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Goodbye COP15, Hello Klimaforum ’09

So much for the transparency of the negotiations and the participation of civil society.  The Bella Center, where COP15 has been taking place, is being shut down to NGOs in limited numbers.  The center itself holds 15,000.  Through a 3rd party I heard that on Wed. the # of NGO participants was being restricted to 7,000, then 1,000 on Thur. and finally only 90 on Fri.  90 out of around 20,000 registered.  That’s .0045%.  A strong voice that is not.  On top of that, a secondary badge system has already been instituted and the odds of getting in tomorrow are slim as well (our group of 9 received 4 badges – not bad really). Read More »

Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed: “Leaders will only understand things when the people understand things.”

Heavy hitters in the UN: (from left to right) Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP; Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of WFP; Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed; Helen Clark, Administrator of UNDP and Chair of UNDG; and Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the WMO.

At “Advancing work on adaptation to climate change:  A United Nations system perspective,” top officials from five U.N. agencies spoke to a packed room.  They called for collaboration and cooperation between all U.N. agencies to be provided in any text to come out of COP15.  Speakers included Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme; Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Chair of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG); Ann Veneman, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), and Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).  H.E. Mr. Mohamed Nasheed, President of the Maldives, chaired the panel.  President Masheed began the discussion by emphasizing that developing countries will feel the effects of climate change first, and that, in the Maldives, ocean level rise is leading to salt water already contaminating fresh water reserves.  He emphasized that good governance is central to successful adaptation measures to protect people and ecosystems. Read More »

Al Gore et. al. Present New Report on Melting Ice

Al Gore thanking Dr Bob Corell

Al Gore thanking Dr Bob Corell

I just witnessed the unveiling of an important new report, sponsored and presented by Al Gore and Gro Harlem Brundtland (yes, that Brundtland), Greenland Ice Sheet – Melting Snow and Ice: Calls for Action. Other global heavyweights that presented were the world-renowned scientist Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, the Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Stoere, and Greenland Premier Kuupik Kleist. It was a standing room only event with many more waiting outside the venue doors.

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Beauty and the Beast and Tens of Thousands of Protesters

Christianhavn coal stacks backdropped by wind turbines

Christianhavn - the Christmas cafe and ferry

Christianhavn, protesters

Christianhavn, protesters

Christianhavn, Greenpeace moored in the harbor

Christianhavn, Greenpeace moored in the harbor

Christianhavn, protest chaos

Christianhavn, estimates range from 40,000 to 100,000 marchers

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Half Way

With the first week of the COP 15 coming to an end, a draft proposal is finally on the table, although it leaves many of the details still “to be determined.”

During negotiations this morning, Tuvalu made another impassioned plea for the world to realize that its very survival depends on a binding and effective  agreement.

Negotiations this afternoon went back and forth as the parties are still divided about whether or not to abandon the Kyoto Protocol  in favor of a totally new agreement.   

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Renewable Energy Advocates Get Upclose Look at Middelgrunden Windfarm.

Denmark has been a leader in renewable and clean energy for over 40 years.  While some policies were perhaps misguided, like banning car use on Sundays in the 1970’s, slow but steady expansion of the country’s renewable energy portfolio has allowed the country to maintain its emission levels while boasting of continuing healthy economic expansion.  One of the best examples of the country’s advances in renewables technology is the Middelgrunden windfarm located just offshore in Copenhagen’s harbor.  Built in 2000, it currently has twenty 2 MW turbines that generate a total of 40 MW of power (about 3% of Denmark’s total requirements).    Read More »

Reparations: Making Wealthy Countries Pay for Their Contribution to Climate Change

A major human rights concern in climate change is that of environmentally displaced persons (EDPs):  people who are forced to leave their homes because of environmental causes ranging from climate change, development projects, industrial accidents, environmental degradation, the environmental aftermath of war, and lack of natural resources.  The Red Cross has already declared that more people are currently displaced because of environmental disasters than war.  Yet, the United Nations’ definition of “refugee” does not include the environmentally displaced, leaving such people unprotected under international law.

One way to address the needs of people displaced by climate change, a tragedy that will be felt most severely by those living at subsistence level who are also those least responsible for climate change, is through controversial financial reparations from wealthy countries, those that have emitted the most green house gasses and benefited the most from those emissions.

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Happy Human Rights Day!

Human Rights Panel

On this day in 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  To celebrate the anniversary of this historic text and the principles it proclaims, several leaders in the human rights field gave a panel presentation today at COP15.  Panelists included Martin Wagner of Earthjustice and Ulrich Holstein of the U.N. Human Rights Council, as well as distinguished speakers from the Seychelles, Kenya, and the Inuit people of Canada.  They each emphasized the vital importance of taking human rights into account during the climate change negotiations.  The panelists explained that emissions reductions targets are inherently a human rights issue because anything over 1.5 degrees and 350 ppm condemns entire nations to devastating consequences and, in many cases, complete disappearance.  Read More »

Our Own Tracy Bach Presenting at COP15!

