As our 787 banked right to begin our final descent into Casablanca I caught my first glimpse of the Moroccan landscape. It was greener than I expected. On the ground I was struck by the warmth of the weather and the people. At the airport I was given a free sim card and then met the host with whom Jonas and I were staying the first night. He told us about how Marrakech has developed over the years, his passion about how great the city is on full display. After dropping our stuff at the riad we began to explore the area, talking with street vendors and taking in the sights, smells, and sounds of this city. The pride of the Moroccan people was on display everywhere we went, clearly demonstrating how proud they were to host the UNFCCC COP for the second time. Giant red banners reading “ACT” lined the streets and reminded us that this COP is one of action and implementation.
At the COP, the negotiations went far smoother than I expected, with very few disagreements between the Parties in the meetings I attended. Of course much of this was due to the extensive bilaterals and informals that were going on in the background. We were not privy to these discussions, where I’m sure most of the fireworks and arguments were occurring. However, there were some disagreements during the final plenary, which had to break multiple times to help the Parties reach consensus. Bolivia and Brazil engaged in a back-and-forth about whether the adopted text was balanced enough, with the former refusing to support the language. During the breaks, China and a few other Parties worked with both sides to help all involved reach consensus. The COP President worked hard throughout the night to keep the mood light and encourage cooperation. He even had everyone in the room sing Happy Birthday to the Mali delegate before he had to rush off to catch a plane to Madagascar. The Parties ultimately reached consensus and concluded COP 22/CMP 12/CMA 1 around 1AM on Saturday.
The side events at COP 22 covered a wide variety of topics and all the ones I attended were rewarding. I had anticipated that some would fall flat but my expectations were exceeded. I was able to attend a few sessions held at various country’s pavilions, which exposed me to many different perspectives. Often these events had refreshments too; -an immense boost during the long days. While some ran a little late, almost all had an opportunity for questions at the end. I think the best part of the side events was the Q&A sessions that followed each because the speakers were less constrained than during their presentations. Many of the speakers stayed after the sessions were over and answered questions one-on-one. A couple of times, when I didn’t have to run off to another session, I was lucky enough to speak with a few of them.
The most rewarding part of our COP experience was working with our service-learning partners to help them better understand the process and participate in the negotiations. Like most LDCs, our partners struggle to procure the resources needed for sufficient staff to attend all the meetings and negotiations that impact their interests. During our briefings we presented on the negotiations and a few relevant side events we attended and then answered any questions that our partners had. After the more formal presentations we broke off into one-on-one conversations and were really able to dig into the issues. It felt great to see how our work was helping them. Despite everything going on at home and around the world the COP was uplifting and inspiring. The progress set in motion in Paris cannot be stopped.
Actually, the sun set here in Copenhagen several hours ago, but it seems to have also set for the COP. A new accord appears to have been reached this evening, but it falls short of most expectations. This morning, President Obama flew in to deliver a disappointing speech in front of the UN and then ducked through a closed-door to spend the rest of the afternoon in private talks with a handful of world leaders. Shortly after, accusations flew from other countries that these secret talks violated the democratic process necessary for the UN to function.
After a long day of waiting on the edge of our seats, Obama held another brief press conference to say that his meetings had been “successful.” However, he had little substantive points to offer. Needless to say, our team feels let down that Copenhagen failed to be the shining moment in history when the world united to focus on our common future. Most of us leave here tomorrow feeling disappointed and exhausted, but we have a renewed sense of commitment to gain ground on the domestic front.
Even if the United States was unable to be the leader during these talks, the long road ahead of us is clear. We hope that our readers have enjoyed our thoughts and observations during our time at the COP-15. Even in disappointment, we each feel privileged to have been here to witness this historical process.
Meeting opens over 30 minutes late due to heightened security. Brazil and India delegates upset about security, and both had difficulty getting into the plenary. After several delegate statements, including a renewed call for action from Tuvalu, COP15 President Connie Hedegaard resigns. Danish Prime Minister (PM) Lars Løkke Rasmussen is now also the COP15 President, and Hedegaard will be his special assistant regarding informal consultations.
Now waiting for high-level segment including statements from Heads of State…More to come!
For a flavor of the current discussion:
Rasmussen: “The whole world is seeking a solution to climate change, and not just procedure, procedure, procedure.”
China: “Not just procedure, but substance…not here to obstruct the process.”
I just witnessed the unveiling of an important new report, sponsored and presented by Al Gore and Gro Harlem Brundtland (yes, that Brundtland), Greenland Ice Sheet – Melting Snow and Ice: Calls for Action. Other global heavyweights that presented were the world-renowned scientist Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, the Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Stoere, and Greenland Premier Kuupik Kleist. It was a standing room only event with many more waiting outside the venue doors.
