Here is the first guest blog post from the Copenhagen climate negotiations from guest blogger Alan Miller, principal climate change specialist for the Environment Department of the International Finance Corporation. For more information on Alan Miller go to www.globalenvironmentallaw.com and click on "Miller" at the top of the welcoming page.
Thurs. Dec. 11: Observations from the Copenhagen Climate Negotiations (COP15) (by Alan Miller)
For an old climate hand – my experience in climate negotiations goes back before the Rio Conference to early “90s – I tend to think I’ve seen it all. The Copenhagen meetings have upped the ante in several ways. The sheer numbers are daunting, an estimated 20,000 registered delegates, observers, and media from over 150 countries. The logistics of entry every morning resemble a crowded airport as we all descend on the dozen or so security lines. Inside a small town awaits, with cafes (open faced sandwiches appealing), dozens of exhibits, colorful attire from traditional garbs of developing countries, and hundreds of NGOs and special interest organizations from every perspective – religious, gender, youth, indigenous peoples, and justice. Some groups are clearly here for the first time -- for example, a Chinese business organization – and are understandably overwhelmed and confused by the experience. As an American it’s great to see the U.S. with a strong presence including a small theater where the EPA Administrator and many other federal officials give presentations every afternoon.
One of the most enjoyable features of the conference is the presence of large numbers of energetic teenagers sponsored by Greenpeace and other organizations. Some wonder around in green paint and space alien attire asking random passers-by to “take me to your climate leader”. Others appeared in pajamas with pillows and sang “Give Peace a Chance” on the anniversary of the “sleep-in” by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
The Danish organizers have done an impressive job in managing the crowds but also maintaining an environmental ethos. Recycling bins are everywhere. All delegates get free public transportation and have access to free bicycles for commuting (the conference site is several miles from the city center but next to a metro stop). Climate-change related art and culture events dot the town, from concerts (the Back Street Boys) to 8 meter cubes representing the volume taken by a ton of carbon dioxide.
Of course the main event – almost hidden in the noise – are the negotiations themselves. A sense of optimism pervades the halls based on next week’s arrival of an expected 110+ heads of state. President Obama’s appearance alone generates great expectations, something we associate with American politics but which turns out to be equally true of people from most of the world. The first week is dominated by career negotiators and more mundane matters, refining texts that have been under negotiation for the two years since the Bali Action Plan was adopted, removing brackets and consolidating competing options. One trend that continues to evolve is the seeming disintegration of the G77 and China, the bloc of developing countries who have traditionally negotiated as one. At the November climate meetings in Barcelona, the African countries walked out, halting negotiations for almost a day. This time it’s the small island states demanding discussion of more aggressive goals and threatening to disrupt the process.
As of today (Thursday morning) it doesn’t seem possible it can all come together in a week’s time. Yet I left yesterday with a strongly positive hearing after sitting at a small briefing for international organizations by Yvo de Boer, the Convention Executive Secretary. As he told us, heads of state “don’t come together to commiserate, only to celebrate”. Am hoping he’s proven correct.