Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day 6 @ COP15: People Power

I woke up to sirens and helicopters buzzing overhead. Today was the big protest day everyone had circle on their calendar. Especially the local Danes who had apparently been cautioned by their leaders to seek refuge outside of Copenhagen with relatives and friends lest the unrest get out of control. Civil society organizations led by TckTckTck and 350.org had organized a march starting in the town centre of town and ending at the Bella Conference Centre approximately 6 km away. Organizers claimed they had 100,000 participants while police put the figure at around 30,000. Happily for all involved, “only” 350-400 protesters were arrested.

My personal participation was slightly more circumscribed. I skipped the march in 2 degree Celsius temperatures in favour of an early morning run, relaxing latte on-the-go and attendance at a candlelight vigil at the Bella Centre. Inbetween, I joined a few delegates in the Bella Centre watching the flatscreens beam in the march to the conference.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Day 5 @ COP15: It’s Miller Time!


If you’ve been gripped with Tuvalu fever after their passionate call for a binding agreement on developing country emissions, but you don’t know where to turn for updates that put it in context, then I recommend checking The Green Leap Forward. Those kids are staying on top of things and are attending the all-important press briefings.

Mayor Miller

The mayor of Toronto, David Miller, was on hand today to accept the second of Canada’s two Fossil awards. For the first time in history, a country was awarded two of three Fossil podium spots. Canada has the distinction of being that country as it took 1st and 2nd place. The EU pulled up the rear with a third place showing.

Canada’s two faux pas were explained by Climate Action Network as (a) proposing an emissions target based on science yet considerably higher than the reductions called for the by the IPCC or its Kyoto Protocol commitment and (b) it’s efforts to replace Kyoto with a new agreement.

Miller stepped up to accept Canada’s first place prize with a speech saying that Canada’s position does not represent Canadians nor its mayors. Further, he has come to Copenhagen to demonstrate that Toronto is positioning itself to be a global climate leader. After giving his speech he was serenaded about the evils of the tar sands to the tune of “My Heart Will Go On.”

Days 3-4 @ COP15 – Pictures are Worth Thousands of Words

So did we all enjoy Obama’s linkage of his Nobel Peace Prize to climate change? I thought it could have deserved a bit more attention, but the link was deftly intertwined into the speech (which can be read here). For those with short attention spans, it came before the philosophical debate of “is-ness” vs. “ought-ness.

Here in Copenhagen, it was the meek that were arguing for a chance to inherit the Earth. Day 3 brought us the island nation of Tuvalu (yes, THAT Tuvalu with 26 sq. km of total land mass) causing a mighty stir in the morning COP plenary sessions. Tuvalu wants all parties in Copenhagen to sign a new legally-binding protocol to complement an amended Kyoto Protocol. This would require developing countries to meet binding GHG emissions targets in addition to the ones required for developed countries under Kyoto. Tuvalu received support for its call from other G77 countries while found India and China leading the opposition against it.

Tuvalu’s call gained the support of many NGO observers who began chanting outside the plenary in the afternoon as delegates returned from lunch. Coincidentally, this was when I decided to eat my lunch so I had some entertainment as I munched on my dry beef and potatoes in sauce. As you might suspect, this was not a planned demonstration and security was not amused. The delegates were shuffled away from the plenary meeting room and out in front of the cafeteria area where I was eating.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Day 2* @ COP15: Getting My Feet Wet

My first day at COP15 in Hopenhagen was a bit anti-climactic as I still had some serious jet-lag issues and was finishing up some editing for a solar PV report I’m working on with Zizzo Climate Law. We are identifying the barriers to the adoption of rooftop solar projects for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. So despite the hangover euphoria of Canada “only” getting third place in the Fossil of the Day Award competition for Day #1, I was in my own little world. Nevertheless, there were some highlights:
  • At the opening of the conference, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer expressed his hope that agreement could be reached on a strong and long-term response to the urgent challenge of climate change.
  • A number of countries stepped up their willingness to take on commitments to reduce or limit GHG emissions in recent weeks, generally increasing hope at COP:
  • China indicated that it will target an emissions intensity reduction of 40-45% between 2005-2020;
  • Brazil has offered to reduce its emissions by 36-39% below a comparable reference level by 2020 including the objective of reducing rainforest deforestation by 80%;
  • South Korea has pledged a 30% cut below reference levels by 2020; and
  • Indonesia has expressed a willingness to reduce emissions by 26-41% below business-as-usual depending on how much assistance it receives from Annex I countries.
  • Copenhagen (renamed Hopenhagen for the purposes of COP) has pledged to be carbon-neutral by 2025 and given the multitude of cyclists and wonderful public transit in place, I wouldn’t bet against them.
  • The IPCC held a panel that opened with a fervent defence of the scientists at East Anglia who were at the centre of “Climategate” and the rigorous methods used in arriving at in their reports. Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC, drew attention to the criminal nature of the hacking.

    Thursday, October 8, 2009

    My Copenhagen Justification


    I have heard that the Danish capital is expected to welcome approximately 17,000 guests to COP15 over the next two weeks. No doubt a clearer picture of participant numbers will emerge as the conference moves forward, but it’s obvious that a lot of people will be travelling here from far flung destinations. (I suppose when one hears that one’s friends are (a) staying in Swedish hotels and (b) sleeping on ships docked in Copenhagen’s harbour, it’s obvious local accommodations are being stretched to their limits by hordes of attendees.) And while there will probably be a few participants who engage in the token long-distance bicycle ride or hike demonstration, many of us will be flying and contributing to GHG emissions in the process. If I take climate change seriously (and I do), how can I justify my own cross-Atlantic excursion as a principled decision?

    The scary answer is, that unlike some of the more engaged participants, I may actually have a prima facie relatively weak case. I am not a negotiator or member of a country delegation. I am registered as a delegate of the Canadian Bar Association but we do not even have an articulated organizational objective for attending. In this case, the CBA is basically facilitating the attendance of some of its membership. Nevertheless, I profess at least three reasons for making this trip and I’ll let you decide if any combination of them meets your exacting standards.