Home Articles Fear and hope at Copenhagen – a Gen Y perspective (pt 2)

Fear and hope at Copenhagen – a Gen Y perspective (pt 2)


Last week Wendy Miller provided her first review of the proceedings at COP15 in Copenhagen. At the start of another week of tense negotiating, Miller reports on the current make-or-break state of the summit and reveals what is being lost and gained.

I feel a huge sense of privilege, apprehension and global citizenship at being an active player in these historical negotiations — to be sitting here typing away with government negotiators on laptops next to me, having conversations with people from all over the world.

The 100,000 strong peaceful rally that happened on Saturday was incredible. We held a candle-lit vigil at the end of a four-hour walk from the city centre to the Bella Centre. It was freezing but everyone from around the world was there together, calling for real action. It was the biggest global warming rally ever.

In a nutshell the talks have just entered their second and final week. It was a dynamic first week punctuated by the leaking of a number of proposals; continued disagreements between developed and developing countries regarding their commitments; and by the inspirational leadership shown by the most vulnerable — the small island states.

We have also seen significant differences emerging from within the developing country group. Developing countries include economic powerhouses like China and India as well as the most poor and vulnerable like Tuvalu and Kiribati. While the former don’t want to make legally binding commitments, the latter are desperate for the strongest, most ambitious and legally binding agreement to ensure their very survival.

Right now two draft negotiating texts have been produced to form the basis of negotiations by the ministers and heads of state that are beginning to arrive for this critical final week. The gap between science and the draft agreement is enormous, as is the remaining gap between vulnerable countries’ needs for finance and the finance that has been put on the table.

Young people are playing a critical role and young Australians are working their hardest to keep the pressure up on the Australian Government, participate in international opportunities for change and to make sure Australia hears about what its leaders are and aren’t doing. We continue to have huge success with the media — it is amazing.

Kevin Rudd is about to arrive into Copenhagen, and Penny Wong has been here since mid last week. There are significant expectations on the Australian Government to step up their commitments and also to stop pushing for loopholes that will dramatically undermine the effectiveness of a deal.

The conference is about to house 110 world leaders — making it one of the largest gathering of world leaders in our history.

And now…  An update from Copenhagen — a bit technical but very real and incredibly significant in the “world” of the negotiations at the Bella Centre

It’s early afternoon.

Things are falling apart — is it the collapse needed to rally leaders to an agreement or is it actually a collapse of the process? It’s hard to know.

There are two major negotiating streams in these negotiations, one on the Kyoto Protocol and its continuation (and improvement) and one called LCA that includes the developing countries that are not included in the Kyoto Protocol. Developing countries will account for the vast majority of future emissions, so without them included effectively in a deal, we will fail to make the changes that science demands. The two streams are intended to yield two outcomes (perhaps treaties) that together create our new global agreement on climate change.

Last week, through the actions of Tuvalu and the nations in opposition to Tuvalu, the Kyoto Protocol stream of the negotiation was suspended, losing around one day of negotiation on this. This was centered around a brave plea by Tuvalu to stop the power plays and corridor negotiations and to get transparent, urgent and comprehensive discussions on the new form of the agreement. It drove a wedge between the traditionally grouped “developing countries”, bringing into sharp relief the huge differences within that group. At this stage it appears that not much has come from their desperate heroism.

Today things have escalated. The G77 just drove the suspension of the LCA stream, citing that they were unwilling to continue negotiating until the Kyoto Protocol stream is advanced (namely that developed countries put real commitments on the table). In response, the Umbrella Group (of which Australia is the spokesperson) suspended the Kyoto Protocol negotiating stream, citing that if the LCA was not moving forward then the Kyoto Protocol could not move either.

Both streams are critical for a new deal.

This followed the walk-out by African nations from a specially called major negotiating session for which the agenda was suggestive of discussing the blending of the two negotiating tracks into one. We don’t want this to happen. African nations walked out and the plenary was suspended.

So today, as heads of state touch down at the airport, only days until the high-level ministerial sessions (this is when world leaders take the material that they have and make decisions on it), no negotiations are proceeding.

In other news, to give a sense of how things are moving, G77 has swept aside the LULUCF area of negotiations (a really important debate around land use such as forests and agriculture) and now stated that LULUCF decisions will not be made at Copenhagen but will move to next year. They are off the table for this negotiation after over a year of immense work.

As countries hold their opposing positions and as the massive work mandates fall short of their deadlines, we may see a spate of damaging horsetrading, deferral of decisions, and fatigued decision-making.

This is such an explosive and dynamic time.

It’s also worth noting that civil society is slowly being given less and less access to the Bella Centre: On Tuesday and Wednesday, numbers will be limited to 7,000 via a pass system. Thursday numbers drop to 1,000, and Friday numbers will be limited to 90 — yes, 90 only for civil society.

There is ongoing debate about mechanisms for ensuring civil society can remain informed about the process being undertaken with the UN. It is unnerving to think there will be too few people in the centre to effectively monitor the negotiations and provide updates out to the world.

Civil society creates a huge platform of content and analysis upon which media then selects and shapes its messages and makes decisions on where it should be focusing within the negotiations. It also critiques negotiations, a role that news reporters do not play, and for which few journalists are effectively able to undertake due to the issues’ complexity.

This is truly history being written. We will never be here, with this challenge, and this opportunity, ever again.

You can follow Wendy Miller’s updates on Twitter @WendyMiller26