Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Writing from the Plenary room:

Hello all and may I apologize for taking so long to write a second post. There have been many days of negotiations and meetings with the US state department to follow and participate in. Actions on behalf of the youth have been strong both inside and outside of the Convention Center.

This Saturday was a day of protest. 10,000 people or more marched 5 miles through the City Center and to the Conference center where they were turned away. I was inside, though many of my friends were a part of this peaceful and moving march. Sadly, it seems that most media, particularly in the U.S., reported only those arrested. May I make one thing clear. The Danish police and army have been given full authority to arrest anyone for up to 40 days in the name of the Queen without informing the detainee of the charges. They have used this measure liberally, as was witnessed on Saturday when 600+ were arrested, and have drawn a general belligerence from the ruling that is evident every day when NGOs attempt to legally enter the Conference center.

The high level section of the negotiations began on Tuesday. This was the beginning of truly high security measures. NGOs, of which there are thousands of representatives rightfully accredited by the UN, have been restricted in accessing the center. On tuesday a secondary badge was required for entrance. These were distributed to the focal points of each NGO constituency and subsequently passed down to the representatives themselves for entrance. I was lucky enough to get one. Today, 7000 are available and I am again inside the center following policy developments. Tomorrow there will be 1000 and on friday there will be 500, originally 90. This has effectively removed the civil society from the conference.

The current situation reveals the tensions and chaos that undulate beneath a formal, light blue exterior. Inside the Plenary room, heads of states are addressing the plenary, currently the assistant president of Sudan, seemingly talking past each other while attempting to apply political pressure. About an hour ago, the Executive Secratary Yvo de Boer announced that the President of the meeting (Danish Minister of Environment) resigned and was replaced by the Danish PM Lars Rasmussen. This is a common tactic prior to high level meetings of heads of state, particularly when there are this many. Furthermore, the Presidency announced that it would release a new text outlining the outcome of the Conference and potentially the deal to be struck. This has caused a tremendous amount of controversy on the floor as developing countries see this as the developed world circumventing the established procedures, which are producing texts equally valid for an outline of the deal, and attempting to eschew a fair deal. The Danes argue that the text is an attempt to expedite the process and achieve some sort of agreement. No doubt both arguments have merit, but there are certainly fishy backdoor politics being reflected.

The prime minister of Ethiopia now takes the podium.

Outside there are hundreds of protesters, both accredited and not allowed in under the new restrictions and not accredited. When i arrived this morning the police were decked in riot gear, dogs snarled on leashes, and enormous anti-riot vehicles sat intimidating the incoming crowd. At 12 noon local time, much of the civil society inside the Convention center walked out in protest to restrictions and lack of movement in the negotiations. They were met, as planned, by hundreds of protesters who rushed the gate in an attempt to join in solidarity and hold a people's convention in the security buffer zone. All that i saw from this event was a small and shaky video clip posted via cellphone of batons crushing the protesters and NGO representatives alike. I'm sure that violence will ensue throughout the day and i'm sure that the media will obscure the message.

The prime minister of Grenada now takes the podium.

Each of these extremes represent different social expressions of the same chaos. We are called to act on behalf of current and future generations. Yet the roots of this climate change problem are burrowed too deeply into our politics, our economies, our daily lives. I do not know what will bring us together to resolve the problem, but i now see that it will not be a two week conference capped by two or three days of high level international politics. It will take years of diplomacy, countless green business initiatives, and a fundamental shift in our economy and daily lives.

Later this week Barack Obama will speak in front of the entire meeting. He will attempt to press forward with the frayed political agreement soon to rise from the negotiations. He will commend the work of negotiators and activists and highlight the work achieved. However he is not able to single handedly turn down the thermostat. It is our responsibility to change the future. But for now, the prime minister of Lesotho takes the podium.


P.S. As always I look forward to hearing your questions and comments about the Convention.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Hello from Copenhagen!

Hello from Copenhagen!

This blog is to offer some of my reflections as a member of the youth movement at the 2009 UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen. First a short background on the conference. This is the 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-15 UNFCCC) and the Meeting of the Parties of the Kyoto Protocol. The UNFCCC, or Convention, is the foremost international treaty pertaining to the issue of climate change. Signed in Rio de Janeiro during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, organized by the U.N., the objective of the Convention is the "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous antrhopogenic interference with the climate system". As the science of climate change has evolved in the past 17 years, the potential for dire consequences arising from inaction on climate change has become more clear. For the next two weeks delegations from over 190 signatory countries will meet and attempt to negotiate a deal for future international action on climate change. The hope, at least amongst the youth, is to see a bold and just agreement that ensures immediate and prolonged action on mitigating and adapting to present and future climate change. It is hard to say exactly what that bold and just agreement will be and even should be, but i hope to explore these concepts in this blog. I hope you enjoy it!

I'm writing from one of the two main Plenary rooms. There are over a thousand delegates sitting in front of me from nearly every country in the world. Amongst the official delegation's placards are seats from every intergovernmental and UN organization you can imagine. Alphabet soup, UN style. Behind them are a several hundred members of civil society. Non-profits, NGOs, old, young, from Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia North America and South America. Half of us have headphones on which translate the speeches by delegates into Spanish, Russian, French, Chinese, Arabic, and English, the official languages of the U.N. At the front of the room, if you could even call it that, are two enormous screens projecting the speakers for the entire meeting to see. Front and center sits the president, secretariat and several other officials to the Fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

This morning, speeches from the floor have been dominated by voices of the developing countries calling for bold and legally binding action within the next two weeks. Each speech voicing concerns about rising tides, expanding deserts and increasing storms has been followed by vigorous applause from the back of the room where I sit. There is a palpable sense of urgency coming from the civil society and the developing nations. But the developed countries easily resist, citing market based solutions such as cap and trade, new financing and, more implicitly, a sense of developed country's exceptionality.

Both inside and outside the Plenary room, the youth presence is strong and undeniable. This very moment, Amira Karim, a 20 year old leader of the youth movement here in Copenhagen, is speaking to the entire plenary meeting. She brings the voice of the youth, stressing the importance of all countries to recognize and act upon their historical responsibility, and our personal stake as youth, who will be alive and well come 2050 to witness the worst effects of climate change, social, political, economic, and ecological. Outside the plenary room too, the youth movement has proven to be a strong presence in the past few days. Last night the U.S. State department held a briefing on the state of negotiations and the U.S. position coming into the next two weeks. The briefing was standing room only, I, along with 15 other youth, sat in the front row. Behind us about 40 more youth sat speckled throughout the room. Lead negotiator of the U.S. State department' special envoy for climate change, Jonathan Perhsing, and head of the EPA, Lisa Jackson, sat 10 feet in front of us. During the question and answer session, more than half of the questions came directly from youth, both criticizing and exploring the U.S. position.

I hope that this post has helped you in better understanding what is happening in Copenhagen, and the currents of movement not necessarily represented by the mainstream media. This is my first blog ever, so let me know if there is anything I'm missing, and please post any questions. If there is anything you are interested in about the Convention, the Kyoto protocol, or just what is actually happening here i will do my best to keep you up to date!