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Monday in Copenhagen


– SURGE Vice President and Temporary Foreign Correspondent, reporting from the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference

It was a pretty quiet Sunday, as the Bella Conference Center was closed – the highlight of the day was a great briefing on all the ins and outs of the climate policy. I also went to a lackluster panel on adaptation, full of World Bank and WRI boringocrats. But the one point that I thought was made vividly was the need for real funding for the developing world to adapt to the effects of climate change now and into the future, on the scale of $100B rather than the paltry $10B being suggested at the moment. I’ll include a few quotes that say it best, from panel member Atik (last name unknown), a distinguished Indian gentleman:

1. “You play with peanuts, you get monkeys.”

2. “The world is run by a golden rule: The one who has the money makes the rules. That’s what’s happening there. It’s not justice. It’s not principles. It’s deals. What sort of deals? The financial system falls because of a bunch of crooks and incompetent bankers and inefficiencies, and trillions of dollars flow, in New York, in Washington, in London, in Brussels, in Beijing, in Dubai, but the entire world is in extreme crisis, and we can’t do anything. ‘Sorry there is no money, we are constipated we can’t get our money out.’ [Applause].

“One who makes the rules, has to be looked at. These are nations states making the rules. And some of these nation states will unfortunately disappear. And in the United Nations there is no mechanism for making a water-based state. We can have two metres of land a bamboo pole with a flag and two people, and that is a state. But there is no state on water. The word of 100B was on the table, and that’s the minimum where people can start distributing it efficiently.”

“To get the trillion dollars – what index did you use? The poor people don’t look like me. They look different. Their calories are different, their salt content is different…This is one case where 50 million people will walk. There will be consequences, and nobody will have seen anything like it. ….We can do it. We can. Yes we Can!” [Applause]

That was Sunday.

…And things raced back into motion as Monday morning arrived. A bit of a late start put me in line for a little less than an hour to get into the center, but happily it moved fast and was well ordered by the Danish police, and by 10:30 I was inside and wandering around. 12:45 was a speech by Steven Chu, Energy Secretary of the U.S., on what the U.S. is doing on energy efficiency and renewables. He was preceded by the Indian Environment minister (I believe that was his position) who thanked the U.S. for its support on “clean tech” like “clean coal and shale gas.” Not exactly the best way to start a renewable energy talk…but Chu came on in due time and talked about some very cool potential technologies, including a research-phase massive aluminum metal-ion battery the size of a swimming pool which could store energy on the scale of Megawatts. Not kilowatts! Cool stuff. Also mentioned more efficient designs for small-scale wind, based on jet engine turbine design. The battery thing is particularly exciting if it is viable though, as it could provide a way store intermittent renewable energy in large quantities. Let’s hope!

The downside to Chu’s talk was in the numbers. He only proposed $86M more in funding (though this is on top of the existing money for renewables R&D)… a pretty paltry sum. Most exciting part of watching him speak was getting a wonderful glimpse of our very own Clare Sierawski, former SURGE Graduate co-Chair (2007) and future returnee to the WWS to finish her grad studies in the fall, provided that she can pull herself away from her awesome job as Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern’s special assistant.

Next in the day: Walkout by G77 and China. The developing countries threatened a walkout of the negotiations if they were not given assurances that the Kyoto Protocol was not going to be dropped from the negotiation table. Developing countries want Kyoto to remain in place, because it is the only mechanism that has binding commitments on the developed world….and they don’t want to give that up and allow countries like the U.S. to get away with “voluntary reductions” alone. The YOUNGO (the youth contingent) strongly supported the position of the G77 that Kyoto must stay, and also the position of AOSIS (the Association of Small Island States – which are at major risk of being flooded off the face of the map) that 1.5 degrees C is the maximum allowable. We’re on track for about 3.9 degrees (if I’m remembering the chart right) with the current proposals on the table – not good. All the youth from around the world got together for a 2-minute flash mob at 2pm in support of AOSIS and the G77’s standing its ground.

After Chu’s speech, I sat in on the international CAN (Climate Action Network) strategy session – great to see how they work, and they decided on the Fossil of the Day Award (, which was one by the U.S. today for basically failing to do anything helpful. Europe came in second for allowing a lot of “hot air” emissions to be counted as part of the baseline.

From CAN, I ran to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) office to meet with Professor Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton. His perspective, after many long years of going to COPs? There’s loads of politics and posturing going, but with so many heads of state arriving, they will come up with something by Friday. But how effective that something will be remains to be seen…

Then on to an all-U.S.-youth meeting, a breakout into working groups (I jumped in with a group working on getting messaging to Obama on Friday…stay tuned), and that finished out the day in the Bella Center.

At 7pm, I went to a small event organized by EDF with a collection of truly outstanding, inspiring youth climate leaders from around the world, including Amanda McKenzie, Youth Environmental Leader of the Year 2009 and co-founder of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (who is poised, inspiring, and generally very cool) and Kartikeya Singh, one of the co-founders of the Indian Youth Climate Network – didn’t get to talk to him as much but also very inspiring. Others there were from Indonesia, Vietnam, Botswana, and the U.S. It was a great chance to meet future leaders on climate, and an inspiration for me to do more.

That’s all for now, time for bed…but more to come tomorrow. The UN has restricted NGO attendance to 7000 tomorrow, handing out secondary passes that are rapidly becoming like gold…so I may not be able to get in, we’ll see.

Also see for a post by David Sassoon, whom I met Sunday night, about all the big wigs showing up tomorrow.

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