Jamie Racine - Expedition Copenhagen Delegate
Many voices sounded in the streets across Copenhagen this past December, and they came together late in the evening on the 18th of December as COP15 came to a close.
On that night, I sat in a small Danish apartment with a few of my fellow delegates and listened to President Obama give his final words on the accord. For the first time in near two and a half weeks, the world seemed quiet. Shock, exhaustion, disappointment, confusion... his seemingly empty words hung in the air. All I could hear was the breathing of my comrades and his political statement. Not a statement of conviction, of passion, of progression, of change... a statement of politics.
I felt deceived, brokenhearted, emotional and worn out. What had we worked so hard for? What does this mean for us? For humanity? What does this mean? I felt blindsided by the auditory wrecking ball delivered by my President that thrust a gaping hole into my relentless hope for the impossible.
The world was quiet and still.
I took some time to talk with my friends and put this new reality to the back of my head. Just for a few hours, then I returned to the quiet. The quiet that had settled over Copenhagen and over the youth movement. For the first time in two weeks, I did not have 350 emails to check by the end of the day. The world slowed back down. My psyche reverted to the corner of my mind with the over-sized sofa and low-light lamp where I go to reflect when I don't know what to think. This is where I stayed for the next few days and my long travels home.
A few weeks later and back at home, a renewed passion has reignited in my heart. I have returned home to the thought and aspiration that initially inspired me to apply for Expedition Copenhagen: local, sustainable communities.
I met hundreds of young people and thousands of people of all ages from all over the world; each of their home communities has different ways to meet the same goal as communities all over the world: local and sustainable. We need to take care of each other here, at home. We can address this global issue of climate change through local solutions. The Midwest specifically has phenomenal opportunity to become a leader domestically and internationally through clean energy development.
2010 must be a year of action. We must continue to hold our leaders at the top to the promises they campaign on, but we cannot go to the top alone. Our action, as we know, needs to happen at all levels of government and in the home of our community members.
As Obama addressed the plenary hall inside the Bella Center, many watched from outside since NGO's had limited to no access to the center today. His speech echoed through the concrete hall while all stared in silence. Furrowed brows headlined the uncertain glances around the hall at friends and strangers.
Is this the same President that moved us all so deeply just one year ago?
Is this the same President that called for change and the hope of a new future?
These questions, among many others, flooded my brain as a straight-faced Obama recited a cold, political speech that lacked his trademark hope, optimism, inspiration and humanity. The very traits that got him elected seemed to be buried underneath political goals and selfish motives. To his defense, his administration has done so much more than the previous. Yet today, a day that we all secretly (or publicly) hoped would bring a silver lining to the difficult and sometime dismal negotiations, we were left with seemingly empty words.
The moment that instilled great hope, passion and inspiration came from our peer; Juan Carlos is a native to Peru and is here with the SustainUS US delegation. He has been working hard and spent last night in the Bella Center with the other three youth that obtained access. His speech today, written in collaboration with the International Youth Climate Movement speaks to humanity across the globe, demands action and has moved me to continue forward.
This is a confidential doc that has been leaked, with the Annex 1 countries' pledges...when added up they amount to 550ppm and a 3 degree temp rise.
Before the sun hit the streets today, thousands opened their e-mail here in Copenhagen and around the world to read a leaked document from the Secretariat's office. The document outlines draft text from late night meetings at the Bella Center -- text that reflects a dramatically higher number of parts per million (ppm) than the IPCC and hundrescientists around the world agree to be safe for our survival.
Numbers have been a part of near every conversation in and outside the Bella Center: 1.5: the amount of inches in sea level rise that are tolerable for human survival in island nations 350: the ppm of carbon we need to stabilize the atmosphere 280: the highest number of ppm in the atmosphere PRE-industrial revolution 390: the ppm currently in the atmosphere 12 million: the number of global citizens for climate action; this number is continuously rising
"I was disgusted that after all the discussion around no more than 2 degrees, this comes out," Danielle Ostafinski states in response to the document. "Two degrees is even too high." Danielle is one of 500 youth from the United States and over 2000 youth from around the world. Over the last two weeks, youth have taken a stand behind the numbers 350 and 1.5 online, on the streets and in the Bella Center.
One of the leaders of the number campaigns is 350.org's Bill McKibben. His name was scrawled across the top of the leaked document leading many skeptics to believe that there is a conspiracy. They are using this to discredit his powerful global movement. Read McKibben's response to skeptics here.
Whatever the intentions of the unknown person that leaked the document (or conspiracy theories behind it), the fact remains that we are in the last 24 hours of the Copenhagen conference; we are down to crunch time and heads of state have flown in from all over the world to make their statements.
