About caraka

An american expat loving and living in New Zealand.

FLOP15 “Takes Note” of Copenhagen Accord

It remains to be seen if the money promised in the Copenhagen Accord ever materialises. Every penny pledged so far at COP15 has been old money, taken from Overseas Development Assistance (ODA), and handed back to the developing world as adaptation assistance. It leaves me sceptical that any of the money that Clinton and Obama talked about during their touch-and-go diplomacy is actually real.

The most interesting thing I noticed as the COP wound up is that it “took note” of the Copenhagen Accord, rather than ‘adopting’ it. That means it has no formal standing within the Conference of the Parties (COP).

Basically, they said ‘yeah, right’.

If it was going to have any legitimacy, the COP would have to ‘adopt’ the Copenhagen Accord. It didn’t. Ironically, the press around the world is saying it has.

Others have been more frank about what this agreement is about:

There is, finally, a Copenhagen Accord – a deal that is so unfair, so unambitious and so devoid of commitment that the countries of the world could agree only to “take note” of its existence. There was no hope whatever that everyone would actually “approve.”As reported through the night, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a modestly celebrated accord late last evening, taking fulsome credit for having saved the day in a private negotiation with China, India, Brazil an South Africa – what Bill McKibben later described as “a league of super-polluters.”

Here in Denmark, the newspapers are kicking with the story of FLOP15. It’s a clever headline that crosses all the language barriers and has strangers striking up conversations in cafes across town.

AOSIS Strikes back at Copenhagen

As I write, the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) is fighting a rear guard action on the floor of the conference at Copenhagen. They want the words “legally binding instrument” inserted into the mandate to extend the work of the Adhoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA).

They are not going to win this, but it is telling which countries are backing the call of AOSIS and which are not. I cannot be sure, but if previous statements and behaviour from our embarassing  Minister Tim Groser mean anything, New Zealand won’t be backing our pacific neighbours.

It looks like the hideously watered down Copenhagen Accord, which is a small nail in the coffin of Kyoto, is going to be the only thing comming out of Copenhagen.

The big noters like Obama may already have left the building, but the grit and determination of those countries already affected by climate change is inspiring.

It looks like the real work is going to be left to those of us outside the halls of power, through peaceful, non-violent protest and civil disobedience.

Time to brush up on my childhood reading – David henry Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience“.

Copenhagen Commentary #4

We are in a countdown to failure here in Copenhagen. The high minded speeches and calls for action continue, but behind the scenes there is a deepening sense that we’ll get worse than window dressing – a political statement which at its best guarantees a 3 degree warming of the planet, which is unacceptable. At worst, we’re all toast.

President Obama was spectacularly uninspiring. We need more than superb rhetoric. We need action. This whole process has been held captive by the US Congress – or the world’s fear of it. That’s a pity. It’s time to leave them behind and get on with a global deal.

If the Americans fail to tag along, globally taxing their goods at the border based on their carbon footprint would soon see action – if the world stood together. That is, after all, what they have been threatening themselves! No amount of military might could overcome the collective will of the world. The US dollar is already teetering on the verge of irrelevance, and fear of its collapse is about the only thing keeping many dollar rich countries in check – but for how long?

All this I say as a patriotic American. America has failed to lead so it should get out of the way. I fully appreciate the US’ misgiving about ratifying treaties that have international enforcement clauses. I wish New Zealand would think more about this when it signs so called free trade deals which give away its sovereingty. However, it is humanity that is at stake here, not just US hegemony. So the US needs to pull its head in and get out of the way of a legally binding climate treaty.

Meanwhile, the Danish hosts continue to insult China and the G77, dispalying an incredible ignorance of international diplomacy, or worse, a crass xenophobia. The Danes forgot to invite China to a ‘high level contact group meeting’ last night. Oops. The quiet but inexorable rise of Chinese hegemony is still being ignored by the west. Too bad. They have all the $US cash, all the manufacturing and a growing ability to project their power. We insult them at our peril.

