So this was a rather curious omission, I thought. Almost as if these “observers” had become invisible. And indeed, IPCC Lead Author, Richard Betts was initially unaware that they’d even been invited!

Nonetheless – as I had noted in my post – Betts’ fellow Lead Author, Richard Klein was quite adamant that whatever “expertise” was expected of representatives of these NGOs with “approved” observer status, they do not speak. According to Klein:


Even though no less a personnage than Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC Chair, has declared that we have the right to question science, I guess we have no right to question the “experts”, such as Klein!

In fact, according to Klein, these “silent” observers do not even speak during informal “contact group” deliberations. Here’s Klein, again, at his “authoritative” best:


So I wonder how Klein would explain the difference between delegates’ microphones:


and those in front of these “silent” observers:


The above two photos are courtesy of the quasi-official rapporteurs, IISD whose report today included:

Throughout the day, in plenary, contact groups and informal meetings, delegates addressed sections of the Summary dealing with: observed changes in the climate system, drivers of climate change, understanding the climate system and its recent changes, and future global and regional climate change. Good progress was made with the discussion focusing primarily on clarifying the main messages and improving their accessibility to policy makers.

During lunchtime, delegates heard a scientific presentation on cumulative CO2 emissions. (emphasis added -hro)

But what a waste of microphone rentals, eh? Not to mention that if these “observers” are silent at all times, surely it would have been more cost-efficient to have them “observe” via closed-circuit video hook-up. Think of the all the dreaded CO2 emissions that would not have been needlessly spewed into the atmosphere of our oh-so-fragile planet! They’ve missed an opportunity to be positively “transformative” ;-)


11 thoughts on “Do IPCC NGO observers have silent non-functional mics?

  1. Either Betts is flat-out lying, or he is using “speak” in a bureaucratese-defined sub-sense, to mean make formal presentations or official unofficial announcements, or some other quibbling disinformative distinction.

  2. Brian, I think you mean me, not Betts. I’m not lying and my use of the word ‘speak’ is the same as yours. Anybody sitting in the back of the room behind an observer ‘flag’ (i.e. name plate) was never given the opportunity to speak by the co-chairs or anybody else in the room, neither in plenary nor in break-out groups. The break-out groups were appointed on an ad-hoc basis by the co-chairs and never even included members of observer organisations.

    Yes, there were green NGOs in the room, and there were fossil-fuel interest groups in the room. There were research organisations, international organisations and so on. They are all observers.

    They do share the same coffee breaks and lunch, so yes, there observers can speak to authors and government delegates. But as I mentioned earlier, and speaking from my own experience as an author in previous SPM approval sessions, the last thing you want is someone nagging at you when you’re focused on getting the text right. Both governments and authors come very well prepared and NGO representatives know that. If they want to influence governments, it’s more effective to do so beforehand.

    On a final note, and referring to an earlier blog post here, I never knew that so much could be read into a simple one-word reply to a yes/no question. Authoritative, uninformative, dictatorial, disrespectful. Sorry for not taking the time to say ‘No Ma’am’.

    • On a final note, and referring to an earlier blog post here, I never knew that so much could be read into a simple one-word reply to a yes/no question.

      Try again, Richard. Or do you not know the difference between a “yes/no question” and a “multiple choice question”? Or is it simply the case that you have resorted to the fog of speaking in Gavinese™?!

      But your diversion from the main point of both posts is duly noted. Once again – notwithstanding all your obviously superior knowledge of the IPCC and its processes and procedures – you cannot credibly and rationally explain why what one sees from the IPCC is not necessarily what one gets!

      Or do you actually have an explanation regarding the “appropriate expertise” expected of NGO representatives in accordance with the invitation to the NGOs, which included the following:

      I will be grateful if you would designate the representative(s) of your Organization to the sessions. Allow me to recall that the participation of delegates with appropriate expertise is vital for the success of these meetings. [emphasis added -hro]

      I suppose it could be that they should know how to use their computers in order to “silently” whisper messages to those who do get to use their microphones. But unless these NGOs are not accredited by ECOSOC, I cannot imagine that they would be particularly thrilled to learn that their “participation” in IPCC deliberations does not include the “advertised” privileges to:

      • Make oral statements;
      • Participate in debates, interactive dialogues, panel discussions and informal meetings

      In any event, “Because I Said So” is not going to cut the mustard, Richard – any more than it did the last time you asserted your oh-so-superior (but clearly wrong) knowledge.

      P.S. If you should happen to know who Mr/Ms “Bingo” might be, perhaps you’ll share this response with him/her. I have no objection to folks who choose to use a recognizable ‘nym, But ill-informed comments, which completely miss the point of the relevant post(s), emanating from the keyboard of a non-familiar ‘nym who chooses to use a throw-away E-mail address, not so much.

    • Hilary, what exactly are you asking? I’d better check before being accused again of not answering your question.

