SCCS blog from Copenhagen climate change negotiations - week 2

Stop Climate Chaos Scotland has sent a delegation to Copenhagen to promote the Scottish Climate Change Act as an example of ambitious climate change legislation that should be followed by other rich countries.

Dr Sam Gardner, Co-chair of our Policy and Advocacy Group will represent us during the first week of the talks (7th - 12th Dec), followed by SCCS Board member, Dr Richard Dixon, during the second week (12th - 19th Dec).

In their daily blog they will keep us up-to-date with what's happening at the negotiations.

Sam Gardner and Richard Dixon represent SCCS at the Copenhagen conference

DAY Fourteen - by Dr Richard Dixon - Sunday 20th December 2009

After Obama’s private press conference the world thought they knew what had been agreed and that became the story in the global media. But the conference was not actually over for another 20 hours and the delegates came back together to decide that, actually, they didn’t want to adopt the document now known as the Copenhagen Accord. A number of countries complained about the big countries stitching up an agreement between themselves and subverting the UN process.

By eight in the morning the conference had argued itself to a standstill and was adjourned while officials, aided by the UK’s Ed Miliband, tried to work out how to get some formal acknowledgement of the Accord. This ‘short’ break turned out to be two hours long and finally their solution was to get the conference to agree to ‘note’ the Accord, the weakest possible form of recognition.

It was pretty painful watching these people, most of whom have had almost no sleep for 36 or even 48 hours, trying to get their heads round the intricacies of UN protocol language. At one point the Chinese negotiator mistakenly slipped into English and the interpreter kept translating English... into English for a few sentences.

Ban Ki-Moon tried to put a brave face on the outcome, suggesting that it started of lot of good things, but it was clear that Copenhagen had delivered far less than almost everyone had hoped. The environment groups had managed to keep their spirits up through the night but as they head back to their own countries they will start to feel pretty glum.

Leaving Copenhagen on my train heading for Germany and the frozen Eurostars was a great relief. Just a week of climate summit madness feels like it shortens your life by at least a month. It is 26 years since I was last in Copenhagen and though it is a nice city with friendly people, forgive me, but I don’t feel I’ll want to return any time soon.

 

DAY Thirteen - by Dr Richard Dixon - Saturday 19th December 2009

Friday started with a live input to the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme from the roof of a hotel which was also a ship. It was the first time I have had frozen toes while on the radio.

The world leaders tore up their agenda as soon as they got here. Many of them worked through the night and at 10am the first of several leaked texts of what is now called the Copenhagen Accord came in. There was not much detail in it and the experts round the table didn’t think much of it, but the message from inside the Bella Center was that there was lots of work going on to improve it.

Eventually a number of world leaders gave public speeches. President Obama was a disappointment, with no further offers on carbon reductions or on finance. He did say that there had to be ‘movement on all sides.’ Back in the cattle market we got in a huddle and concluded that this meant he was saying that the US might move more if others did.

President Barroso of the EU also missed the opportunity to go to a 30% target.

It was not long before we heard that the leaders had been asked to stay an extra day. Some journalists were even talking about staying until Sunday.

Both in our teams and among those negotiating in the Bella Center there were a lot of very tired people. President Obama looked exhausted and Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen nearly lost his English at one point.

Then there was nothing for hours. We talked to bored journalists. We re-read the leaked texts. Then we watched the ultra-tedious plenary session dealing with all the administrative details of the last year’s running of the climate convention.

Following a flurry of rumours about who had or hadn’t left and who was talking to who, Obama gave a press conference only for the press corps who travel with him and it became clear that a poor deal from a subset of countries was all that was on offer from Copenhagen. Having squandered two years work and called it progress his parting words were “don’t miss the motorcade.”

 

DAY Twelve - by Dr Richard Dixon - Friday 18th December 2009

Yesterday only 300 NGO people were allowed into the Bella Center. Several NGOs tried to sit in overnight. The last two WWF people were extracted from their hiding place in the gent’s loos around 5am.

