COPENHAGEN- Week One has now passed at the United Nation’s 15th Conference of Parties (COP-15) in Copenhagen. Week Two begins with a surge of international VIPs and lots of uncertainty about the outcome of the two-week negotiation.
The United Nations published its list Saturday of the high-level dignitaries about to converge on Copenhagen. Each will be granted three or four minutes in front of the world assembly to state his or her nation’s position on a global climate deal.
To accommodate them all, the Bella Center (where COP-15 is being held) will burn considerable midnight oil. Some of the dignitaries are scheduled to speak in the wee hours of the morning because so many have asked for a turn at the microphone. Most of the world will not see or remember the prolonged multilingual parade of principles, pronouncements, posturing and sound bites.
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 is also expected that day.
Starting Wednesday, dignitaries attending and/or speaking will include about 50 presidents, 35 prime ministers, 70 cabinet-level ministers, eight vice presidents, two princes and a sultan. Among them will be Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, President Shimon Peres of Israel, President Hosny Mubarak of Egypt, President Jose Manual Barroso of the European Commission, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia, Premier Wen Jiabao of the People’s Republic of China, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and more than one head of state from nations currently being swallowed by the sea.
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.
Meantime, the conference’s lesser luminaries – observers from around the world, many from non-government organizations – 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 United States and China met last week and, according to one participant, they bonded in the mutual belief that 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-... 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-c...
Rumor is that one prominent climate denier walked around the Bella Center last week with a “350” sticker on his 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....)
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 that 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 police after some vandalism occurred during the procession. http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/tens-of-thousand...
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 the day Friday, we all will know whether they have prevailed.