Torpidity levels rising

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 December, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 December, 1997, 12:00am

Towards the end of the conference Argentinian chairman Raul Estrada-Oyuela resembled a school teacher trying to hold the interest of his students.

As negotiations crawled to a close, a smiling Mr Estrada-Oyuela asked his colleagues to try to concentrate after one dozing delegate was caught not knowing what clause was being discussed.

Negotiators and reporters slumped in disarray over their desks, while arguments about emissions trading, forest sinks and the constantly elusive final emission targets droned on.

'How are we going to adopt an official document without interpreters?' complained the Russian delegation when, at 8 am yesterday morning they learnt the interpreters had left.

Parts of the deal got through because some inattentive proposers forgot what their proposals were.

'I thought so, you don't know what we're talking about,' Mr Estrada told a European Union negotiator whose amendment hung in the air while he stared blankly at his chairman.

By the end of the 11th day of negotiations, there was absolute consensus on one issue: everybody wanted to go home.