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.
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.
UN climate head, Yvo de Boer, said that 40 world leaders are going to attend the climate talks next month in Copenhagen.
In September, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown implored his fellow heads of state and government to make the trip to Copenhagen in order to emphasize the importance of the talks and to increase the pressure to come up with a strong deal.
Al Gore has said he thinks President Obama will go, but the White House has been non-committal.
Yvo apparently didn’t release a list, but said the Danish government had told him that 40 world leaders have already said they will be attending the talks. So that begs the question? Who are the Copenhagen 40?
We have 1) Brown, 2) Sarkozy…Who else…?
The first of three informal negotiating sessions leading up to the UN talks in Copenhagen to develop a successor to the Kyoto Protocol wound up Friday with little progress.
UN climate head, Yvo de Boer concluded that the “action is not ambitious enough” on mitigation and that the ways to deal with adaptation in the developing world is not moving as quickly as needed. In order to get an agreement by December, de Boer said that “governments need to buckle down.”
US envoy, Jonathan Pershing said that “modest, but real progress” had been made, but also indicated that it will be a long road to meet the December deadline.
One disappointment was an inability to reduce the length of the current negotiating document. At 200 pages it is unwieldy, redundant, contradictory, and rather confusing in parts. Rather than paring the document down, the document will be enhanced by a new “toolbox” document. The toolbox will be prepared before the next negotiating session in Bangkok and will apparently give the delegates a better understanding of areas of convergence in the draft negotiating text.
It appears that some of the initial toolbox documents are already posted on the UN’s website.
Photo of Yvo de Boer: World Economic Forum