It is 1 AM and reports are still coming out of the Bella center and around Copenhagen on the finalization of COP15. I am up because I want to sleep on the flight home tomorrow, so why not let the blog about what is happening.
What the news agencies are reporting is that 5 countries, the US, Bolivia, India, China, and South Africa have come to a “meaningful agreement,” as Obama put it.
As an environmentalist, I am disappointed that the negotiations did not come to a more fair and promising outcome, but what we have realized at this conference is that UN proceedings lack the transparency and fairness that one might expect.
What it seems like to me is that this ending was planned by the countries that have the money, power, and wealth without properly consulting the other parties involved. There were around 119 heads of state at this conference yet this new deal was brokered by just 5. How is that equitable when those who were not consulted are going to be the countries that are entirely destroyed from the impacts of climate change in less than 100 years?
Adding to my frustration is that on the final day of the talks there were several draft texts floating around between the parties, and I don’t feel as though the small island, African, and other less prominent countries around the world have the man power or resources to keep up with all the changes. Reading and understanding those texts fully (I heard they can be around 40 pages long) is key in policy, because every way a word is used, or a sentence is phrased, is crucial in the meaning of the statement.
It doesn’t help my frustration that all the non-government organizations were restricted access (basically kicked out) when all this is going down. The activists and youth would have been there if they could have been. These delegates were crucial in assisting and supporting the marginalized parties, yet UN proceedings prevented that.
While the conference has not completely ended, it is clear that the text that the US has agreed upon will not curb the devastating effects of climate change. The AP is reporting that an Obama administrator said that the agreement requires each country to list the actions they will take to cut global pollution by specific amounts. It also includes a mechanism to help poor countries prepare for climate change by giving them billions of dollars. (which will probably end up going through the World Bank anyways, which presents a whole new level of problems)
The developing world needs more money to combat what the developed world has done to them, and this agreement simply won’t go far in remedying the problem, but at least it is a start and Obama being here did bring US news agencies attention to climate change, which educates the public, and makes polices to curb US energy use politically feasible in the US. Once this happens, we can help, along with the rest of the global community provide more money, technology, and sustainable growth to the people who need it most.
Most of our class has expressed interest in traveling to COP16, next year in Mexico City, which will be cheaper, warmer, and closer than Copenhagen and we will keep on trying to get climate change on the political agenda back home.
“Climate REDI” (renewable energy development initiative) is a new program that was annoced today at a presentation by the US Department of Energy. The main speaker was US secretary of Energy, Steven Chu. Prior to his presentation, the partner countries in this new intitive, ministers from India and Italy, as well as a representative from Australia said a few words on the initiative and the partnerships.
It was obvious that the point of Chu’s presentation is to show that the United States is serious about changing out direction or energy use, but as one question from the public pointed out, it does not seem that the US targets on reducing our energy consumption are very ambitious. While this may be true, the initiative does include expensive and expansive programs to address current and future developments in clean and renewable resource development.
The emphasis for new technologies within the US and in developing countries that Chu presented were efficient batteries, wind turbines, solar power, LED lighting, smart grids, and energy efficient appliances.
While I didn’t hear much of the programs goals in other countries from Chu, the representative from Australia did say that a priority of Climate REDI is fast-tracking renewable resource technologies in developing countries. Chu touched on the battery and LED power for lighting in developing nations, but nothing else specifically.
So what is the $80 billion down payment in the recovery act for a clean energy economy and the $85 million over the next 5 years for the Climate REDI initiative going? He talked a few minutes on wind power, saying that the US has invested in blade testing in order to create the next generation of compact wind turbines. Also, the funds to revolutionize the way buildings are designed and retrofitted, using an example of creating embedded tools in architecture design programs that would show energy efficiency to buildings architectures and designers. They are also working on applications for smart phones in which consumers would be able to visually see their energy usage and help them make energy efficient changes.
