Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed: “Leaders will only understand things when the people understand things.”

Heavy hitters in the UN: (from left to right) Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP; Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of WFP; Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed; Helen Clark, Administrator of UNDP and Chair of UNDG; and Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the WMO.

At “Advancing work on adaptation to climate change:  A United Nations system perspective,” top officials from five U.N. agencies spoke to a packed room.  They called for collaboration and cooperation between all U.N. agencies to be provided in any text to come out of COP15.  Speakers included Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme; Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Chair of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG); Ann Veneman, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), and Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).  H.E. Mr. Mohamed Nasheed, President of the Maldives, chaired the panel.  President Masheed began the discussion by emphasizing that developing countries will feel the effects of climate change first, and that, in the Maldives, ocean level rise is leading to salt water already contaminating fresh water reserves.  He emphasized that good governance is central to successful adaptation measures to protect people and ecosystems. Continue reading

Reparations: Making Wealthy Countries Pay for Their Contribution to Climate Change

A major human rights concern in climate change is that of environmentally displaced persons (EDPs):  people who are forced to leave their homes because of environmental causes ranging from climate change, development projects, industrial accidents, environmental degradation, the environmental aftermath of war, and lack of natural resources.  The Red Cross has already declared that more people are currently displaced because of environmental disasters than war.  Yet, the United Nations’ definition of “refugee” does not include the environmentally displaced, leaving such people unprotected under international law.

One way to address the needs of people displaced by climate change, a tragedy that will be felt most severely by those living at subsistence level who are also those least responsible for climate change, is through controversial financial reparations from wealthy countries, those that have emitted the most green house gasses and benefited the most from those emissions.

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Meeting with CIEL

Ana Parente, a fellow at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and LLM at VLS, set up a great meeting for our delegation with Steve Porter, a climate change guru at CIEL.  He is currently leading Climate Action Network (CAN).  Wearing a “Lead or Go Home” ID holder, he discussed various aspects of the negotiations with us, and answered our many questions.  Continue reading

Initial Impressions

The Bella Center, where the conference is being held, is enormous and full of things to see.  There are green plant displays, internet stations, pamphlets on all aspects of climate-related issues, cafes, and more.  The variety of people from all over the world is exciting.  Standing in the “observers” line to get our registration badges we heard a variety of languages including English, Danish, Hindi, French, and Chinese.  For us, coming from Vermont, the weather seems relatively mild–low 40’s and damp.  For an Australian woman standing in line behind us, it was unbelievably cold (which she described using a more colorful vocabulary).  Tomorrow the real events begin–more to come then!!

VLS and COP15

Many VLS students came here to study environmental law at the law school with the best environmental law program in the country, and to learn “law for the community and the world.”  Getting to go to Copenhagen and participate in COP15 is an ideal opportunity to do both of those things and one that I feel extraordinarily fortunate to have.