It seems as though the dynamics of the conference have shifted from being about solving climate change to the rights of the people. Monday was the last day that all people with badges had access to the Bella Center. Yesterday and today, only those who were allowed a special badge were allowed into the center. After the course of today’s events the 1,000 of those allowed in on Thursday, and the 90 allowed in on Friday, as well as those in line today, are no longer allowed to enter the Bella Center.
Though chaos was to be expected, I am shocked by the behavior and responses of the security and police. This morning as I rode the bus attempting to get into the Bella Center, I saw so many police speeding through the streets. It seemed that there were more police and security than necessary around Copenhagen today. Even as I rode the bus, policemen got on and off the bus randomly, though I am not sure the exact reason for this action. It was not even possible to get to the normal bus entrance of the center because of all of the restrictions, and later on even the metro stop was blocked.
I came back and up until about two hours ago, was left in the dark about what has been going on. It has been hard to figure out what is going on when the news on the TV is in Danish and the Internet here rarely works. However I found an article in the New York Times, and have gathered some information from people getting back. I have learned that, as expected, there was a non-violent protest of people who were trying to get into the Bella Center and hoping that some of the people inside would walk out and meet them. I repeat that this was a non-violent protest of people trying to point out that they need an equal say in what is going on. The police ended up arresting 250 people, using tear gas, and beating protestors with batons.
I am sad to say that I have low hopes of a fair, ambitious, and legally binding treaty to come out of Copenhagen due to the extreme lack of compromise within the negotiations to accomplish something that could save mankind! Negotiators need to step it up and stop with their stubbornness. No country should be complaining that they have to reduce emissions more than other countries; which is why nothing is getting accomplished. Some countries have done nothing to deserve climate change, yet I admire the dedication of the Maldives and of Tuvalu for willing to work with the world in order to solve this; unlike the US who caused a great amount of this problem and is just trying to slide by on small reductions.
Anyways, today it is not even about the environmental treaty- it is about society being left out of the center when we all deserve to have a voice. Even if a treaty comes out of Copenhagen, it was society who promoted the importance of this issue, and it is society who has the biggest chance to make a difference. Even with a treaty, I feel like it is people around the world who will have to go back to their communities to make a difference, because as I have learned on this trip, it takes the dedication of all of society to actually get an issue of this size accomplished.
It is awful to see so many policemen around town, and it is awful how society is no longer let in the Bella Center. What does this mean for us if police act out in violence against members of society when it is not necessary? What does this mean if people don’t have access to the Bella Center during these important negotiations? This is just not fair. It is a problem if our actions and voices are being controlled and suppressed and this is important to keep in mind as the negotiations continue because I do not think that the heads of state, who will soon be arriving, can tackle this issue without our help. I am wondering how we are supposed to have peaceful negotiations within the Bella Center, when all of this chaos is going on outside of it.
Today at the side event hosted by the NGO SustainUS I was able to learn a lot of interesting facts about forest protection. Deforestation is a huge reason why we have so many carbon emissions in our atmosphere. Trees are a natural carbon dioxide regulator for the Earth, meaning they store the carbon dioxide that enters the atmosphere; therefore, there are less harmful emission increases. When trees capture carbon dioxide they store the CO2 in wood and in the ground.
Some people believe that if someone cuts down trees in forests that it is possible to just plant new ones to cancel out the effects, but in fact, this is false. Older forests have the capacity to store more carbon dioxide than those forests that are more recently planted. Since older forests contain more carbon dioxide stored in them than newer forests, there are huge amounts of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere when the trees are cut down, and the newly planted trees have a much smaller capacity to store carbon since they are relatively young.
About 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the clearing of forests mostly in the regions of developing countries. If we want to reduce the risk of temperature increase, one of the easiest ways would be to protect our natural forests. Just because newly planted trees do not store as much carbon dioxide as older trees, does not mean that investing in projects to keep planting trees should not be done. At this event, there seemed to be a lot hope that if youth and other members of society become informed and involved that we would have the ability to protect forests and decrease our harmful emissions that are due to deforestation.
Today we rushed into the US delegation center to listen to a speech by US EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. It was no surprise to those of us who attended that she stated that climate change is a global problem and we need to confront the situation starting at home in the United States. Her speech was very hopeful of progress in the states because she stated over and over that the US must act now and that we will seize opportunities to reduce our emissions.
One thing that Jackson mentioned is that in the United States 85% of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions will be tracked. This means that we will be able to have accurate measurements so that we know what technology we need to invest in and in which areas we need to do more work in, in order to reduce as much of our emissions as possible.
Jackson also said that there are plans to work with Congress in order to pass clean energy reforms and to lower emissions by 80% by 2050.
At the end of her speech, Jackson stated, “Climate Change is real, and now is the time to act.” I am very glad to see continuing support for combating climate change for the sake of human health and for the survival of the Earth. The United States has the chance to make a huge difference in reducing emissions and I am happy to see that we are realizing that combating climate change is a shared challenge and all countries need to put forth effort in order for us all to succeed.
