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Critical Crossroads

Critical Crossroads

Copenhagen Climate Change Negotiations

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Written by Meghan Swope      Add a comment

The Conference is going well. The problem is this: we're able to learn so much from interacting with so many people from all around the world that finding time to blog is a challenge.

When I last left you on Monday afternoon (Copenhagen time), we had no idea that in a few hours the EPA would make a significant announcement that put the U.S. on the right path to start this first week in Copenhagen. The EPA released its findings on Monday that the six most prevalent greenhouses gases are a scientifically verified threat to both human health and the environment.

Seems obvious, right? However, the ruling means that the EPA now has the power to regulate these emissions using the Clean Air Act, giving them a significant means of helping the U.S. help the world in combating climate change. It's a big step, and a positive one (which is a good thing, considering that the U.S. and/or the Umbrella Group of which the U.S. is a part have been winning the un-prestigious Fossil of The Day Award each day here at Conference).

The EPA findings also state that the unprecedented levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere are a direct result of human activity, and that emissions from on-road vehicles are contributing to the threat (as we would soon learn at an Expert Panel, transport emissions represent 25% of total global GHGs). For more information, visit the EPA website.

Yesterday, myself and some of the Ithaca College students attended The Brazilian Government's Expert Panel on the Contribution of Biofuels to Climate Change Mitigation. (For those of you who are at the stage of understanding that I had before taking this class, mitigation refers to the actions we are taking to prevent climate change or its subsequent effects before they snowball out of hand. Adaptation, on the other hand, more or less accepts the negative effects and looks to protect against them). The panel included short presentations from many experts on the topic, including former head of the EPA and current U.S. Minister of the Environment Lisa Jackson. Ms. Jackson reminded those in the over-capacity panel audience that the U.S. government is currently working on a draft of the renewable fuel standards policy which will soon be sent to the President for review.

A powerful statement I took away from the Brazilian expert panel? "Without energy, there is no development. Without development, there is no employment.

After the Expert Panel, we made a restroom stop on the way to our next side event in the U.S. Centre, about the effects of climate change in the U.S. I noticed that Minister Lisa Jackson, whom we had just seen at the Panel, was washing her hands at the sink next to mine, so I struck up a brief conversation about the presentation.

This is just one example of how possible it is to meet and learn from some of the most influential people in government from around the world. It truly is an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime learning experience, and as students of Ithaca we are fortunate to have the support to be able to attend something like this.

The fact that I found myself nodding along with most all of the statements made at the U.S. Centre presentation was just another example of how much we've learned this semester. Whether it was the change in temperature across U.S. geographical areas or the science of greenhouse gases themselves, I found that I'd seen a lot of this information before -- through readings and class discussions for our course.

Last night, we attended an event known as Climate Spark. Its tag line is "The Business Forum of COP 15". There's a separate event each night focusing on a different topic, and it's attended by CEOs, entrepreneurs, and other successful businesspeople. Last night we heard from a panel of Danish Industry professionals, one of whom is the head of a company that has technologies that will allow a home to produce more energy than it consumes. Therefore, not only would your own home be carbon neutral, but you would actually have energy to spare. How cool is that?

The event is held at high-end nightclub NASA, and each evening there's an after party. The special guests at last night's after party? The Backstreet Boys. Yes, the boy band from the '90s. No, I'm not kidding. My friends and I were standing no more than 5 feet from them, in a nightclub, in Copenhagen. I guess you could say that my life dream as an 11-year-old came true -- 10 years too late.

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