      In response to the above:

      NGOs and other observer organisations that are accredited to IPCC have been accredited by IPCC, that is, by its members (which are governments) at IPCC plenary sessions. ECOSOC has nothing to do with it. IPCC also sets its own rules for the participation of observer organisations. See this link which I also shared with you on Twitter:

      You don’t believe what I told you about the Stockholm session, and I don’t think there’s much I can say to make you change your mind. Perhaps you can try to change mine when I think that you choose to believe what you want to believe, irrespective of what I or others say?

      I don’t know Bingo.

  3. Brian, Hilary: if you’re going to try to produce coverage of an event with any authority, it helps to know something about such events in general. “Observers” are just that: they observe. Although some organisations allow a degree of participation (and it’s perhaps a little surprising if they were excluded from wholly informal gatherings), they never participate in actual decision-making.

    You may argue that it’s unfair to exclude NGOs from decision-making, or full participation (although worth asking how one could wrangle such a disparate group of lobbyists, or how anyone would set meaningful criteria – is any NGO invited, from the WI to the Dentists Union?) You can suggest that NGOs expectations should have been better managed. But you can’t accuse the IPCC of being disingenuous by treating NGOs as the observers they are.

    PS I can understand how the presence of microphones can be a bit confusing. Worth noting that (a) room technicians don’t always get the full brief, or are catering for multiple events in the same room, so just put them everywhere; and (b) microphones often have the audio systems built in, to allow multi-channel translation.

  4. Richard Klein and Bingo;
    thank you for detailed responses.
    We interested participants, including many tax-payers, desire more than cursory dismissals.

  5. Pingback: The IPCC: Bar the Media, Welcome the Activists | NoFrakkingConsensus

  6. Richard says

    “Both governments and authors come very well prepared and NGO representatives know that. If they want to influence governments, it’s more effective to do so beforehand.”

    Hmmm. This seems to be a tacit admission that Green NGOs do indeed influence governments. Hence, their presence at the debating venue in front of mics that work but aren’t used because the people behind them don’t speak, makes rather more sense. They are there to breathe down the necks (literally) of the people who are allowed to speak and formulate policy, having negotiated beforehand a list of ‘demands’. It just wouldn’t be the same if they were in fact relegated to the role of actual non-participating observers linked only via satellite – which, as Hilary points out would be a lot more cost effective, reduce jet plane CO2 emissions and probably avoid the scandalous “waste of microphone rentals”!

    Richard further enlightens us to NGO’s ‘stealth influence’ at such venues by stating that NGOs, authors and govt delegates “do share the same coffee breaks and lunch, so yes, there observers can speak to authors and government delegates”. So, if those NGOs sat in front of redundant microphones are unhappy with proceedings during live session and don’t feel their prior demands to governments are being given proper consideration, they have the ideal opportunity to admonish said delegates for their negligence, in vitro, so to speak, over coffee and continental buns immediately afterwards. And let’s face it, looking at the line up of stern-faced NGO representatives who were present, hard-pressed govt delegates and the more retiring of scientific authors would probably not want to run the risk of being hassled by these ideologically motivated foot soldiers over a well earned caffeine break!

  7. NGOs are in the UNFCCC system, by design. The original intent was to hold national governments’ ‘feet to the fire’ in COP negotiations, governments which otherwise might unwarily make decisions based on ‘short-term’, narrow, ‘nationalist’ interests.
    It is true that NGOs don’t get a turn to speak out at plenary sessions, the attending countries do. It is also true the larger NGOs have the resources to hassle negotiators, develop chummy relationships with them, feed them talking points and stage co-ordinated protests on the street working in conjunction with negotiators. See Jeremy Leggett, for example: he spent a lifetime doing exactly this.

    • Thanks, Shub and Jaime. One of the broader – and IMHO obvious, albeit unmentioned in my post – points was that unless all these oh-so-silent NGOs were constrained from emailing their concerns, suggested wording, etc. to the approved national delegates of their choice (which I, for one, am very much inclined to doubt), then there is no reason to assume that they had no voice in the deliberations.

      Furthermore, since the attendance record (see my Of IPCC reports … and press releases in which they “hide the declines”) of the relevant May 2011 gatherings of the great and the good indicates that:

      […] according to the data in Annex 3, there were only 188 names in 91 “national delegations” who participated in the 11th Session of Working Group III at which the SPM for the SSREN was actually “approved”, i.e. “subjected to detailed, line by line discussion and agreement”. Not only is this a far cry from being “approved by government representatives from 194 nations” (as falsely “advertised” on May 9), it doesn’t even constitute 50% of the Panel’s “government membership”!

      Klein (and/or his buddy, Carrington) apparently didn’t consider correction of such details as important as ensuring that his title was correctly conveyed in Carrington’s July 2011 fact-free whine. So, who knows, eh … perhaps this was the reason that in 2011 Klein became the man who never returned.

      Some might say that it might also have contributed to his ludicrous leap at CliScep from events that transpired in 2011 to those which occurred more than two years later. But I couldn’t possibly comment;-)

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