No-Hopenhagen? COP-out? The UN FCCC-ed up?

It’s now just over a month since I got back from Copenhagen at what was the experience of a lifetime. The COP15, the event that was built up to be where world leaders decide whether to save us all, or sign a suicide pact. So, I’ve had some time for reflection.

Here are the main things I learnt from the mad house of the UNFCCC:

1. Every country is in it for themselves – they just have differing analyses of what that actually means. In the case of China, it appears they believed their economic growth to help them become a superpower in the future was more important than the climate which that will be based on. The US was similar in terms of the minor cuts they were willing to commit to. And countries like the Maldives realised that they needed a deal in Copenhagen to stop from drowning under rising seas. Capitalism is no small player in creating these differing world views, and as always the poor and vulnerable loose out, the rich and powerful who win, no matter how stupid they actually are. We need to keep pushing for a recognition that the collective good being put first will increase all our prosperity.

2. The UNFCCC process could work, and work well, if countries were not subject to the gross illogicalities I just described.

3. Carbon trading is worse than I thought. It could work well if it wasn’t subject to the political process – but that’s the case with most things! There are so many outs for rich but selfish countries like New Zealand to exploit (Clean Development Mechanism, REDD, and other such flexibility mechanisms) depending on the system (ie the one that the current NZ government supports) emissions could continue to sky rocket. No wonder Minister for Climate Change Issues Nick Smith is so keen on many of these things.

4. The solutions are out there, but it’s up to the people to lead. And they are. This is too big to give up on, so lets keep working towards climate justice, and keep coming up with ideas. We’re closer than we think, and there’s a massive global movement on what Desmund Tutu called “the winning side” – the side where we get to keep a stable climate, and make a more equitable world! It was fantastic to see so many thousands of young people and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Copenhagen supporting this winning effort.

5. There’s a lot of smart people out there, but there’s also some wackos… Climate change deniers can join the many other crazy conspiracy theorists and retire to their tight-knit communities of nonsense!

6. The Copenhagen Accord said and achieved very little. However, it is political will that is most important if we are to ever reach an agreement for a stable climate. Is there political will? More than we’ve ever seen. Is this enough? No.

7. But, with the Copenhagen Accord being the only thing to come out of Copenhagen, there seems to be even more uncertainty than there was before Copenhagen – and that was a huge amount. This uncertainty is bad for the climate, bad for us, and bad for business. Who knows what will happen this year?

8. The Green movement is needed now more than ever before.

To see some my most cherished pictures from Copenhagen see the original post on Zackarate Island.

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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.

One more day to go for the COP15

(A post by a New Zealand Youth Delegation participant in Copenhagen)

Hello people,

Just thought I better give you all a quick update.

It’s very cold. Snow starting falling on Tuesday, and it hasn’t let up much since. It’s -4 with a windchill of -11.

Went to Sweden today as we’ve been completely locked out of the conference. They accredited 45 000 people with entry for a venue with 15 000 capacity… Welcome to the UN. Long queues, chaotic, hard to figure out what’s going on. They started limiting numbers on Tuesday, with our delegation of twelve being allowed to bring in 5 people. Then today NGO numbers were limited to 1000 (allocated through constituencies – my one being YOUNGO or Youth NGO, and I don’t think NZYD got any. There are nine NGO constituencies) Tomorrow they are limiting NGOs numbers to just 90 people, with 10 going to each constituency, because of the shear number of world leaders (120 to 135ish, including Mugabe) and their entourages who are going to be at the venue. So many NGOs are very unhappy. There was also a protest going on yesterday, which was my last day at the venue, where they tried to storm the building (without hope – there were so many police, and Danish police are very brutal, so we’ve steered well clear of them, and kept our conference badges well visible. They did manage to arrest a French Green MP, who they released once they realised who he was.)

Anyway talks don’t sound like they’re going too well… We’ll have to see what world leaders can do when they talk tomorrow. Did the march last Saturday with about 100 000 people at it. It was an incredibly uplifting experience, and we carried the massive NZYD sail (signed by young Kiwis about what they think about climate change) the whole 3 hour walk, which gave us a great reputation – see the photo.