Today we took the train to Malmo, Sweden for one of the several tours they are offering in light of COP 15. Our tour was about Augustenborg, a town which previously had old buildings falling apart and ashamed residents, is now a place where residents have every right to brag about how they are one of the leading eco-friendly cities in the world.
One of the highlights of this tour was the green rooftops that we were able to walk up and see. These rooftops are can be easily maintained and prove to be a simple way to bring nature back into the city. This part of the tour was very enlightening because the tour guide reminded us that just because we live in an urban environment, does not mean that nature cannot be a part of our lives. If buildings take all of the ground space up, why not use the empty space on the rooftops to grow plants and possibly even food?
Another great part of Augustenborg were the various bike paths. Since arriving in Copenhagen, and then traveling into Malmo, I am very impressed with the amount of people who use bicycles instead of cars. I was impressed when I saw the separate bike lanes in Copenhagen and how I learned that in the winter the bike lanes are plowed before the rest of the street. This shows the dedication of people here who are actually making an effort to be eco-friendly. In Malmo, I was informed that there are even more bike paths than in Copenhagen, and I think that it is spectacular that people utilize the bike lanes and do not depend on cars as a main source of transportation.
There were many other parts of the tour which amazed me, such as the use of geothermal energy, use of solar panels, and their canal system; however, I was in awe of their recycling centers. Throughout the town of Augustenborg, there are small buildings which have clearly labeled recycling bins where people take can take their garbage and sort it out. Some of the waste is even used for fuel, which is what our tour bus ran on! Augustenborg even took the citizens who did not want to partake in this recycling system, and drove them to places where their waste would go otherwise.
This tour was just very inspiring because Augustenborg has become transformed into such an environmentally friendly place. I am excited to see that their government cared so much about this that they did everything they could to engage their citizens to be part of an eco-friendly life style. It is amazing what the support of their citizens can do because they all take an active role in society by recycling, maintaing the green rooftops, riding bikes, and teaching all of this information to young children who will continue this sort of behavior as they grow up. All of the great features of Augustenborg did not just happen over night; it took lots of time, money, and most importantly support from the citizens who are now so proud of where they live. This gives me hope that if Augustenborg can transform itself, that with enough support and desire for change, even a city like Chicago can start incorporating these green tactics into our daily lives.
In a New York Times Article, posted on November 4, 2009, titled “Groups Press U.S. and China on Carbon”, three major American organizations discuss the possible effects of the U.S. and China working together to combat climate change.
The three research organizations; the Asia Society, the Center for American Progress, and the National Resources Defense Council will be releasing reports whose goal is aimed at the U.S and China working together in better developing C.C.S. C.C.S is short for carbon capture and sequestration, which involves using technology to store carbon dioxide emissions from polluters before these emissions have the chance to be released into the atmosphere.
In the report recently released by the Asia Society regarding this collaboration between the U.S and China, reasons for this alliance, benefits, problems that may occur, solutions, and the C.C.S processes are all clearly explained in order to convince the countries that this could be a successful development.
The Asia Society describes many benefits to this U.S. and China relationship. The first of these benefits includes an accelerated speed of technology because the two countries will be working together to develop the exact process, materials needed, etc., and this will be much speedier than one country’s ideas alone.
Also, money can be saved because many of the various materials needed to develop this technology are cheaper in China, and would therefore save the U.S. money. With the materials purchased sooner, money can also be saved because the project will be completed faster than if just one country did this on its own.
Lastly, and most importantly, the sooner this project is completed, the faster carbon dioxide emissions can be eliminated from the atmosphere. According to this report, almost 10 million tons of carbon dioxide could be prevented from entering the atmosphere shortly after the C.C.S technology is in place.
President Obama will be visiting China later this month and has realized the importance of international cooperation. Many people are still doubtful of whether or not anything will be accomplished at Copenhagen in December; however, if the U.S. and China cooperate and agree to begin conquering climate change together, then perhaps there is still hope for an even greater international agreement at the negotiations, nearly a month away.
In a New York Times article called “Maldives government Dives for Climate Change” posted on Saturday, October 17th, President of the Maldives, Mohammed Nasheed, found a creative way to draw attention to the effects of climate change.
The Maldives are a group of islands located in the Indian Ocean. These islands are an average of about seven feet above sea level and will therefore, be some of the first islands to disappear if sea levels keep rising.
Nasheed and other government officials brought a table down to the sea floor and dressed in scuba fear in order to hold their meeting. They used special underwater materials so that they could write and conduct their meeting. They also had to develop hand signals in order to communicate efficiently. Nasheed and other cabinet members signed a document asking countries around the world to reduce their emissions from carbon dioxide.
The message Nasheed hoped to convey was that all countries have to play their part in reducing emissions. Countries like the Maldives have rising sea levels because countries halfway across the world have uncontrollable emissions that affect everyone.
Though Nasheed is trying to keep the Maldives afloat, he is taking on the challenge of trying to get the world to notice the disastrous outcomes of our harmful emissions. Nasheed, like many others, is hoping that the international community can work together and develop a plan to reduce emissions in December during the conference taking place in Copenhagen.