Fishy Business

Today the largest restaurant at the conference center is serving fish. Salmon, to be precise. The two restaurants that sell hot food at the center choose two or three dishes to serve each day and make A LOT of them over and over for hours (often even serving the same meal for lunch and dinner). Unfortunately, today’s special has created a wave of fishy stink that is wafting above the thousands of people rushing about the central building of the conference center. Luckily the stench doesn’t spread farther than the central dining and media area as I’m sure negotiatiors would not be happy if it felt like they were negotiationing for hours in a fish market!


Schwarzenegger: On Fairytales and California

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger started off his talk with by thanking many, many people. It could have been the Academy Awards.

The Crowd

Premier Gordon Campbell (British Columbia)

The Terminator Himself

But he did have a few points that displayed his realism and vim for his now home state of California.

“I love giving this speech because I’m not the only one with an accent!”

He joked that he had been to Denmark several times, previously for bodybuilding or weightlifting seminars. “Never did I think I would come here as a governor of a great state.”

He remarked about the cleanliness of the harbor (you can swim in it) and his favorite Hans Christian Andersen tale.

“My favorite tale was the ugly duckling. Because I love the story of transformation. Planetary transformation is what brought us together here. But is this a fairy tale?

“Why do we put so much hope and eggs into the international agreement basket?” he said. “Many of the agreements happen in the subnational level.”

He told us how his mother-in-law (aka JFK’s sister) would never have relied on the federal government to start the Special Olympics.

“History teaches us that movements begin with the people, not the government. Then when the movement becomes powerful enough, the people respond.”

This is very similar to what Barack Obama has often said: show me a movement and I’ll make it happen.

“By putting all our eggs in one basket, we fail to look at the eggs in the other baskets,” he said. He mentioned Rajendra Pauchari’s movement to eliminate the use of kerosene by 400 million people in India.

“If we don’t reach an agreement, does it mean that this doesn’t count? … We are proceeding in a major way in green tech no matter what happens in Washington or Copenhagen.

“I would be happy to host such a summit in California…people like coming to California.”

Senator John Kerry to Deliver Speech, Hold Press Briefing at COP15

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and lead author of the Senate’s comprehensive climate change legislation, will deliver a major address tomorrow highlighting critical steps toward combating the climate crisis as well and outlining America’s commitment to reducing pollution through comprehensive legislation from the Congress soon after the New Year.

He’s an alumni and my senator – might have an interview…

Tutu + Robinson @ Copenhagen

Yes, the corner of College and Chapel may be called Bishop Tutu Corner. But I’ve just met the guy. He loves to laugh and has a great smile. When I told him that there was a street near my college named after him, former UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and Irish President Mary Robinson joked that it must be an alley.

Both are here for Oxfam international climate hearing at Copenhagen (“Oxfam organized hundreds of climate hearings. The COP hearing will be the culmination of this effort. The hearing will include climate witnesses from around the world and moral voices.”)

Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu Meeting

Taking pictures of a dignitary

Me, Robinson, Tutu, and two friendly people

Some notable quotes:

“We forget there is a great deal of good and you represent that. Fantastic human beings who care, who want to see our earth home, the only one we have, to be hospitable to all of its inhabitants. I want to clap you, because you are just fantastic human beings.”

“All have one super-goal. Persuading others to listen.”

“It’s the difference between survival and doom. We’re in this together. There are all kinds of competing voices. The 1.5 million people that have attended Climate Hearing in 36 countries, that’s not the whole story, they represent hundreds of millions more people who may not have attended a hearing but are suffering from climate change. The future is becoming a source of fear and uncertainty. People suffer with nothing to eat during the dry months and then lose everything when the rains fall with such ferocity that everything is washed away.

All of these changes, we know, are not just incidental. These stories testify to a disaster already in progress. But you know that we have it in our power.

Leaders from more than 60 countries are in Copenhagen today. We are here to tell the leaders of the world we have one Earth home, if it is destroyed there is nothing else. And we are in it together. We are going to swim or drown together. We are interconnected; we are bound together. If the one slips down, she or he brings down the whole lot. We are here to call for action.”

Negotiations opened up…but few left to attend

Every morning, after standing in long lines to enter the Bella conference center, we pick up a Daily Programme at the front information desk. The programme is a collection of the day’s events: the negotiations, the press briefings, and the public side events among other things. For each event the programme lists the times, the locations and most importantly who is allowed into each session.

Just this morning, when talking to a Yaw Law/F&ES student, Paul Beaton, we found out that more delegation and working group negotiations have been opened to public observers than ever before at COPs. Apparently, this is because during negotiations last week the US, EU and China tried to start closing off some of the talks (prohibiting entrance to all members of civil society) in order to bully the smaller states into certain agreements.

Undoubtedly, this is relatively common at international conferences and has happened at previous COPs, but this time the small states refused to be pushed around. The world’s smallest nations, including many developing countries, are more united than ever before. They are on a mission to achieve a fair agreement and are pulling the industrialized Annex I countries with them. So there was a revolt, the small states  refused to only negotiate behind closed doors. The UNFCCC responded hastily trying to ameliorate the situation by throwing open the doors to many of the negotiations, even ones that have never before admitted members of the public.

When I was leaving one of the Ad-hoc Working Group – Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) contact group negotiations last night I overheard one of the negotiators remarking with surprise that there were NGO members sitting in back half of the room (where I had been watching the discussion for nearly 4 hours by that point). “I had no idea NGOs were allowed in here,” she said.

It’s ironic, of course, that starting this morning only a third of the civil society will be admitted to attend these negotiations with fewer and fewer being submitted over the coming days. According to the Danish President of COP15 UN Summit, the primary reason for reducing the number of admitted people from the civil society is to accommodate the increasing size of country delegations.

“Security-wise things are getting very difficult,” Hedegaard explained. “It will be more difficult for press and NGOs to get in as we get closer to Friday. The heads of state bring very large delegations and that requires a lot of security.”

Ultimately the same number of people will be attending the conference, 20,000 total (which is the capacity of the conference center), there has simply been a cut back on civil society attendees and an increase in delegation attendees.

– Alice

An International Court on Environmental Law?

Today, I sat in on Climate Justice and sustainable development: Intensifying the dialogue between EU, India and China.

The IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute made a case for a climate community. Key moves would include the EU scaling up finance, reducing administrative costs, and reducing competitive distortion. India’s problems include too many small entities and lack of data.

Yet, India has introduced some sound domestic policy initiatives that, if successfully implemented, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The EU can significantly help India implement these initiatives, though the existing financial mechanisms are inadequate.

Check out more here:

One panelist said, “We’ve got to be able to recognize india’s prime concern is still that Indian people are in poverty. Climate change is going to make this an increasingly more complex project.”

The panel also made a case for having an International Court for the Environment (ICE) because environmental problems are always international in their dimension.

They quoted Sir Robert Jennings, Former ICJ President:

“It is a trite observation that environmental problems, although they closely affect municipal laws, are essentially international; and that the main structure of control can therebefore be no other than that of international law.”

Other courts, such as the International Court of Justice (which only has access to the state), the International Criminal Court (exclusively criminal jurisdiction and not focused on the environment), are not capable of processing international environmental law cases, the panel defended.

After talking to people like Becky at the Yale reception, who organizes lawyers to create a global network of legal counsel for any COP15 delegation, and after meeting George Collins and Paul Beaton, both Yale Law and School of Forestry Students, it seems that ICE may not be too far off the horizon…