In the question and answer part, Chu was asked about the connection between the program and transportation and how this will be designed with smart grids. Chu said the government has been and will continue to push to increase fuel efficiency standards, develop batteries, and other renewable resources to reduce CO2 emissions, and also work on using biofuels.
He concluded the presentation by stating that there needs to be a shift in thinking by Americans, leaving fossil fuel consumption, and going to a “hi-tech sustainable energy” economy.
I looked for the specific point of the program on both the Energy Department’s website, and their specific site for COP15, but there was no information obviously posted, so I might come back later and let you know what the specific of the program are.
found the department of energy’s press release.
Secretary Chu today announced the launch of a new Renewables and Efficiency Deployment Initiative (Climate REDI). The program will accelerate deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies in developing countries – reducing greenhouse gas emissions, fighting energy poverty and improving public health for the most vulnerable, particularly women and children.
Climate REDI includes three new clean energy technology programs and funding needed to launch a renewable energy program under the World Bank’s Strategic Climate Fund…
Climate REDI is a “quick-start” initiative to complement the much broader technology and finance mechanisms of an international climate agreement. It will promote dissemination of clean energy technologies…
The combined budget for these programs is $350 million over five years. Funding for the first three programs above will total $100 million — $35 million that the United States intends to contribute, with the balance from Italy, Australia and other partners. Funding for the Scaling-Up Renewable Energy Program will total $250 million – $50 million that the United States intends to contribute and $200 million that the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland pledged previously…
Just got back to the hostel from a massive protest on COP15, which started at 1Pm downtown and arrived at the Bella conference center around maybe 4-5ish. I heard estimates of up to 100,000 people joined the protest. All the news agencies right now are being very vague with the numbers or giving reports on what the Danish government thought it would be up until this morning which was only 30,000 to 60,000 people.
The most prevalent slogans on the signs said
“NATURE DOESN’T COMPROMISE”
“THERE IS NO PLANET B”
“PLANET NOT PROFIT”
“BLA BLA BLA… ACT NOW”
“CHANGE THE POLITICS, NOT THE CLIMATE”
“CLIMATE JUSTICE NOW”
Others included saying like green earth, not green greed. And those slogans do a fairly adequate job summing up the standpoint of the protesters. We are asking, pleading, and forcing the world leaders to take actions toward a global climate agreement by the end of next week, and the end of COP15.
It started with a DJ, once the majority of the people showed up, the speeches started. First was Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and a peace activist. Followed by a youth activist, who is on a hunger fast, and lastly by an indigenous peoples leader. They all called for action, most importantly was the point of a “FAB” agreement by the end of the conference. Meaning fair, ambitious, and legally binding.
After these three finished their talks, in closing, the youth leader said the time for “Yes, we can” has pasted, it is now time for “YES, WE WILL” which the crowd picked up and chanted.
More speeches were given, they were directly followed by three Danish politicians who all spoke in Danish, since we didn’t understand we headed to the other part of the protest, outside the gates of the Bella Center, then headed out.
Just to note, the group of three of us were approached by a reporter from the Wall Street Journal who is writing an article on the youth at the conference (should be in the paper on Monday or Tuesday). I think we were able to give him great material and hopefully we did a wonderful job of articulating our thoughts on the conference.
What we told him, and what is important for everyone back home, is that the US needs to pay attention to what is happening here. Apparently Tiger Woods was the main news in the states today, which is ridiculous when the global community is focused on Copenhagen and the climate. People at home need to take notice and activate our politicians to act on climate issues, health care is important, but I would argue that the future of the planet is a much more crucial issue.
In the side event “Co-Benefits of climate change and sustainable development in developing countries” hosted by Japan, I learned a bit about the steps the Japanese government have and are still undergoing to assist developing countries in combating climate change. While most of the presentation put me to sleep because there was a lot of math and technical talk (which I was not expecting), and some difficulty understanding with their accents, but I did pull a few usual points.
First, the Japanese government has gone ahead of the COP in implementing CDM (clean development mechanisms) in developing countries. They have supported these countries will massive financial and technical support. Actions like this are ones I hope to see other rich countries contributing to very soon.
