William Becker, The Climate Policy Expert's Blog
Climate Policy Expert
“Week Two: The VIP Surge”
14 Dec 09 | 177 comments
COPENHAGEN - Week 1 now has passed at the United Nation’s 15th Conference of Parties (COP-15) in Copenhagen. Week 2 begins with a surge of international VIPs and lots of uncertainty about the outcome.
The UN published its list Saturday of the high-level dignitaries about to converge on Copenhagen. Each will be granted 3 or 4 minutes in front of the world assembly to state his or her nation’s position on a global climate deal.
The list of dignitaries is a security detail’s nightmare. President Barack Obama, originally scheduled to appear last week, then on Dec. 18, now is rumored to be arriving in Copenhagen on Tuesday. The Prince of Wales also is expected that day.
What these heads of state and ministers will do besides giving three-minute speeches is anyone’s guess, but unless their negotiators make progress with unprecedented speed Monday and Tuesday, the dignitaries will arrive not to endorse a deal whose foundation has been carefully laid, but in the middle of a process whose product is still very much in question.
In the meantime, the conference’s lesser luminaries – observers from around the world, many from NGOs – number in the tens of thousands, and those are just the people with credentials to get inside the Bella Center. Thousands of others representing 70 organizations from 92 countries are participating in “Klimaforum09”, an alternative climate conference that doesn’t require its participants to have UN credentials. Thousands more are here simply to hand out literature and carry placards on behalf of wildlife, oceans, forests, vegetarianism, island nations and the victims, current and future, of global warming.
Because the number of people with official credentials has grown so large, the UN announced Saturday it will put a 15,000-person limit on attendance in the Bella Center at any given time, starting Tuesday. Each organization sanctioned by the UN will be allocated a limited number of “COP 15 Observer Organization” cards. Nobody will get in without them.
An interesting subplot to the conference so far has been young people, who hold little power at COP-15 but who have a huge stake in its results. Youth delegations from the US and China met last week and, according to one participant, they bonded in the mutual belief their countries must do better, do more, do it together and do it faster.
Many of the youth are affiliated with Climate Action Network International, a coalition of 450 environmental groups from around the world that presents a “Fossil of the Day” award (http://vodpod.com/watch/2653137-fossil-of-the-day-01-cop-15) at 6 p.m. each day to the country doing the most to obstruct progress on a respectable climate deal. Among the winners so far: Australia, Canada and all Tier1 countries.
Also on the scene are a number of “denier” organizations – cleverly named but scientifically challenged groups that oppose an international climate treaty and/or contend that climate change is a hoax. http://www.grist.org/article/2009-12-09-climate-skeptics-descend-on-the-copenhagen-talks One of the groups, “Americans for Prosperity”, tried to hold a meeting during Week One. Members of 350.org, a worldwide movement to limit atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to 350 parts per million, got wind of the meeting and disrupted it. http://www.350.org/about/blogs/us-youth-disrupt-climate-denier-meeting-copenhagen
Rumor is that one prominent climate denier walked around the Bella Center last week with a “350” sticker on jacket, placed there by an environmentalist who pretended to pat him on the back.
Through the conference’s first week, some draft climate proposals were leaked and others were intentionally circulated. They exhibited widely differing views of what the Copenhagen work product should be. (For a decent roundup of Week One, go to http://www.newenergyfinance.com/Copenhagen/blog/9/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Copenhagen+Post+Week+One+email .)
The first week of COP-15 ended Saturday with a march organized by Friends of the Earth from downtown Copenhagen to the Bella Center on its outskirts. Police estimated 25,000 participated; organizers said there were as many as 100,000. Either way, it was widely believed to be the biggest mass march for climate action anywhere so far. It also may have set a record for number of arrests: Some 900 people were detained by policy after some vandalism occurred during the procession. http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/tens-of-thousands-stage-worlds-largest-climate-march-in-copenhagen-1839291.html
To most of us who have worked so long and so hard for a fair, bold and timely climate deal, vandalism and violence are not only counterproductive, but abhorrent. At the same time, the most egregious act of vandalism of all time is anthropogenic climate change prolonged by those who lack the political will or moral fabric to bring it under control. By the end of Friday, we all will know whether they have