I spent the day elsewhere, first in an office WWF had been lent and then in the evening in an ex-cattle market which is now an art gallery and meeting space. When I arrived it was lit only with candles and people were singing songs about the planet. It got a bit more business like but the internet kept breaking.

As well as trying to keep track of the huge email traffic from people inside the Bella Center and out, I spent several hours watching the webcasts of the speeches by world leaders, watching for anything significant I should report to our network.

There were some interesting bits, like the Prime Minister of Malaysia suggesting an astronomical annual sum of funding needed by developing countries, Israel’s commitments to electric vehicles and Bolivia’s President Morales telling us that capitalism is the greatest enemy of humankind. But mostly it was a deathly dull list of minor initiatives and a catalogue of the impacts of climate change on their country.

There is still a very long way to go in the main talks but things are looking brighter than 24 hours ago, with new promises from the US on long-term finance, some movement from China on international monitoring, people actually making progress on the agreement texts and the possibility of the EU moving to a 30% target during the night.

In answer to a press question, Yvo de Boer revealed that he had booked his hotel room until Sunday morning but people are beginning to speculate that the involvement of the heads of state means that the conference can’t do the usual trick of going on through Saturday night and might really finish as advertised today. There could be 8 hours or 24 hours left to save the planet. It could make a big difference which one it is.

 

DAY Eleven - by Dr Richard Dixon - Thursday 17th December 2009

Wednesday started with braving the beefed up police presence and the snow to spend 90 minutes giving out more of our lovely Scotland badges, with colleagues from SCIAF. Again lots of people had heard of our 42% by 2020 target and most of those who had not were impressed. A good number of Americans and Australians took a badge and said: "Yes, I’m Scottish."

Wednesday was also the day that various groups had promised to invade the conference centre so security was very tight and the whole international Friends of the Earth delegation was stopped at the door for no reason anyone could explain.

Inside there seemed to have been no progress on finishing texts for the ministers, despite some groups working through the night. The presidents and prime ministers began their speeches about how seriously they are all taking climate change. Those from small islands and developing countries tended to talk about the importance of a new phase of the Kyoto Protocol to reduce rich country emissions. Those from rich countries tended not to.

Venezuela’s President Chavez revealed the answer to climate change was socialism. President Nasheed of the Maldives pointed out that the US refuse to support a goal of only 1.5 degrees temperature rise because they say they don’t have the technology to get there. The President pointed out that no-one knew how to get a man to the moon when JFK promised it but they managed that and more, just seven years later. I wish we had thought of that analogy when arguing for the targets in the Scottish Act.

But world leaders are also using their speeches to start putting a bit more on the table. Ethiopia talked about a small tax on flights to provide long-term funding for adaptation and low-carbon development. Another grouping that included the UK put several billion forward to halt deforestation . A day that was pretty depressing before lunch started to look a bit brighter but there is still plenty to do.

 

DAY Ten - by Dr Richard Dixon - Wednesday 16th December 2009

It is remarkable how popular you become when you have bottles of whisky to give away. Stop Climate Chaos Scotland had some whisky specially created to celebrate the Scottish climate change act. It is called 2020 and is 42% alcohol and both Sam and I have spent too many hours fighting with the UN bureaucracy trying to get some of it into the Bella Center. A battle we finally won yesterday.

With the help of some very enthusiastic students from Edinburgh University we have made sure that our whisky has appeared at the Scottish event on Monday, yesterday’s Climate Group event and at the KlimaForum, the civil society climate conference also happening in the centre of town.

It has also featured heavily in speeches from Stewart Stevenson and Alex Salmond, the latter coming up with a great line about having to water it down for those countries that don’t set tough enough targets. This is exactly what we wanted, an iconic Scottish product, slightly quirky, but with a serious message.

