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Critical Crossroads

Copenhagen Climate Change Negotiations

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Written by Meghan Swope      Add a comment

Today's been an interesting day here at the Bella Conference Center.

Firstly, "Copenhagen" has now surpassed "Tiger Woods" to become the most searched phrase on Google.

In other news, it's being said that more than 100 nations now support an even more ambitious temperature-rise target of 1.5 degrees versus the original target of 2 degrees.

And China? They think it would be "embarrassing for the U.S. not to be part of the solution to save humanity". Uh, yeah. Based on the stickers floating around the halls today, most people agree: "Won it in Oslo, Earn it in Copenhagen", with a nice little dove symbol of peace.

The best part is, that's not even the half of it. Our day started with the U.N. Plenary, the 4th Meeting of the CMP. (Disclaimer: I think I owe you all an alphabet soup post soon explaining these abbreviations, but for now I'll say that the CMP is "Conference of the Parties Serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol"). The Plenary opened with a proposal from Kazakhstan to be granted permission to join Annex B. However, there are deadlines for making such requests, and apparently Kazakhstan did not meet the deadline. Thus, the President of the UNFCCC and other countries recommend they wait until next year, but after some disagreement they agreed to "informal consultations" to be held on the matter until early next week. 

The agenda then moved on to the 12 proposals to amend the Kyoto Protocol which have already been submitted. When the President opened the floor, each country that had made a proposal explained their proposal and occasionally their position. Essentially, what it boiled down to was this: some nations want to amend Kyoto, others want to abolish it and start over, and others want to keep it but also institute another agreement intended to "strengthen" Kyoto. This led to a significant debate, and the Plenary was dismissed for further consultation. The Ad-Hoc Working Groups are scheduled to begin meeting in less than an hour to start their work, so an agreement of which path to take will need to be made soon.

This afternoon we attended the Inter-generational Inquiry Testimonies on Climate Solutions. We heard statements from U.N. Chief Climate Negotiator Yvo de Boer, and various negotiators and youth alike. When Yvo de Boer feels that "your role is very important", it's hard not to agree. He stated that world leaders are coming not only because they are starting to recognize the threats of climate change, but because they see the public outcry which in many cases is being fueled by youth. As he puts it, "You are confronting the people who make the decisions next week with who they're making the decisions for".

A youth delegate from India is the first to speak after de Boer. At first her voice is quiet and timid, but as she shares her story of surviving a devastating flood in her hometown of Mumbai her voice rises and is strong, and she commands  the room until she receives her standing ovation minutes later. She ended by addressing Mr. de Boer, saying that she trusts him and the other adults to do the right thing. H's response to her was that she is being a bit careless with her trust, as "trust is something you earn and this process still has yet to earn my trust".

Another youth panelist, Thomas from Australia, explains that we're negotiating for a "fair share" of the atmosphere, but that we must realize we are also negotiating for the right to survival. He sees the situation as "a child at the end of a seesaw, and Copenhagen should be a step forward for that child to begin walking downhill, not up".

A negotiator from the Maldives, one of the men who hosted the first underwater cabinet meeting to show the impacts of sea level rise, gave a powerful statement near the end of the session. "If you [the youth] could make the decision in this room, I'm certain it would be better than the one being made down the hall".

This year is the first in which youth are being recognized as a constituency. The YOUNGOS are active throughout the Conference, ensuring that our generation's voice is heard.

Survival is Not Negotiable.

Don't Bracket Our Future.

How old will YOU be in 2050?

You could say the youth are as determined as the butterfly that was surprisingly dashing across the room during the session: a butterfly in Denmark in December is a very rare, unexplainable thing; but that butterfly made its presence known and inspired hope, faith, and smiles.

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