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Tuesday Update from Our Correspondent in Copenhagen

12/17/2009

Sorry for the tardy update here – it’s been non-stop busy!

Tuesday morning I got up early and headed off to the Youth Convergence Space, where all the youth groups have been meeting to coordinate. For the first time this year, young people are officially recognized as a Party delegation (as the YOUNGOs, or Youth NGOs), which means that youth organizations can get and give accreditation and can get official air time in the plenary sessions. At the YOUNGO meeting on Tuesday morning, representatives from the different groups voted on a common, agreed-upon message, and discussed other agenda items – interesting to see how the process works, at the least. Following a short and uninspiring talk by the writer Naomi Klein, I got a chance to speak with and interview two climate activists from Sweden and Australia who have been fasting for (as of Tuesday) 40 days in the Climate Justice Fast, to underline the urgency of this crisis and the need for climate justice. It’s inspiring to talk to them – not only are they fasting until the end of the Copenhagen talks, but they’re working as hard as everyone else to get media and influence policymakers through the power of their story – driven only by water and the strength of their conviction. I’ll post their video as soon as I edit it.

After the youth meeting, I headed to a funder group session with members of the Blue-Green Alliance; a coalition of powerful labor union leaders and environmental groups working to achieve strong climate change legislation that benefits workers while reducing emissions. Literally millions of workers in a host of industries were represented by the people in that room, and all of them were stressing the importance of good legislation to make the impact on their industries as positive as possible, and several of the industry leaders mentioned the hundreds of thousands to millions of jobs that weatherization alone will provide. A fascinating session – and simply hearing the numbers, like the 850,000 people represented by the United Steelworkers Union alone, made me really stop and think about the power for change that industry and business represents.

The B-G Alliance session was followed by an update on the negotiations – here are some rough notes:

Update on the negotiations, Monday:

– A real red-line issue for China is subjecting itself to external review. Monitoring they’ll allow, but not any kind of binding review. The legal structure is a major sticking point as well. If we can’t get to the point where we can say $10B are on the table at the end of the week, it’s not going to go. But often these things don’t happen until the last 48 hours. But, what are the last 48 hours? Usually it’s before the heads-of-state arrive – but they’re arriving now. They may end up being up late Friday night trying to hash something out.

– In these negotiations, many big external factors are at play – and, critically, the questions about money are still on the table. What happens after COP? People need to hold their governments accountable, but there’s little access to information about the real substance of the negotiations, and it makes civil society response, especially when the relationships between civil society and government are very different in different countries.

– The G77 and especially the Africans as a group are small delegations and have not spent much time trying to work out the political tactics. The G77 is now headed by the Sudan, who’s very close w/Saudi Arabia – an OPEC nation – and they may want the process to fail. So to take a more sinister view, it’s possible that the G77 could be very easily hijacked by the interests of one country and go along with it thinking it’s just a tactic to get better, more concrete results.

And to conclude Tuesday, a few thoughts I had after a long conversation about the impact of coal on climate change.

“I’m writing this as I sit in a room in the technical college in Copenhagen, a building with the most beautiful architecture. To one side, through adjustable-angle glazed windows is the massive rectangular building of Dong Energy’s coal-fired power plant, where four smokestacks pour out thick ropes of steam. 90° away, a view down Emil Holms canal – framed by the blue and silver glass walls of the college – leads past the elevated train system and to a large wind turbine. It’s emblematic of the Copenhagen negotiations as a whole – we have a choice which path we choose to take. The negotiators and world leaders here are looking in the wrong direction; it’s up to us to either turn them around, or lead the world into the future outside of the constraints of government.”

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