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.