Copenhagen Comments #3

Last night we had an honest 6 inches of snow here in Copenhagen, turning the city into a picture postcard. Most of it is still around this morning, and it is with great amusement that I watch the tens of thousands of bicycle commuters wend their way through the snowy streets.

All NGO observers but a lucky thousand have been kicked out of the Bella Centre at COP15. Many are annoyed that the stalls they have rented and the side events that they have prepared for and scheduled for months have been cancelled – there is no one to come to them. The Bella Centre is one big ministerial morass.

I cannot be sure, but I don’t think that Labour’s Charles Chauvel ever managed to enter the building. I know he stood in the freezing, outdoor registration line for 10 hours on Monday, only to have the desk close before he got to it. We haven’t heard from him since. This is a common story, even for people who registered to attend over a year ago. Fingers are pointing all around as to how 45,000 people were allowed to register for a venue that only holds 15,000. In this regard, it’s a shambles.

One also has to wonder about the Labour Party’s commitment to climate change issues, when their spokesperson had to make his way to Copenhagen privately (and good on him) and doesn’t manage to get in the door. Surely a commited opposition would make a commitment to front up to the biggest issue facing humanity. Oh, right. The Greens have done just that. 😉

One of the quiet successes at the negotiations has been accomplished by the various NGOs working on REDD. (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation.) Earlier this year, the European Union sabotaged the treaty text, taking indigenous people’s rights out and making the treaty one big party for logging companies. The REDD NGO’s have managed to restore the text almost to it’s original state. We’ll see if it survives the scrutiny of the Ministers. One can only hope.

The shame of the conference this week was our very own Minister Groser’s outburst. He called the Tuvalu chief negotiator an ‘extremist’ and obstructive of the negotiations for wanting a legally binding agreement at Copenhagen! He also called the United Nations process all sorts of names. This is not diplomatic or Ministerial behaviour in anyone’s book.

Oxfam has just accused Minister Nick Smith of trying to redefine the word ‘fair’.

For some more in depth comments on the goings on here in Copenhagen, hop on over to frogblog and check out what Jeanette Fitzsimons and Kennedy Graham have to say. Kennedy’s musings are a hoot!

It’s going to be an interesting couple of days!

Comments from Copenhagen

It’s half way through my fourth day in Copenhagen, and I know I’m in the time zone because I am starved and it’s actually lunchtime!

We had an awsome march through Copenhagen yesterday. Four and a half hours across town with 100,000 people from around the globe. Jeanette, Kennedy and I marched with the New Zealand Youth Delegation (NZYD) and hundreds of representatives from Green Parties around the world. It was magic.

The NZYD had a huge NZ America’s Cup spinaker with youth delegate signatures scrawled all over it. We marched around and under it, with dozens of kind strangers helping us keep it aloft.

On the sobering side, we are at that part of the conference where everyone is pessimistic and confused. The draft texts floating around since yesterday have made everyone angry. This is typical at such conferences, I am told.

The Annex 1 countries attempts to kill off Kyoto entirely seem to have failed, but the developing world is pissed. Funny that!

Some of what NZ is demanding has survived the first cut and is still in the draft text. We’ll see how they do this week.

Meanwhile, I am at the KlimaForum, the “People’s Climate Forum”, where alternative, sleeves-rolled-up discussions are happening between people who know that our leaders are only serving the interests of economic growth – not saving humanity from climate change.

It’s not the planet we need to protect. It will be here long after we humans have consumed ourselves to extinction.

Here is a video I shot of the Young Greens co-leaders during the march yesterday. Enjoy it, and share it around!

Comments from Copenhagen

It’s my second full day at the COP15 Climate Summit and in so many ways it seems like I never left work at all. Lot’s of familiar kiwis around, lots of arguments about what NZ is doing or ought to be doing about climate change. If Parliament lives in its own bubble, so do the climate change negotiations. They are, after all, working towards a legally binding agreement – just like parliament does.

The biggest challenge is figuring out what to do. Should I go listen to Naomi Klein talk about climate justice or listen to the world’s best experts on REDD? (I chose Naomi.) Some sessions are a feast, others a famine.