Other things we’ve done is hijacked the NZers in Copenhagen party when we presented the NZYD sail to Ministers Tim Groser and Nick Smith, and then gave a long speech that really challenged their policies (not being cute youth as they were hoping we were). There we met Simon Upton and Major Kerry Prendergast too (though she didn’t react much to the speech…). We got a really long applause at the end though, even though the crowd was a mix of Kiwi NGOs, business people and delegates.

Other famous people I’ve seen include Desmund Tutu, Senator John Kerry, Helen Clark and almost Ban Ki-Moon (but he couldn’t make his side-event due to negotiations). Also went to a Global Greens talk and saw a bunch of cool people talk including Elizabeth May (Canadian Green Party Leader) who absolutely rubbished the Canadian Government (which as of yesterday had the most Fossils of the Day, slightly ahead of the US). The current Canadian Government – which does not have majority support at all but is in power due to First Past the Post – is absolutely abysmal. She also said “Things may be better now that the US has a new administration, but unfortunately they are still the United States,” to rapturous applause. Good ol’ Canadians…

For the last day we will continue to send love letters to John Key, and try and get a meeting with him. Let’s hope he commits to stronger targets – a conditional 10-20% by 2020 is not good enough – especially considering the strong conditions will not be met (such as other developing countries committing to stronger targets…). Plus we’re trying to get the message out that the new Emissions Trading Scheme is crap – contrary to what our Government is saying, given it has no cap on emissions and thus will allow them to increase…
Anyway, it’s being a crazy ride, and can tell you other things later, but should probably go. Will have to see how the final day of the talks go – which are likely to continue into Saturday before they wrap up – for better or for worse.

Original post on Zackarate Island as part of the NZYD reporting from Copenhagen.

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.

Flight of the Kiwis

(A post by a New Zealand Youth Delegation participant in Copenhagen)

“New Zealand stakeholder briefing meeting number one. Negotiators?”

“Present.”

“Stakeholders?”

“Present.”

“Right. Item one. What should we talk about?”

And thus the first New Zealand briefing of day two of COP15 began, just like an episode of Flight of the Conchords. Small office, laminated sign, faded flag, not many people. The only thing missing was a poster saying “New Zealand – ewe should come,” or something of the like.

New Zealand really shows its importance at the UNFCCC by having a tiny office positioned strategically in the far corner of the delegation offices (and being told to pay $24 if the wanted another chair). The stakeholder briefing meeting I went to this morning was small and informal – but should get bigger and more detailed as things go on. Nothing much has happened at COP15 yet, just openings of negotiations. The meetings really are a great opportunity though; an incredible advantage of coming from such a small country that basically all Kiwis are welcome to come and talk details with the bureaucrats about what’s happening, and even argue about policy every day.

But we do have to remember that we’re not that big a player, but we can have a great positive impact. However, currently our 10 to 20% emissions reduction (below 1990 levels by 2020) targets will not help the developed world reach the 25 to 40% cuts necessary to stop dangerous climate change – and they are highly conditional.

For New Zealand to go to a 20% target, it wants to see global targets set at a level where temperature rises are limited to 2°C (which New Zealand itself wont be going far enough to reach). There are four other demands, including wanting to be able to purchase offsets to be able to reach most of those emission cuts off shore – meaning we’d be paying others to do what we don’t want to do, even though ultimately everyone needs to substantially cut emissions. We also want to be able to grow lots of trees tat home to achieve these offsets. Without these, and other conditions being met (many of which having a low level of probability of success) New Zealand’s target will be much lower than 20%.

So New Zealand is very demanding for such a small player. In reality we should actively be a positive voice for climate change to protect ourselves, our Pacific neighbours who are drowning under rising seas, and everyone else from the worst effect of climate change. There is so much more we could do, and that would be a huge business opportunity for us – already being well and truly seized by countries like Norway who have experienced strong economic growth recently, and plan to be carbon neutral by 2030. What ever happened to Helen Clark’s desires for NZ to become carbon neutral too?

There’s so much we could do, we’ve got a really talented negotiating team here, and New Zealand has a good reputation of purity to live up to. Let’s hope John Key has (another) change of heart and directs the New Zealand Delegation to push for a deal we could truly be proud of. That’s what COP15 should be about for the humble but talented Kiwis.

Original post on Zackarate Island as part of the NZYD reporting from Copenhagen.