Environment Forum

The strange spectacle of too many heads of government

COP15picThere are around 120 heads of government at the Copenhagen climate talks, so many that it’s hard to keep track of the exact number.

Their presence has been trumpeted as a sign of the world’s commitment to tackling climate change. But in return for showing up, they all want a chance to address the conference – and by extension the world.

To fit all the dignitaries in, organizers have slots limited to five short minutes, which would probably be barely enough to cover their introduction back home.

Even so, the presentations are scheduled to go on long past midnight, and have already been running very late – because of course no one can interrupt or turn off the microphone of a head of state. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez managed to hold out for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile talks on agreeing the text of a deal have only just got down to work.

So the two live feeds into our media centre televisions, from the conference centre, are now offering up a strange spectacle.

Auxiliary verbs at 10pm and the scarcest resource – sleep

CO2tonneThe issues are global and urgent, but the bureaucracy can sometimes be mind-bogglingly slow and petty.

After a day of stalled talks, the 193 nations at UN-led climate talks finally met for a plenary to discuss one of the main drafts floating around the summit, just two days (and two hours) from the deadline for a deal.

First on the agenda – auxiliary verbs. There was a discussion of should vs shall, before an appeal from the chair.

from Mario Di Simine:

Change must start from grassroots, Schwarzenegger tells COP15

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The COP15 conference on climate change will be a success even if no deal comes out of it, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said on Tuesday in Copenhagen.

“It depends on what your definition of a deal is,” Schwarzenegger told the media. “The important thing is to move the agenda forward.”

The governor is in Copenhagen to participate in a number of events on the sidelines of the main conference. Before meeting with the media, Schwarzenegger delivered a speech to an audience of mostly non-governmental organization members on California’s climate change efforts and the important of leading from the grassroots level.

What can ordinary people do to slow climate change?

(Updates with comments from Knut Alfsen of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research, Oslo (CICERO))

Today’s expert panel discusses the question, “What can ordinary people do to slow climate change?”

Join the discussion and let us know what you think.

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Gidon Eshel, physics professor at Bard College:

What can ordinary people do to slow climate change? A lot.

Which is extremely important as it appears increasingly unlikely that Obama the president will deliver  what Obama the candidate promised.

from Mario Di Simine:

Coke says green strategy will win business

Having an integrated clean technology strategy will be a big part of winning  business in the 21st century, a Coca-Cola executive told Reuters.com on Monday, and its investments in refrigeration will likely have the biggest impact on that strategy long-term.

The world's biggest soft drinks maker has hooked up with Greenpeace on an initiative to eliminate hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) -- greenhouse gases with a high warming effect -- from its refrigeration and cooling equipment by 2015, said Jeff Seabright, Coke's vice president for Environment & Water Resources.

“We have about 10 million pieces of equipment that run in 200 countries around the world every day, and although we’re only 1 percent of the commercial refrigeration market we have an opportunity to really lead on this,” he said.

from The Great Debate:

Climate skeptic: We are winning the science battle

- Dr. Fred Singer is the President of The Science & Environmental Policy Project and Professor Emeritus of environmental science at the University of Virginia. The views expressed are his own -

The International Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) charter states that the organization’s purpose is to look for human induced climate change. The Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) does not have this problem. If we find support for human induced climate change, we say so. If we do not find support for human induced climate change, we say so. In fact, the first NIPCC report, of which I was a lead author, was called 'Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate'.

We see no evidence in the climate record that the increase in CO2, which is real, has any appreciable effect on the global temperature. IPCC relies heavily on the surface temperature data, which is distorted by a deletion of a number of surface stations. The 'best' stations were kept - the ones around temperature islands and by airports.

Packed train beats cheap plane to Copenhagen

Imagine standing packed inside a commuter train with a thousand other people, some in dire need of a shower, some apparently having eaten garlic for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Imagine your fingertips clinging to a metal overhead rack as you struggle to stay upright on turns and bumps in the track. And then imagine doing that for hours on end.

GERMANY-RAIL/STRIKESThat’s what the train trip from Berlin to Copenhagen today was like as some 45,000 demonstrators converged on the Danish capital for Saturday’s march. But the journey was still a lot of fun — and we saw a myriad of wind turbines in both northern Germany and southwestern Denmark turning in the breeze, and thousands more roof-top photovoltaic systems extracting what little daylight they could out of the mid-December sky.

Fortunately, most of the people headed to the demonstration were in a fabulous mood. And there was even a happy ending to the ride — for the last two hours of the trip, in Denmark, an extra four carriages were added so just about everyone ended up getting a seat for the final third of the ride from Berlin, via Hamburg and a short ferry-hop.

Forget polar bears, who will save the prostitutes?

Among the many messages sent out by politicians during the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen, “Be sustainable — don’t buy sex” has to be one of the least expected. This was the advice circulated by Ritt Bjeregaard, the city’s mayor and a former EU Environment Commissioner, sent via postcard to all the hotels in the city to tell them to stamp down on conference-goers looking to patronise prostitutes on their premises.

Prostitution is legal in Denmark (though brothels and pimping are not), and sex workers had been expecting to do a roaring trade during the two-week conference.

Mayor Bjeregaard’s note sparked an angry response from the Sex Workers Interest Group, which pointed out that its members are not breaking the law and promised free sex to any attendees who produced one of the postcards along with their conference accreditation.

Youth groups bending the ear of business at COP15

There are numerous youth groups at the Copenhagen Climate Conference (they are known as ‘Youngos’, short for young non-governmental organisations) and they have all come here to make sure their collective voice is heard as delegates negotiate an agreement on how to tackle climate change.

Youngos represent a significant portion of the 34,000 people who have registered to attend the conference, and some have even managed to gain access to politicans and business leaders to put pressure on them on ethical business strategies.

One of these unfailingly vocal groups is the United Kingdom Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC), which has travelled to Copenhagen to lobby businesses, investors and world leaders to adopt practices which would safeguard the environment for future generations.

from Mario Di Simine:

WWF, businesses deal on emissions

The debate over lowering greenhouse gas emissions is sometimes depicted as a fight between environmental groups concerned over the health of the planet and businesses concerned about economic growth and bottom-line erosion.

Occasionally, though, there is a meeting of like minds between the two.

The WWF has a program in which it partners with companies to target emissions reductions. The Climate Savers program is an agreement between the WWF and its partner companies to lay out targets and set out projects to meet those goals.

"We want to show that doing business and reducing emissions go hand in hand," said Matthew Banks, a senior program officer at the WWF and an economist.

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