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.
With tension building up in all directions at COP15, access to the center is being reduced to NGOs Tuesday and Wednesday, 1000 civil society members on Thursday and only 90 on Friday. Additionally, the G77 walked out of negotiations at noon yesterday causing a suspension. With that being said, I was eager to ask Yvo de Boer and Connie Hedegaard what they thought about G77 suspending the negotiations. What are the next steps? I also wanted to take the opportunity to ask a question in regards to why there is no international talk and action taken in regards to Climate Change and public health?
Due last week’s experience waiting in line to enter the room for a high-level meeting with Yvo de Boer, I was determined to arrive early outside the room to secure a good seat for filming and was lucky that I was the first in line since a big crowd down the hall was going CRAZY over Al Gore walking by. Thankfully, I did not have to deal with the claustrophobic feeling of being shoved into the room by people behind me since security organized entrance better than previous events. I had the perfect seat at the front and was ready with my video camera to record the meeting especially since Linh Do, a fellow UNEP TUNZA youth advisory council representative for Australia was chosen to moderate the meeting.
The plan was for a 30 minute meeting. 15 minutes passed by and many youth in the room started to get concerned. 5 minutes later a UN staff member told us that Yvo De Boer and Connie Hedegaard were running late and still in a meeting. Finally, the UN staff member received a call notifying her to cancel the event. I understand that an unexpected walk out by G77 countries occurred at the negotiations, but if they both had to meet, strategize, and resolve the dilema in negotiations, they should have sent someone to notify UN staff to cancel the meeting before so many youth went out of their way to wait in line and attend this high level meeting.
I was not too upset about this yesterday. However, today I got an email from the UNFCCC secretariat stating that the high level meeting with Ban Ki-Moon was rescheduled to Thursday evening! First of all, who will even get to this meeting with further access restricted for NGOs that day. It is almost guaranteed that no one in our delegation will have access on Thursday, much less on Friday. Additionally, the majority of Youth will not be in attendance. How does UNFCCC plan to distribute the secondary badges aka “yellow badges” amongst NGOs? Why are they doing this in the first place? Perhaps, due to security reasons and heads of state arriving. However, having 90 civil society members on Friday is just unacceptable! That is not being transparent at all. It is being exclusive. This is not a conference for the people. It is more a conference about economic benefit than it is about paying an ecological debt, human rights. In short: Money>People. Throughout COP15, the admiration of youth organizing kept being highlighted with comments from high level figures such as “inspirational youth” or “It’s great to see a large number of youth involved.” However, they yet have to understand our message that we want a strong deal with 350ppm, human rights included in the text. We do not need to be complimented on how great youth organizers we are. We know we are great. But, guess what? We know that they have a lot of WORK to do before we can admire them.
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.
With the recent release of his newest book about climate change, Al Gore needs positive media focus to better his book sales, not negative focus. However, he has brought the negativity upon himself with an abrupt cancellation of his planned lecture at the conference in Copenhagen. His cancellation has come as a disappointment to the more than 3,000 people scheduled to attend his lecture. According to The Washington Times, VIP tickets were sold at DKK 5,999 which converts to $1,209. With a VIP ticket, one was promised a chance to shake hands with Gore, along with a photo with him and a copy of his latest book, Our Choice. This lecture was going to be a chance for Gore to not only speak to an eager crowd about his plans and hopes for climate action, but also a great way for him to promote his book. As far as I can read, it is yet unclear as to what his reasons are for cancelling.
Thankfully, that is not the end to U.S. involvement in Copenhagen. President Obama still plans on attending the conference on December 9th. As The Washington Post stated in an article, “Meet Al Gore at Copenhagen, for $1,209”, Obama will bring with him a group of respectable delegates including Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, and Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Carol Browner. This delegation core should bring some positive focus to the U.S. representation in Copenhagen despite Gore’s cancellation.
Don’t let the headlines fool you, the road to Copenhagen is as rocky as ever. In a seemingly promising statement, China has stated that it wants to see no-change results from the December meetings on climate change. Li Gao, China’s top climate change negotiator, said that as world pressure mounts on an outcome in Copenhagen, “”We will try to make the summit successful and we will not accept that it ends with an empty and so-called political declaration,” Yet in a display of realpolitik, Gao said that all parties involved would have to operate under the dozen year old Kyoto Protocol “”or else the conference would end futile,” as China “will not accept any separate legal document”.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, there are zero requirements for green house gas reductions on behalf of China and other developing nations. Since Kyoto’s inception in 1997, China has grown to become the single largest green house gas emitter.
It is easy to see China’s motivation in sticking with the past document, despite their cheer for a successful conference. Progress as China defines it would be to” create a framework that would be worked out later, in next year’s delegations”. In the meantime, China said that their role in the talks as a developing nation is to reach out to other developing nations to share each other’s concerns and look to negotiate collectively.
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.