COP15 Proletariats
Dec18

COP15 Proletariats

Posted on behalf of Anthony Berger, a student at the University of Iowa: Stepping off the metro into the brisk Copenhagen air, seeing the Bella Center's wind turbine circling ominously in the distance, and the sensing the invigorated buzz of conference participants mentally-preparing for the second week of COP15 to commence, I optimistically descended the steps from the metro platform. After gazing excitedly at the facade of the conference venue, I began my search for the point at which the registration queue terminated. Continuing my walk to the end of the line, I denied admitting that this was indeed a very long line. Though initially worried I wouldn't make a 9:00am meeting with my accrediting NGO (Mediators Beyond Borders), I convinced myself that the line would move steadily, and that I'd eventually make it to the meeting a few minutes late, at worst. I mean, the line had nearly quintupled in length, and my naivete precluded that most of these people would eventually be registered and admitted. Two hours later I had moved about 300 feet, maybe about 50% of the line from the point at which I joined. While not entirely crestfallen, I was, of course, frustrated at the ineptitude that would be perceived by my NGO superiors. Anyway, I let my worries go, and I continued to patiently stand in line, reading through some literature about my NGO's prospective protocol, and perpetually squirming my frigid toes. Around 10:45am, the line began to slow substantially. I felt I wasn't too far from the inimitable white tent (which, once you were under it, meant you were guaranteed you'd eventually get into the conference), and being that there were still 7 hours until registration closed, I felt that I would acquire admission at some point. Around 1:30pm, beginning to feel exhausted, in need of a washroom, and quite hungry, one large throng of people were permitted to enter the white tent. Any semblance of a line disintegrated, and the human stockyard shuffled blindly forward. This brought me within about 10 feet of the barricade, which had been placed to bar tenacious registrants. Within ten feet, 4.5 hours to go, surely I would make it in. Here, the real wait began. Thirty minutes, no movement, no news. 1 hour. 2 hours. 3 hours, no movement, no news. At this point, the morale of waiting participants, including a bevy of journalists from media sources of worldwide fame (Le Figaro, Wall Street Journal, BBC, Nippon News) and dignitaries from India/Djibouti/Ethiopia/etc., became increasingly uneasy and agitated. The ignored crowd began rallying "U N, let us in!" and "We're tired, we're cold, we're accredited!" Not...

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Stealing The Spotlight
Dec17

Stealing The Spotlight

Posted on behalf of Abbie Gruwell, a political science major at the University of Iowa: If you pay attention to the major news sources, the compelling stories out of Copenhagen today would appear to be the massive demonstrations and angry NGO's. Today the Danish police reached for new tactics to hold back the protesters outside the Bella Centre, not stopping short of tear gas and baton beatings. Of course, these are the images that hit CNN and the voices that allegedly represented world youth. For those of us actually focused on the task at hand, the real story was a painful waiting game and much needed movement toward higher level negotiations. After talks resumed this afternoon, very little information came out of the deliberations. It seemed that delegates and U.N. officials alike were finally getting down to business, even forgoing press-filled speeches to actually do work. Maybe if our leaders had felt this kind of desperation a week and a half ago we would have an ambitious, binding framework. One of the most exciting parts of the afternoon were the speeches by the Heads of State, such as Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, Ian Fry of Tuvalu, and other high profile leaders. Many were passionately in support of the G77 and China position for more intensive negotiations and a two-track plan. Tomorrow Ahmadinejad and Manmohan Singh promise to make it an exciting day. One success that is predicted to come out of this week is the REDD document. The agreement aims to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and has been one of the only discussions that bore any fruit. Although there are still a few things to work out, it seems the most optimistic section of the comprehensive bill. There were several issues of contention about the REDD policy, most notably the rights of indigenous peoples. Amazingly, the final draft was presented today and REDD is predicted by the Environmental Defense Fund to be the most concrete thing that comes out of Copenhagen. At least there is something we can agree...