The part I enjoyed the most was the input from a representative from Uganda, where the Japanese have a program with CDM. He and his country are very thankful to the Japanese for the help they are providing because they are giving the developing world socio-economical benefits through CDM.
He made a very important point during his time speaking, saying that the least developed countries have weak private sectors, and implementing the mechanism in public sectors (such an electricity and water) is where the opportunity lies for high levels of socio-economic benefits in his country and others in similar states.
Without actions similar to Japans it will be very difficult for the least developed countries to participate with CDM since they require very intensive and knowledgeable actions, and it is simply not possible for the least developed countries to have the same number of CDM as developed countries since they cannot access the opportunity alone.
The desire to have a positive outcome from the conference has caused some to believe that the Danish presidency has assisted the rich and developed countries of the world to create a deal in private and spearhead a likely US-friendly deal to the rest of the world. This desire also contributed to the marketing scheme of “Hopenhagen,” which is a blatant attempt to commercialize the conference by the city of Copenhagen.
I first became aware of this possibility of a last minute deal while reading blog posts on day one of the conference. Now in day 4, news agencies are reporting that leaked e-mails show this is a not just a far out speculation. Just as a reminder, the leaked documents showed world leaders will next week be asked to sign an agreement that hands more power to rich countries.
Whether or not the Danish presidency has any influence on this non-equitable outcome is beside the point. The UN is expected by the international community to provide fair and equitable negotiation process, and it is become fairly obvious that this is not the case.
Today, myself and several others in the class went to the “Intergenerational Inquiry on Climate Solutions calls Yvo de Boer, youth, negotiators to testify”. A representative from the UN climate change support team stated the obvious, that economic and political interests influence the negotiations, and that it is not a matter of if they should, but it is inevitable that they do.
In a blog by Bolivia’s Ambassador to the UN and Copenhagen on Tuesday he argued the possibility of the developed countries getting the chair of the UNFCCC or some ad hoc group to introduce a last minute paper. By saying this paper is the last chance and pressuring the other parties to sign it, mainly developing countries by placing blame on them for a possible failure to the conference, which is something the world and the Danish government do not want as an outcome.
This point reiterates the fact that developed and powerful nations have more influence over the negotiations than other parties involved. These other parties include both developing counties, and the youth of the world. I see high parallels between the youth movement here at the conference and positions of developing countries. While I have yet to be in an actual negotiating session, I saw a young man’s e-mail where he was stating that in the negotiations it seemed that a lot of developing nations delegates were struggling quite a bit in keeping up with the talks, he was using an example of a man who was shuffling through papers and it seemed obviously that he did not understand what was going on, and in the e-mail it he was saying he though it was because they were never provided the right documentation. The guy was seeing if there was a way in which he could be of assistance to delegations that need extra assistance, something I highly doubt the US or any other powerful country has any problems with.
While the developed countries are trying to place blame on other countries and are not being flexible in their positions because of economic and political interests, the rest of us are questioning the very idea of negotiations on a subject of climate change. How is safeguarding the future of the international youth and the entire populations of developing countries (some of which will be completely destroyed in less than 100 years) something that is negotiated over economic interests in closed meetings attended by those who will not have the deal with the ultimate outcome of their decisions?
Developed country negotiators and the UN secretariat want us to have a “sense of realism,” but I think that they do not see the reality of the situation because their point of view is too clouded by international, national, or local institutions that have discriminatory and inhumane policies in the foundations of their negotiating positions.
I am only a few hours away from arriving in Copenhagen, sitting in the terminal waiting to get on the plane, I am reminded of a news article I read a few days ago about “green” operations that have been set in place for the conference. The organizers are using several sustainable practices and environmentally friendly services/products in order to offset the COP’s overall carbon footprint. The article relayed that the largest contributor to the footprint will be the emissions coming from all the attendee’s plane travel to Denmark.