The latest outing for Mr Salmond’s thoughts on the 42% whisky was the Climate Leaders Summit, an annual gathering of majors, governors, premier and ministers from regional governments around the world. The Scottish media have been tough on the First Minister’s decision to come to Copenhagen, the latest stupidity being that the trip was pointless because he wasn’t going to get his picture taken with Arnold Schwarzenegger. As it turned out he was a keynote speaker on a platform with a president, a former prime minister, two state premiers, a prince and the CEO of a major electric vehicles company. He was talking to an audience of a similar calibre and Scotland’s targets, and his description of the whisky, went down very well. He also signed an agreement to work together with the President of the Maldives. This was a serious contribution from Scotland in a serious forum and the naysayers should be ashamed.

The very positive contributions from local and regional governments contrasted sharply with the lack of progress, or even trust, in the official talks yesterday.

This evening is Earth Hour, when lights all over Copenhagen will be turned out at 7pm to send a message to the heads of state now arriving. There will be children’s parades, celebrities and UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon. And possibly heavy snow.

ECO Cop15 newsletter for 16th Dec

A limited number of bottles of the 42% 2020 whisky is available to buy at www.royalmilewhiskies.com

 

DAY Nine - by Dr Richard Dixon - Tuesday 15th December 2009

There was double chaos at the Bella Center yesterday. At the negotiations the African grouping decided that the industrialised countries were not serious about a new phase of the Kyoto Protocol, the only legal instrument that can set targets for those countries. They refused to take part in other formal talks until this was resolved and so many hours of toing and froing by the UN secretariat ensued until everyone’s nerves were calmed and things got going again.

On the mundane level a huge group of people were left queuing for up to eight hours to try and register to get in. At least one person had to be taken away with hypothermia. Michael from Oxfam braved sub-zero temperatures in a kilt to give out badges and lanyards with messages about Scotland’s targets.

Things will be even worse today when a new rationing system is introduced allowing only a third of each grouping in. WWF is already looking at space in a shopping centre to use as a base of operations, and have people called up to the Bella Center when their expertise is required.

I found our three intrepid MSPs Rob Gibson, Patrick Harvie and Cathy Peattie in the queue and persuaded them to cut their losses and head up to the Scottish event in a nearby concert hall.

The Scottish event was tremendous, with a full house of 150 people from Scotland and around the world, great presentations from Mary Robinson and a great group of MSc students from Edinburgh University. There were good discussions on how business is going to help deliver on our targets, on climate change and human rights, as well as comments from people from India, Singapore, Canada and the US about how they could use the example of Scotland’s climate act to get more done in their own countries.

The Scottish evening finished off with a meal with Alex Salmond and ministers from Canada and Northern Ireland.

ECO Cop15 newsletter for 15th Dec

 

DAY Eight - by Dr Richard Dixon - Monday 14th December 2009

Sunday was a day of planning, with an incredible seven hours’ worth for the international Climate Action Network. We had several frank assessments of where each of the key issues are at in the negotiations and which key countries are good, bad or indifferent on each of these. We also looked at how we would respond to the different possible outcomes this Friday or Saturday.

It was the traditional party for non-government organisations the night before, so many participants started the planning session rather sleepy. I met some ‘COP smokers’ outside, people who don’t smoke usually but are on 20 a day and plenty of coffee during a climate conference.

Before the strategy session I saw Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaking at the Hopenhagen rally in the centre of town. He presented the UN’s Yvo de Boer with a large cardboard clock saying that time was running out. The large crowd also could see electric cars and hear all about wave power as well as listening to live bands.

Nearby is WWF’s Arctic tent with a life-size ice sculpture of a polar bear. This has been melting for a week and is now a very striking half skeleton.

Sunday was supposed to be a day of rest for the negotiators at the Bella Center but of course most of the environment ministers have now turned up so they have been meeting in their regional groups and between regions to try to understand agendas and blockages and agree starting points for the week ahead.

Today sees a series of Scottish events in town, with Stewart Stevenson doing his bit with youth delegations and then telling the world about the Scottish Climate Act. Alex Salmond turns up for a meal with guests in the evening and a series of meetings tomorrow.

It snowed today.

ECO Cop15 newsletter for 14th Dec

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