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.
One of the worlds leading climate change experts says that the Copenhagen summit talks are so flawed that a deal would be a disaster. James Hansen, a reknown scienctist involved in the looming scientific arguments surrouding the climate change debate believes that “we don’t have a leader who is able to grasp the issue and say what is really needed. Instead we are trying to continue business as usual concepts”. Hansen represents one of the many who are in opposition to the negotiations and who believe that the approach to the summit is being viewed in the completely wrong light. He explians that “the whole approach is so fundamentally wrong that it is better to reassess the situation. If it is going to be the Kyoto-type thing then people will spend years trying to determine exactly what that means.” Due to the availability of offsets introduced by such propoals as “Cap and Trade” along with the idea that certain “goals” are to be reached within alloted time frames (as there are within the Kyoto Protocol), Hansen believes that these attempts to achieve levels of commitment and “outs” (aka offsets) are politicians attempt to treat these negotiations with a ”business as usual” mentality. While many including Hansen believe that this process is extremely flawed due to its reliance on “Cap and Trade” policies, others believe positive points can come out of the “Cap and Trade” system. As Hansen tries to set himself apart from everyone else in the environmental community he does point out what he thinks can be a start toward tackling the global carbon emissions dilemma. By putting a tax on the price of carbon directly at the mine or the port Hansen believes that a sufficient start to a global reduction in carbon emissions could be established.
Hansen also addressed the recent emails leaked regarding falsified scientific data and results produced by the climate research center of the University of Anglica. While he believes that these emails have no significant impact on the understanding of climate change research he does mention that it represents a bad public relations matter more than anything else. While the leaked emails have caused a stir amongst many United States officials, the majority of scientists and reseach and development coordinators believe that the science is sound and highly credible.
Another issue addressed by Hansen was in regard to nuclear research and development. He points out that the U.S. Democratic party should rise above the minority of the anti nuke community and continue its development for the future use of nuclear energy. He believes that the R and D should have never been limited by President Clinton during the 1970’s and that even if the US government believes that nuclear power is very uncertain they should definitely keep up the research to ensure other world powers do not capitalize on such a resource. Hansen goes on to explain that the United States has had and still has the best expertise in this field and it would be a shame if they caved into the small but vocal anti nuclear segments of the US community.
What needs to be understood is that the situation regarding nuclear power is completely different now than it ever has been before. While many say that the US has growing interest in the development nuke technnolgy many uncertainties do still exist. What has to be realized is that other alternative energies must be developed in order for nulear power to even be put into the same equation.
Due to having quite an unexpected experience this morning on my way to the Bella Center in Copenhagen I thought it would be a good idea to make sure our readers are aware of who is who amongst the top Copenhagen officials. As I was walking off the Metro this morning I happened to be walking next to one of the UN’s top aids to top climate change official Yvo de Boar. Little did I know of him much less be able to pick his face out of a crowd of a bunch of Norwegians, Danes, Swedes and others. Unfortunately, I did not realize who he was until he was literally swarmed by “politi” and security once he entered the conference center. In light of this experience here is a little rundown of some of the top officials you/we may see while spending time around the Bella Center (mid to later part of next week most likely).
Yvo de Boar – Yvo is being discussed as the most important head official attending the conferences this week in Copenhagen. He is known for much of his good humor and extreme devotion to duty and diplomatic skills. His title of Executive Secretary of the UFCCC speaks to his knowledge not only with the European systems but amongst the many international policy systems as well. De Boer has been criticised for lacking sufficient ambition for a global climate change deal and for praising the commitments of the United States despite what some see as its spoiler role in international climate negotiations.
Marthinus van Schalkwyk – Van Schalkwyk was appointed as the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism in the South African cabinet as a reward for aligning his party with the ruling African National Congress (ANC). Initially judged with scepticism by many environmental activists groups, his career has been marked by a number of decisions and initiatives that have been increasingly welcomed by environmentalists alike. He has been the main driving force for many of the South African nations that are experiencing some of the worst of what climate change has presented.
Todd Stern – Stern was the assistant to the President and Staff Secretary in the White House from 1993 to 1998. His main focus lies in climate change and environmental issues. He also acted as the senior White House negotiator at the Kyoto Protocol and Buenos Aires negotiations. On January 26, 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Clinton appointed Stern to be a special envoy for climate change in light of the high profile negotiations this week in Copenhagen. He is known heavily for the extreme criticism of the Bush Administration years and was a big player in the climate debate in Bonn, Germany last April.
Connie Hedegaard – Hedegaard is the Danish Minister for Climate and Energy and also is the chair of the Copenhagen negotiations. She has been behind Denmark’s energy successes for yeas now and has no intention of stopping her drive against climate change and time soon. In April, she signed an action plan with India on renewable energies and has also achieved her goal in introducing Denmark’s Energy Policy from the years 2008 to 2011. The policy made her country the first in the world to commit to an overall energy reduction, not just a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
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.