Hope is lined with anxiety throughout conversations across the city and world today as President Obama arrives. Though hope is focused on him to take strong political action and to do the right thing, the decision(s) he makes today or doesn't make will reflect the round-the-clock work of his negotiators over the past two weeks.
As youth, we hope that our voices will continue to ring through the halls and plenary sessions despite our exclusion from the process.
See the complete leaked document here.
Demonstrators walk out to join people's forum outside the Bella Center. - (photo by Daygot Leeyos)
As thousands marched towards the Bella Center this morning, hundreds inside marched out.
These actions were sparked by a combination of two things:
- limited access to NGO's (non-governmental organizations)
- 2. stagnant negotiations between Annex I (developed) countries and G77 (developing) countries.
The world's media are representing these actions with a variety of headlines. The majority of western (primarily Annex I) countries are telling the stories more from the perspective of the police and their reactions, i.e. Danish Police Brace for Protests and Danish Police Use Tear Gas against Climate Protestors.
In contrast, many developing nations' media speak to the less hostile action, i.e. Climate Talks Tense After Walk Out.
There are currently about a dozen youth (at least) sitting in or caring for those sitting in at the Bella Center. Stay up-to-date on their stories here.
With people walking out of, sitting in and walking many miles in the streets towards the Bella Center amidst police questioning and brutality, it's difficult to tell what action(s) in the city have the ability to make a significant difference on the negotiatiors' positions while also making political change back home.
In eight hours, the heads of states will arrive to begin the final days of work in the confines of the Bella Center as the world continues to roll in contentious debates around them. In eight hours, the work of negotiatiors will largely come to a head.
Eight hours ago, as the sun left Copenhagen in darkness, many civil society participants filed out of the Bella Center with the knowledge they would not likely have the opportunity to return. The Secretariat has limited access to civil society, turning away over 30,000 citizens from all across the globe.
As night fell, youth continued to gather in what is dubbed their convergence space to meet and collaborate within and across nation lines to strategize how their voice, our voice can continue to be heard from outside the Bella Center walls.
Throughout the conference center yesterday, rumors floated through the eerily static hallway like ghosts whispering urgent messages of what may or may not happen. Black suits smiled at cameras where folks in t-shirts once stood, danced and marched for collaboration and change.
A groundswell of emotion is stirring outside the seven-foot-tall fences, red rope and grimace-faced armed guards that surround the center. The mid-level officials inside yesterday held little testament in their talks to recognize the realities that have swarmed this center and city for the last 10 days. Their speeches were light and policy talk soft -- Governor Schwarzenegger laughed as he dropped his famous line,"I'll be back" to close his speech.
The Governator might be back, but starting tomorrow, most civil society will not.
On the brink of chaos and swarmed in confusion, the masses take in all they can on the last day of total admittance to the Bella Center, the conference facility housing the COP15 negotiations. Admittance badges for civil society will be limited to 30% tomorrow, down to just 1000 on Thursday and only 90 on Friday. The conversation, pace and spirit is uneasy and fast-paced. Groups are trying to strategically place themselves in and around the center to ensure the greatest impact and coverage.
To thicken the plot, the G77 (developing) nations have just walked out of the negotiations due to a deadlock in conversation with developed countries (aka Annex I). The G77 group is "a loose coalition of developing nations, designed to promote its members' collective economic interests and create an enhanced joint negotiating capacity in the United Nations" (Wikipedia) and includes the majority of African and South American nations, many in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
The AP reports:
"U.N. climate talks have been thrown into disarray as developing countries blocked negotiations, demanding that rich countries raise their pledges for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Representatives from developing countries said they refused to participate in any working groups Monday at the 192-nation summit until the issue was resolved.
The move was a setback for the Copenhagen talks, which were already faltering over long-running disputes between rich and poor nations over emissions cuts and financing for developing countries to deal with climate change."
So it's a debate of responsibility and equity in regards to carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. And although this walkout is a set back and the tension is high, many still talk with hope in their hearts, minds and voices.
COPENHAGEN, DENMARK - Fifty young Americans took over a climate denier conference hosted by a prominent conservative organization this evening in Copenhagen, rushing the stage and telling the live TV audience that a clean energy future is the real road to prosperity in America. The young people, merely a fraction of the more than 350 US youth in Denmark for the UN climate negotiations, entered a session of the Americans for Prosperity "Hot Air Tour" speakers series and were able to drop two banners and gain access to the conference's stage. The live event was webcast to over forty climate denier rallies in cities across the United States. See a video at http://bit.ly/4FAljl and pictures at http://is.gd/5hbUR.