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"Prove Us Wrong, Or Stand Down"
Dec16

"Prove Us Wrong, Or Stand Down"

Posted on behalf of Abbie Gruwell, a political science major at the University of Iowa: The atmosphere inside the Bella Centre today is palpably tense. Entrance restrictions continued and security is getting increasingly tighter. We arrived at 7:00 this morning to guards, protesters, and a series of blockades that we were herded through like cattle. Many NGO's were not admitted and several groups have been stripped of their accreditation altogether. Even a leader from the Brasilian delegation was denied access through security, a point embarrassingly brought up in the general session. There is a general feeling of anticipation and dread about the negotiations as the heads of state begin their national addresses this afternoon. The resignation of Connie Hedegaard this morning highlighted the secrecy of the proceedings, even though the plenary sessions are thankfully being broadcast in the main rooms. Statements coming out of the negotiators are saying that her resignation is a matter of protocol due to the high status level of the negotiators, but there are doubts. As I type, there are protesters (soon to be removed, I'm sure) chanting in the plenary rooms for more substantive action. The various drafts that have come out of the Copenhagen negotiations so far have been tabled temporarily, but will be brought up again this afternoon. One of the more interesting alliances came out of frustration with the G77 refusal to move - Nicholas Sarkozy of France and Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia (allegedly on behalf of the African nations) have formed the 'Copenhagen Accord' that would bind signers to $10 billion over three years for adaptation. This has since been condemned by the African civil society. The United States managed to project a clear commitment in John Kerry. His speech this morning was firm and inspirational. He challenged those at home and abroad to either legitimately provide scientific findings that disprove climate change or get out of the way of progress. "We are reaching the limits of how far we can go if we go it alone," he said of the negotiation stalemate. "The science itself is demanding action from all of us." Kerry noted that success in Copenhagen is critical to progress in the U.S. Senate, and he assured the global community that the U.S. Congress will absolutely pass a comprehensive climate bill in the coming year. He included several provisions that will be necessary for the bill to pass, including carbon pricing. Somehow, the Congress will have to address the issue of differentiated responsibility and take action to close the gap between countries that have contributed the most to climate change and those that will suffer from it. Kerry closed with the following: "It...

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Congress, Carbon, And Compromise
Dec16

Congress, Carbon, And Compromise

Posted on behalf of Abbie Gruwell, a political science major at the University of Iowa: Time is running out for substantive negotiations at Copenhagen. My second day here saw virtually no movement on the U.S. position and continuing frustration on all fronts. The G-77 walk-out yesterday sent a strong message that a clear binding commitment is extremely unlikely by the end of the week. China, India, and South Korea's inclusion in the walk-out made the issue even more complicated. Because of their demand for adaptation assistance, the financing debate is deadlocked. The African nations and small island countries have a viable argument for climate financing from the developed world, but there is no way the U.S. Congress would support sending money to China, India, and South Korea for climate change adaptation. These countries are still supporting the continuation of Kyoto, and the U.S. is not budging on their emissions targets. It seems that everyone has their scapegoat - the E.U. says they will commit to 30% reductions if the U.S. does, and the U.S. won't commit to anything unless China is subject to a verification system. Hopefully the word of the week will be compromise, not disappointment. I spent today outside of the Bella Centre quagmire and had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion hosted by the PEW Center and the Environmental Defense Fund with several policy and legislative aides to four U.S. congressmen. Michael Goo with Chairman Markey, Mark Helmke, Joe Shultz with Senator Brown, and Trent Bauserman with Senator Shaheen all gave their opinions on the effect of Copenhagen on the current Senate bill. One of the most potent discussion points was on the debilitating public opinion situation at home - Helmke and Shultz noted that the acceptance of climate change has gone down 42 points in the last year because of the domestic economic situation and argued that political messaging was the problem. Communication has been the biggest problem in convincing the American public to get on board, and the Senate aides recognized that the lack of clarity would need to be addressed before Congress would have the constituent support to pass the climate bill. The panel also discussed the provisions for the moderate Dems to get on board, including assurance that jobs would come from the clean energy push, an amendment that addressed carbon leakage, and a long-term commitment to ensure competitiveness for U.S. companies. We also had a brief Presidential-address moment - an Australian audience member called out "bulls***" during a comment about the U.S.'s response to the tsunami. Apparently inappropriate outbursts aren't just an American epidemic. Finally, the carbon and energy discussions...

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