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Critical Crossroads

Copenhagen Climate Change Negotiations

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Written by Meghan Swope      Add a comment

Lots to do (and a protest!) meant that I unfortunately couldn't make it to the computer center to update the blog during our last two days in Københaven. Here's what you missed...


The Plenary was postponed due to informal consultations, and most negotiation sessions that day were being held behind closed doors.

We therefore went to a side event being led by Tim Flannery, the author of a textbook we used for our class called The Weather Makers. Flannery is now the Chair of the Copenhagen Climate Council, and today was hosting the side event with Planet Call, a platform for young people to propose solutions to the climate change problem. He presented a declaration that had been signed by youth from 127 different countries, before introducing student delegates from China, India, Australia, and Europe -- each of which then presented a solution they had come up with.

The China representative felt that using social media sites will help youth from all over the world create the solutions, while the Australia representative proposed dynamic school partnerships for adaptation and mitigation solutions between schools in Australia and schools in developing countries. The representative from the Netherlands focused on sustainable agriculture, and the India representative focused on new technologies to bring sustainable electricity to the vast number of Indian people who do not have access to it currently.

In the afternoon we met with climate skeptic Bjorn Lomborg, as our instructors (and I) are aware that in order to fully participate in a negotiation, you have to hear and try to understand what the other side is saying. Lomborg explained that he feels we should invest in renewable technologies, but only when they are made more efficient. There were many flaws in his argument, however; and as we had seen in negotiations, we have already run out of time.

And to steal and expand on his analogy during his talk with us of cell phones and efficieny, I'm willing to bet that had no one bought those hideous and bulky bag phones in the 90s, we probably would have never made it to the Blackberry age.

He further offended when he said that the developing world sees this as "a money machine", when it seems in negotiations that most are asking for the money they need to keep their nations from going under in the rising sea levels. Lomborg isn't a bad guy, though -- even he realizes that eventually we will have to stop global warming.

Friday evening was delightful. Our professor, Susan, had hosted Danish students Sigrid and Ida during their choir tour of the U.S. earlier this year. The girls' parents, Steen and Bente, generously offered to host us at their home for dinner that night!

It was quite a large undertaking, and we were so grateful to them for being such kind and generous hosts. Bente and Sigrid had prepared a wonderful meal of about five different quiches, two chicken dishes, a pear and walnut salad, potatoes... the list goes on. It was by far the best meal that most of my classmates had had the whole week (my favorite was the tomato pesto chicken and prosciutto). Their youngest son, Hjalte, was quite the gentlemen. He made sure we all got our beer, wine, and soft drinks, before Steen gave us a "lesson" of his own professional experience and what their family has done to make their home more sustainable.

We had three varieties of Danish desserts, paired with hot chocolate, coffee, and Christmas tea. We were then entertained by Ida's singing of "A Tisket, A Tasket" before we tried to follow with "Piano Man" (needless to say, Ida's beautiful voice outshone our group's sad attempt -- you could easily tell that the School of Music is the school that is unfortunately not represented in our class).

They also gave us a tour of their home, and it was nice to be able to talk with and get to know some natives of Copenhagen -- especially those as wonderful as this particular family!


This marked the Conference's midpoint, and so the stock taking Plenary was finally held. Tuvalu once again kicked off the conversation by refuting some media claims that they were trying to embarrass the Danish government. 

But as it turned out, it seems it was more our government they were after.

Tuvalu's delegation spoke to the appearance that negotiations were being delayed while waiting for the U.S. Congress to take a stand, and they noted that Obama went to Norway to "rightly or wrongly" accept his prize. This angered Tuvalu, as they have had a proposal already on the table for six months. "The entire population of Tuvalu rests only two meters above sea level. The fate of my country rests in your hands", the delegate concluded, as the room erupted in applause.

The updates on progress were then heard. The AWG-LCA had at that time established a contact group for the Bali Action Plan, and had formed a single drafting group to work on a new agreement based upon those guidelines. Nearly all countries, including the U.S., feel that progress is being made, especially in groups focusing on technology and forestry, but all feel that more time is needed.

Although progress is being made, many nations including the EU feel that the texts on the table don't present acceptable targets to keep us below a two-degree temperature increase. Many countries favor more transparency in the process, and the debates continue over whether or not there should be a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol. 

When we came out of the Plenary, we received word that a scheduled march to the Bella Center where the Convention was being held had now turned into a mass protest with thousands of people and was expected to be violent. Based on this news, the Copenhagen police were rumored to be arresting anyone under the age of 30 found outside the Bella Center. We were then faced with two choices: leave now, or face being stuck in the Bella Center until late evening. 

A few of us choose to leave to avoid the protest, and enjoyed an afternoon exploring Copenhagen. We went to the neighborhood of Christianshaven, and you can imagine our surprise when we came out of the metro to find the protest!! They were peacefully marching through towards Bella Center, and it was actually amazing to see such a crowd united for the cause. We then went to Vor Fresler Kirk, a famous church with an amazing spire. The spire had stairs along its side, and you could climb to the top. We decided to go for it, and the views were absolutely amazing.

However, we also got more of a site than we bargained for. We watched as over 20 police vans cornered the protesters, and we later found out that over 300 of them were arrested for the possession of knives or other weapons. It was crazy!


As we prepared to leave Copenhagen, two draft agreements were on the table. However, this essentially referred to only the legal language; all percentages, base years, and target years were bracketed to be agreed upon at a later date. 

The day after we left, most of the developing world walked out of the negotiations. They have since returned, and are working towards a compromise. It will be interesting to see what comes of this week, as prime ministers and presidents descend upon Copenhagen.

As our shirts from Holland and the Youth Movement clearly state, "Don't Bracket Our Future".

The time is now.

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