The students entered the event in small groups, joining a paltry audience of five conference attendees, who had come to hear climate denier Lord Christopher Monckton speak about the Copenhagen climate negotiations. After the first five minutes of the event, student representatives from SustainUS, the Sierra Student Coalition, the Cascade Climate Network, and other American youth NGOs displayed banners reading "Climate Disaster Ahead" and "Clean Energy Now." After security agents at the event took the banners, the young attendees began a chant of "Real Americans for Prosperity are Americans for Clean Energy." The chant lasted five minutes, as the youth took the stage and displayed their message for the live video feed being sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, despite evasive action by Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips and his camera crew. As they left the stage, Lord Monckton repeatedly called the activists "crazed Hitler Youth" and "nazis."
"Clean energy creates jobs," says Rachel Barge, a 24-year-old entrepreneur from San Francisco, CA who was the first young person to raise her voice at the event, "These climate action delayers and science deniers are stealing bold, new economic opportunities from the American public." Laura Comer, 21, of Strongsville, OH, seconded Barge, saying, "We're representing the majority of Americans on this, particularly young Americans. The real America wants clean energy - not more fossil fuel-funded lies about the science."
"We are Americans for prosperity too," says Ethan Buckner of the Sierra Student Coalition, "Prosperity that's created through a new clean energy economy that will revitalize the American economy and provide millions of clean energy jobs for our generation and all generations to come." "We need a strong climate and clean energy bill from Congress and a science-based and just treaty in Copenhagen in order to jump start this new energy economy Americans are calling for so loudly," adds Ben Wessel of SustainUS, "The youth of America are ready to move forward into a sustainable future, and we need our elected officials to join us. We refuse to sit quietly today while our leaders decide the future of tomorrow.
Today premiered my stint with Stonyfield Farm's daily feature with Expedition Copenhagen delegates' interviews with some of the top leaders of the grassroots climate change movement. Check out today's interview with Garett Brennan, Executive Director of Focus the Nation.
This editorial calling for action from world leaders on climate change is published today, December 8, 2009, by 56 newspapers around the world in 20 languages. As a Wisconsin youth attending the conference, I can testify that the widespread media attention showcases just a sound bite of the energy pumping through the Bella Center on the ground here in Copenhagen today on the first day of these historical negotiations.
"Today 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.
Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year's inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world's response has been feeble and half-hearted.
Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.
The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years. A bigger rise of 3-4C — the smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction — would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea. The controversy over emails by British researchers that suggest they tried to suppress inconvenient data has muddied the waters but failed to dent the mass of evidence on which these predictions are based.
Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so.
But the politicians in Copenhagen can and must agree the essential elements of a fair and effective deal and, crucially, a firm timetable for turning it into a treaty. Next June's UN climate meeting in Bonn should be their deadline. As one negotiator put it: "We can go into extra time but we can't afford a replay."
At the deal's heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world covering how the burden of fighting climate change will be divided — and how we will share a newly precious resource: the trillion or so tonnes of carbon that we can emit before the mercury rises to dangerous levels.
Rich nations like to point to the arithmetic truth that there can be no solution until developing giants such as China take more radical steps than they have so far. But the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere – three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850. It must now take a lead, and every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade to very substantially less than their 1990 level.
Developing countries can point out they did not cause the bulk of the problem, and also that the poorest regions of the world will be hardest hit. But they will increasingly contribute to warming, and must thus pledge meaningful and quantifiable action of their own. Though both fell short of what some had hoped for, the recent commitments to emissions targets by the world's biggest polluters, the United States and China, were important steps in the right direction.
Social justice demands that the industrialised world digs deep into its pockets and pledges cash to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and clean technologies to enable them to grow economically without growing their emissions. The architecture of a future treaty must also be pinned down – with rigorous multilateral monitoring, fair rewards for protecting forests, and the credible assessment of "exported emissions" so that the burden can eventually be more equitably shared between those who produce polluting products and those who consume them. And fairness requires that the burden placed on individual developed countries should take into account their ability to bear it; for instance newer EU members, often much poorer than "old Europe", must not suffer more than their richer partners.
The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance — and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.
Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.
But the shift to a low-carbon society holds out the prospect of more opportunity than sacrifice. Already some countries have recognized that embracing the transformation can bring growth, jobs and better quality lives. The flow of capital tells its own story: last year for the first time more was invested in renewable forms of energy than producing electricity from fossil fuels.
Kicking our carbon habit within a few short decades will require a feat of engineering and innovation to match anything in our history. But whereas putting a man on the moon or splitting the atom were born of conflict and competition, the coming carbon race must be driven by a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation.
Overcoming climate change will take a triumph of optimism over pessimism, of vision over short-sightedness, of what Abraham Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature".
It is in that spirit that 56 newspapers from around the world have united behind this editorial. If we, with such different national and political perspectives, can agree on what must be done then surely our leaders can too.
The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history's judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice."
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