Some of the sustainable actions Copenhagen and the Bella Conference center have taken are:
- A gigantic wind turbine that provides power. 29.6 % of Denmark’s electricity comes from renewable energy, 20.1 % from wind turbines.
- Waste management, including paper, plastic, metal, wood, and glass recycling. Organic waste, including bioplast cups will be made into biogas. Also, all remaining waste will be burned and transformed into energy which supplies electricity and heating to households there.
- Free water, no bottled water but a lot of glassware and all the disposable materials like plastic glasses and coffee cups are made of organic biodegradable material, which can be placed in the biodegradable waste baskets that is made into biogas.
- Laptops chosen for the energy saving over conventional PCs and consume less energy than a normal laptop of the same size.
- The paper being used is eco-certified.
- the pens the center is offering are produced from 89% recycled plastic from water bottles.
- The notepads being provided are 100% recycled paper and “Process Chlorine Free”.
- The food sold is a minimum of 65% organic food and beverages include fair-trade products such as coffee and tea.
Its the first day of the conference, and as I have not posted the entry from a few days ago due to awful internet connections in the airport and hostel, I decided to add some other notes on what was said during the opening ceremonies (most of which can also be found on cop15.dk, which i realized after the fact)
While we were waiting for the opening ceremony to start (about 40 minutes late) a lady sitting beside us started talking about the sustainability of the COP. She works for COP or the center, she was a scientist but her job here is to let people know about how we can follow along with the sustainable practices here.
In the prime minister or Denmark’s opening speech, he noted that the COP is not having bottled water and that the COP has tried hard to reduce its’ carbon footprint. He said that these measures are serving as inspiration to the attendees to follow the “green” examples.
The Mayor of Copenhagen in her opening speech noted that Copenhagen has a goal of being the 1st carbon neutral city by 2025. Also saying that Copenhagen has several sustainable practices already in place, including how they heat their households with renewable resources, most of the city bikes (they are everywhere), and the harbor is clean enough to swim in.
Just being here for 2 days, I can already tell what contributed to the COP deciding to have this city host the conference, the people here live a highly “green” lifestyle which is easy to do when the city has implemented the practices into their daily life. Copenhagen will certainly serve as an realistic example for the rest of the world to follow, and it seems like it might have been chosen because it can provide inspiration to the decision-makers to come to concrete decisions by the end of these two weeks.
Politics versus Policy
In the past few months since I have been following news revolving around the Copenhagen climate change conference, the rhetoric used by the media and important actors has fluctuated significantly. There are those saying that the Copenhagen conference will be successful in determining explicit agreements and resulting actions for combating climate change and those arguing the exact opposite, saying there will not be a binding agreement.
On October 21st, the AP reported that China and India came to an agreement on taking a stand together in their negotiating positions and this happened as the two countries were disagreeing due to a diplomatic dispute. Currently, American politics are severely interfering with the ability for countries to come to an agreement about action that needs to take place in less than one month from today. With continued dispute between the developed, and developing world the UNFCC executive secretary, Yvo de Boer, midweek through the Barcelona talks, expressed that a successful outcome in Copenhagen requires a level of cooperation between, countries, levels of government, and the private sector that is unprecedented in any prior international policy. While the agreement between China and India may well have other political reasoning at the base, similar action will be helpful between all countries in order for an international treaty to be successful as possible.
As a public policy major, the reason I choose to care about environmental issues is because I want to create change that will help those that are less fortunate and keep the ecology of the planet sustained for future generations. Unfortunately, it is painfully obvious that human nature does not share this view and/or does not have the access to information that education provides myself and other interested parties. At this point in the process before meeting in Copenhagen, it seems no one knows if or when an agreement will be created, but the only direction we can take is toward progress. With one month left before we leave for Denmark the suspense is growing, the US is in the process of climate change legislation, and I hope that human morality will trump economic greed. However unlikely this is in the global economy, I am still going to be optimistic that the politics can come to an agreement to support changes in global policy that will result in the world avoiding chaos from environmental destruction.