The Climate Zoo in Copenhagen

It's not all happening at the zoo. At least not for thousands of NGO delegates who came here on hard-earned currency or scholarships. In my own case, I'm here with 12 students from Iowa and 7 students from Rice University accompanied by my colleague, Pedro Alvarez. But, the Rice students waited in line yesterday for 6 hours before finally gaining admission to the Bella Center and receiving badges and credentials to the COP15 climate conference in Copenhagen. Worse still, three of the Iowa students waited the entire day in freezing cold and never gained admission to the meeting at all. It's not clear whether they will ever get in. COP15 has implemented a last minute triage strategy to stem the flow of thosands of people beyond the limit of 15,000 for the Bella Center facility. NGO organizations are only able to obtain required "secondary passes" for a fraction of their delegates, about one-quarter to one-half from what I can tell. It's necessary to present the secondary passes in addition to the primary credentials and badge. So the ones who were lucky enough to get badges must now share passes and alternate days with their fellow NGO delegates. I met one poor student from Tufts University who came to COP15 as a NGO delegate through the Stockholm Environmental Institute (SEI). SEI comprises one of the larger delegations with 84 members, but only 20 will be allowed into the conference on any given day with secondary passes. The Tufts fellow stood for nine hours in the cold and never gained admission, so now he couldn't even use the secondary pass if he had one. All is not well in the meeting rooms either. Yesterday, Al Gore and Steven Chu, two Nobel Prize winners were speaking at the same time. Both spoke to overflowing crowds. Chu presented his Climate REDI initiative in a small room at the official U.S. Center exhibit to a full crowd of about 50 people, and perhaps 50 additional people watched from outside on TV monitors. Gore spoke in a larger room with perhaps 200 chairs, but hundreds of Gore Groupies were outside in the hall (without monitors) just waiting to get a photo of him. George W. Bush would have enjoyed such adulation. It's getting worse at COP15 as the week progresses. It's now Tuesday of the second and final week, when ministers are giving way to heads-of state. One hundred and thirty heads-of-state have accepted invitations from the Danish Prime Minister to attend. I'm told that Obama will bring a total of 700 people with him on December 18, counting security. Chavez's entourage from Venezuela numbers 400. At the final meeting of the day yesterday, the Danish organizers lamented that the entourages attending the conference in support of the heads of state will ensure that no more than 1000 NGO members can be admitted to attend the final two days. Organizers are sorry, but there is simply no more room in the Bella Center. That's the news from the zoo in Copenhagen called COP15. Shouldn't climate progress be simpler?

Author: Jerry Schnoor

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  1. Crowded Midway: Or Why It’s a Zoo at C&ENtral Science - [...] C&EN blogger Jerry Schnoor described the lines to get accreditation to Bella Center, where the Copenhagen climate [...]