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UN's de Boer Explains Bali Tears and Comma's Silent Impact, Branson Dodges, Steiner's Secrecy

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, February 11 -- "You can't hear a comma," UN climate change point-man Yvo de Boer told Inner City Press on Monday. He'd been asked about the negotiations in Bali in December, specifically about his widely-seen but little understood crying jag near the end of the conference. While the voice-over on a number of global television broadcasts of his tears had ascribed them to the tenseness of the talks or the state of the planet, de Boer on Monday confirmed that he'd been accused by China of holding two sets of negotiations over two sets of documents. He said there had been confusion about when the informal talks ended, and the formal ones began. The rest, he said, "will be for my book." Video here.

            Afterwards, off-camera, de Boer said he "felt bad" for the Americans, who were "put in an uncomfortable position" by a comma not enunciated by the Indian delegation at the talks. As de Boer recounts it, the talk was of a sentence providing that developing countries should take real, measurable and verifiable actions ... but should be provided with real, measurable and verifiable financial resources into order do that. The question left unanswered by the reading, according to de Boer, was whether "real, measurable and verifiable" referred only to money, or related to other provisions. The U.S. was left out on a limb, and Yvo de Boer regrets it.

Yvo de Boer in Bali: side-talks not shown, commas not heard, but questions answered

            Asked about coal by Inner City Press, de Boer said that moratorium on coal use is not realistic, but there are still legitimate questions about whether carbon buried via "capture and store" technology will in fact stay buried. At least de Boer answered this question. An hour earlier, in the same room but with many more journalists present, Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airways dodged the identical coal question from Inner City Press, answering instead about biofuels. After saying that corn ethanol does not, on balance, reduce dirty energy emissions, Branson admitted that he is invested in corn biofuel. Daryl Hannah, shrugging off the UN press corps' jokes about mermaids -- based, it seems, on her appearance in the 1980s movie "Splash" -- answered that biofuels are best when made from waste, or even algae. Video here.

            In the Trusteeship Council chamber as afternoon turned to dusk, Sha Zukang of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs concluded with what he called, to some laughter, "propaganda from DESA." Kemal Devis of the UN Development Program -- and formerly of the World Bank -- said that the World Bank has a role in middle income countries. While the director of the UN Environment Program Aichem Steiner speechified, UN correspondents with time on their hands noted that Steiner is not listed as participating in any way in the UN's financial disclosure program. We'll have more on this.

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These reports are also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

  Because a number of Inner City Press' UN sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540