Denmark has been a leader in renewable and clean energy for over 40 years. While some policies were perhaps misguided, like banning car use on Sundays in the 1970’s, slow but steady expansion of the country’s renewable energy portfolio has allowed the country to maintain its emission levels while boasting of continuing healthy economic expansion. One of the best examples of the country’s advances in renewables technology is the Middelgrunden windfarm located just offshore in Copenhagen’s harbor. Built in 2000, it currently has twenty 2 MW turbines that generate a total of 40 MW of power (about 3% of Denmark’s total requirements). [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0Qi5xBA-ow] Continue reading →
After Tuvalu’s call for a suspension of the COP yesterday, Steffen Schmidt was assigned the task of meeting informally with the parties to reach some resolution, the details of which were to be announced during the afternoon plenary. Unfortunately, and somewhat predictably, the parties could not reach resolution in the few short hours allotted.
After announcing adjournment of the afternoon meeting, which focused largely on the issue of whether carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) should be included under the clean development mechanism (CDM) in the Kyoto Protocol, President Connie Hedegaard announced that she would have news regarding the suspension of the COP in the morning, as the informal meetings were to continue into the evening. Continue reading →
Suspended globe from official COP15 US Center - US agencies/entities running the US center include: Departments of State, Agriculture, Transportation, Commerce, Energy, Interior & Treasury, along with the EPA, NOAA and NASA. Check out the US Center at: http://www.cop15.state.gov/
With the “leaked email scandal” from last week that many climate change opponents have turned to as “proof” that scientists have been falsifying, exaggerating, or just plain lying about climate change data, I think it is important to reflect on just how proven human induced climate change is.
If you aren’t convinced by the scientific bodies such as the IPCC, NOAA and the EPA (who finalized its endangerment finding to kick off the COP-15), then perhaps you would prefer to hear from some lesser known “climate science acknowledgers.”
First up at bat, who can forget our former President George W. Bush, a climate change denier for years, when he finally admitted that the effects were real and man-made and that we need to “take this issue seriously“.
After a somewhat sleepy day yesterday, the discussions at COP15 are picking up in passion and intensity. In this morning’s Plenary I (a meeting of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation or SBI), one of the main topics was the status of the Global Environment Facility, i.e., one of the most important mechanisms for financing climate-related projects in the developing world. A representative from the GEF (pronounced “Jeff”), which is implemented by the World Bank, recited a litany of successes, touted the billions of dollars spent to date on climate-related projects, and identified the many tons of CO2 emissions reduced or avoided. He also acknowledged the need for reforms in the GEF and outlined a number of key reforms that are already underway. In response, delegates from numerous developing countries commended the managers of the GEF for their efforts at reform. However, many of these delegates, particularly those from the least developed countries (known as “LDCs”) such as Sudan, Nicaragua, Benin, Iraq, Antiga & Barbuda, passionately and firmly called for more fundamental and extensive reforms. Continue reading →
The Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) met today for the 1st Plenary II meeting. (There are two major plenary, the other by the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI).) The SBSTA’s agenda for the day included issues surrounding the development and transfer of technologies, research and systematic observations, and how to reduce emissions from developing countries.
With this in mind, many organizations and countries are eager to see an agreement about how best to implement and fund this program. Today, the representative from the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC) gave a call to action but reminded delegates that “Forests are more than carbon.” He stressed the spiritual and cultural connection that indigenous peoples share with the forests, as well as their reliance on these ecosystems for their own livelihood.
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!!
Most of us have made it to Copenhagen now. A few travel snags, but nothing too serious. The Bella Center is very well organized, and the registration/badge pickup has gone fairly smoothly. We’re excited to have free passes for travel on all public transit in Copenhagen — trains, buses, Metro, etc. They’ve really thought of everything. We’re all a bit jet-lagged and travel weary, so we’re glad to have this day to get ourselves acclimated and figure out the lay of the land. The folks arriving mid-week will have to hit the ground running. The meeting schedule is awe-inspiring and overwhelming. The side events alone could occupy us full time. I think I’ll need to focus on just a few subject areas and follow those through out both the sessions and the side events. Trying to absorb everything would probably cause a serious brain overload. More news to come when things really get underway …
Three cheers for Lesley McAllister! In a recent article, this empirically-minded law professor explains why so many cap-and-trade programs have not made any dent in the emissions they were meant to control (34 Colum. J. Envtl. L. 395, 2009). Ever since I read this article a few weeks ago, I have been pondering its implications for the upcoming negotiations in Copenhagen. I’d like to highlight just a few of the lessons Professor McAllister gleans from a careful study of four existing cap-and-trade programs in the U.S. and Europe, and I hope she will forgive me for oversimplifying and injecting my own views with abandon. Continue reading →