Archive for January, 2010


Final notes from Copenhagen

My trip was funded by, Univ of Tech in Sydney and the Danish government. And I was a part of the Indian Youth Climate Network delegation.

I’ll do my best to articulate my most important thoughts from Copenhagen. Because I was there I’m not better qualified to opine on COP15, we were all quite confounded there as well.  I’m sure you’ve all seen and read enough about COP15 and its outcomes. And depending on your source the opinions you heard or read must have been just as diverse! So I’ll just tell you what you probably wouldn’t read in the papers.
1. Copenhagen meeting failed to meet its objective. The objective of course was to reach an unanimously agreed legally binding deal to tackle climate change. Why did it fail? Climate change is an issue that is being revealed to be more complicated every passing day and countries, especially the big ones, were just not prepared enough to be able to make requited commitments. By preparation I mean, not being sure about how much can they mitigate emissions by minimizing cost of those actions on the society. To put it simply how much can they afford to mitigate without jeopardising our economies and risk losing the next elections.
And then what really messed up the situation was that in Copenhagen few countries tried to push for a more radical deal despite evidence that even a basic deal was clearly out of the picture even before December. There just weren’t enough agreements that could form the basis of a deal.
2. Lets either blame it all on either US or China/India. Truth is unfortunately is more complicated. The developed countries oppose the fact that China, which is a major trade threat, does not need to make commitments while they do because the convention was created in 1992 when China was on a different trajectory. Right now the UNFCCC has just three distinctions for the 190 members. Developed, richest of the developed and the rest. Doesn’t really help if you want a deal that is fair to most countries. And large developing countries obviously oppose any new distinctions because right now in terms of expected commitments for the UNFCCC China=Somalia.
3. The largest ever global citizen movement. I can’t think of any other time in history when more people have come together for a cause. Absolutely amazing number of people have been involved in climate change movements! Very necessary because climate change will affect every aspect of our lives. The best part about COP was that it brought together people from so many walks and countries. There were youth from 105 countries! I was lucky to have been involved with the youth movement because of which I met some amazing and passionate people. These were people I hoped would decide to become national leaders.
I heard some of the most inspiring speeches ever. I can only compare them to speeches by Indian freedom fighters. They would move you to tears and action.
4. Now the movement was far far from being perfect. Firstly climate change activism is different from say activism against nuclear weapons. It is not as simple. Which is why I found 350ppm a little pointless. Nobody knows what would ensure we stabilize at 350ppm! So being very jingoistic about 350ppm was not helping a lot to go close to reaching a world saving deal. I was disappointed that a lot of activists had very little practical ideas for the deal. Asking to shut down coal plants right away only made me view them as idiots.
Secondly campaigning in Copenhagen was not going to be very successful because the real work needed to be done at home, negotiators after all are public servants bound to decisions of the government.
Thirdly COP saw more protesters and activists than thinkers and experts. UNFCCC is complex and most activists had poor knowledge about it. The aim of the protesters seemed just to protest, and try to grab some eye balls. With so much happening aroudn you it was hard to clearly understand what anybody was trying to say. I remember one guy walked upto Rishabh and me and asked if we knew any protests happening that he could join.
5. The amount of money pumped into COP15 is obscene. 215million USD by Danish govt solely for the UN conference. The money from citizen movements must be quite obscene as well. People were bombarded by free tees, bags, water bottles, books, flyers, what not. In a day one of my friends collected around 6kilos of papers. Mind you only the ones she found interesting. Big orgs had massive budgets like buying 700$ jackets for their volunteers or buying hundreds of umbrellas for a 10min photo pose.

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