The morning briefings are a hoot, as Zach mentioned in an earlier post. It’s a joy watching NZ government officials trying to toe the government line while sitting across the table from a myriad of kiwi stakeholders who know better than the line they’re being fed.

The Young Green members of the NZ Youth Delegation are making their mark, asking the tough questions and linking up with dozens of similar delegations from around the world. Everyone from all the youth delegations has got bright orange t-shirts asking “How old will you be in 2050?”  Eighty-seven. Thanks for asking!

I had the pleasure of watching Georgina Morrison accept New Zealand’s latest Fossil of the Day Award. They really do make a show of it, with tuxedo clad MC’s and theme songs performed live.

There is a colourful climate demonstration in the main hall of the convention centre about every hour. Polar bears, climate ‘debt collectors’ and ‘seal the deal’ chants are the norm today.

The negotiations themselves are in disarray, which is what you would expect about this time in the negotiations. The LULUCF crowd are supposed to be releasing a draft text today, but there is so much disagreement that any draft they release is likely to trigger a walk out by China and the G77. So they keep delaying a draft release.

That’s enough for the moment. Tonight is the first get together for the Global Greens, followed by Jeanette and Kennedy’s arrival at the conference.

Nader’s humourous soliloquy

I love it when a politician doesn’t take himself/herself too seriously. Ralph Nader, who is not the Green Party candidate in the US this time around, delivers a very humourous soliloquy. It does reflect how it used to be around here, before MMP. When a minor party candidate couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Thank god things have changed here!

Acknowledging the legacy of 9/11

Today is the seventh anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. It seems like so much longer ago, because of all the changes on the global scene. I can no longer call myself an expat American, because I became an NZ citizen some 12 or 13 years ago. Nevertheless, I have the unique privilege of seeing the event through both foreign and domestic eyes. Whichever eyes I use, the site is not pretty.

So what is the legacy, seven years on, for my homeland? Probably the most significant change, virtually unacknowledged, is the permanent suspension of habeas corpus. This thousand year old pillar of western liberal democracy has been replaced by presidential fiat, based on a secret list that grows by the thousands every month without the right of scrutiny or judicial remedies.

The nation’s finances are in tatters from record breaking deficits and the nation’s armed forces, still arguably the best conventional forces in the world, are stretched to the breaking point. All this for a pointless war of aggression in an oil rich land. Already those oil contracts are going to our geopolitical rivals, the Chinese, who financed this war and are set to reap the rewards. This is a clear sign of the impending end of American hegemony.

Also in tatters is America’s reputation as a defender of human rights and jurisprudence. The debacle that is Guantanamo Bay will stain that reputation for decades.

Finally, we have the rise of the police state. The Department of Homeland Security, named ominously like Hitler’s Office of Fatherland Security and set up in exactly the same circumstances, is the user friendly face of a many headed hydra of rights violating security agencies. The American Civil Liberites Union, or ACLU, has it’s work cut out for it just holding the line of further erosions of freedom.

This leads me to the rest of the world. Gordon Brown, the current leader of that other bastion of western liberal democracy, the UK, has called for draconian state surveilance that would make George Orwell proud. Meanwhile, today’s Herald reports that the French already operate such a database, called Edvige, and there is a huge hue and cry across the country. Incidentally, the Herald also reports today that the real reason for the Twin Towers collapse was ‘magnetic forces’. No doubt when it’s 9/11 tomorrow in America, this important new, newer, newest official explanation will be front page news.

Here at home, the recently passed terrorism laws have eroded our freedoms as well. What do you think of that?

I could go on, but I think I’ve said my peace. The real legacy of 9/11 is the roll back of the key pillars of western liberal democracy. We allow this to continue at our peril.

Build your own billboard

With billboard season upon us, the internet is giving us th opportunity to culture jam our favourite party’s billboards. Needless to say I was ecstatic to be sent a link to this site this morning. After a couple of fizzers, I am proud of my new National Party Billboard:

Please take a moment and vote for my billboard. It is #117 on the site and then you can surf all the other hillarious send ups!