Tracy Bach, professor of law at our own Vermont Law School, is currently completing a Fulbright Scholarship in Senegal.  This afternoon she spoke at the Intergenerational Equity panel sponsored by the European Youth Forum, the Federation of Young European Greens, and the Comite Pour Les Relations Internationales de Jeunese.  Tracy focused her presentation on what she believes each generation owes to the next.  The core legacy obligations  are: 1) Options, 2) Quality, and 3) Access.  Other panel members included representatives of these youth organizations and they spoke on what actions their groups take to try and influence governments and delegates throughout the year and at relevant conferences such as COP15.

And the Dance Goes On

Corner Consultation

After Tuvalu’s call for a suspension of the COP yesterday, Steffen Schmidt was assigned the task of meeting informally with the parties to reach some resolution, the details of which were to be announced during the afternoon plenary.  Unfortunately, and somewhat predictably, the parties could not reach resolution in the few short hours allotted.

After announcing adjournment of the afternoon meeting, which focused largely on the issue of whether carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) should be included under the clean development mechanism (CDM) in the Kyoto Protocol, President Connie Hedegaard announced that she would have news regarding the suspension of the COP in the morning, as the informal meetings were to continue into the evening. Read More »

Lisa Jackson: Not at an “either/or,” but a “both/and” moment regarding U.S. climate legislation

Lisa Jackson, EPA Administrator, speaking to a packed US Center (and overflow room on video) at COP15

Today, U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson addressed a packed house at the U.S. Center.  Among the several recently announced climate related initiatives such as vehicle and building efficiency, it is clear that the final endangerment finding is the primary accomplishment of Obama’s EPA.

I witnessed the passion and commitment of Administrator Jackson’s efforts to return EPA to a reliance on science.  Notably, her enthusiasm puts a human face on a tremendously complex scientific issue that has severe impacts on ecosystems, humans and future generations.  Her energy for change and appreciation of the EPA’s progress is evident and inspiring.

Ashley Santner, former OECA and OIA law clerk

Another highlight of recent events includes the mandatory reporting of GHG emissions which provides the EPA, as well as the public, the ability to accurately assess the industrial sources of GHG emissions. Read More »

How to Respond to a “Climate Change Skeptic”

Suspended globe from official COP15 US Center - US agencies/entities running the US center include: Departments of State, Agriculture, Transportation, Commerce, Energy, Interior & Treasury, along with the EPA, NOAA and NASA. Check out the US Center at:

With the “leaked email scandal” from last week that many climate change opponents have turned to as “proof” that scientists have been falsifying, exaggerating, or just plain lying about climate change data, I think it is important to reflect on just how proven human induced climate change is.

If you aren’t convinced by the scientific bodies such as the IPCC, NOAA and the EPA (who finalized its endangerment finding to kick off the COP-15), then perhaps you would prefer to hear from some lesser known “climate science acknowledgers.”

First up at bat, who can forget our former President George W. Bush, a climate change denier for years, when he finally admitted that the effects were real and man-made and that  we need to “take this issue seriously“.

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What’s the deal with Tuvalu?

As mentioned in other posts, negotiations were suspended today when the island nation of Tuvalu asked for serious and binding committments from developed nations to help stem the tide (both figuratively and literally) of damage wreaked by climate change.   A protest ensued by supporters of Tuvalu outside the plenary room with hundreds of people lining the hallway and spilling into the main Great Room of the conference center.  Here is one picture I got.  For further info. on Tuvalu and what the nation faces, read the post from Wikipedia here ( “At its highest, Tuvalu is only 4.5 m above sea level, and could be one of the first nations to experience the effects of sea level rise caused by climate change. Not only could parts of the island be flooded, the rising saltwater table could destroy deep rooted food crops such as coconut and taro. Read More »

India’s Intervention – esprit de corps with Saudi Arabia

This representative stated that India, in esprit de corps with Saudi Arabia, agrees that a carbon capture and storage (CCS) program is the best option for mitigation.  


Representative of India, intervening at the plenary regarding CCS conclusions by the CDM board

Negotiations Breakdown?

COP 15 President Connie Hedegaard

COP15 President Connie Hedegaard about to start 3pm meeting after suspension of the plenary re-opening the session

The morning started out with a flurry of activity.  After some discussion about the logo and how certain parties felt it represented the end of Kyoto, the COP plenary commenced with the Tuvalu delegation proposing a contact group to review its protocol, which was proposed and tabled six months ago.  As proposed, the Tuvalu protocol is a legally binding agreement meant to complement Kyoto through amendments, as well as the creation of a new protocol entitled the Copenhagen Protocol.  In no uncertain terms, Tuvalu stated it was here to “seal the deal” and wanted nothing less than a legally binding document.

In response to the request for a contact group, many of the AOSIS countries expressed great enthusiasm noting they are the states most impacted by the effects of climate change.  As Cape Verde stated, “we will be the first to diasappear…in this climate crisis.”  Other countries strongly opposed the creation of a contact group, most notably, China, India, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.  The opposition was clear in expressing their feeling that the parties’ focus should not be on new texts.   The United States was unsurprisingly quiet.  Most alarmingly, however, countries within the G77 that had formerly been aligned were clearly divided.  Read More »