Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Copenhagen conundrum: time to talk social vision?

In our minds Copenhagen has confirmed the inability of our political leaders to rise above backward looking self-interest and lead us towards a vision of a better world. Perhaps we need to change the way the climate change issue is framed.

In 2004 we responded to newspaper headlines claiming that climate change would cause "1 million species to go extinct by 2050” with the argument that sensationalist reporting of science risks tuning people off and undermines the credibility of scientists (Link for papers). Each year we debate with our students the merits of ‘over-egging’ science in media reporting and the related issue of fear-based messaging.

The arguments for and against are finely balanced. Overall we’ve moved to the view that headlines of impending doom help push an issue up the political agenda and attract people’s attention. However, we also argue that doomsday messages of future catastrophe and social collapse do little to bring about meaningful and lasting social change. This is because most people are focused on the everyday and block out (or worse dismiss) issues that are distant or beyond their control. A recent study by Saffron O'Niel and Sophie Nicholson-Cole in Science Communication link supports this premise and argues for more research on how to promote a 'deeper personal concern and lifestyle engagement with climate change'.

Maybe the lesson from Copenhagen is that fear-based messaging can bring politicians to the table but struggles to create the atmosphere for a solution. When faced with a serious problem we instinctively look after our own. Perhaps in order to move forward, we need to finds ways to articulate future visions for society that frame low-carbon futures as something we'd all aspire to because they hold the prospect of better and more fulfilling lives for ourselves, our children and others. In short we need to balance the ‘hurt to avoid bigger hurt’, narrative with a ‘building for a better future’ narrative.

To do this we should look to broaden the diversity of actors actively debating climate change of solutions. We need to move beyond the climate scientists-NGO-activist-bureaucratic nexus and their deployment of anxiety to mobilize and legitimate political action. Instead, we need to encourage and look to scholars from other disciplines - from psychology, philosophy, sociology and politics - to enter the fray and along with artists, writers, film-makers, religious leaders to engage publics in discussions on visions for low-carbon societies that we’d all want to be part of.

Paul Jepson and Richard Ladle, from

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The Copenhagen Accord – Final Nail in the Coffin or a New Beginning for Climate Policy?

The Copenhagen Accord is a beautifully written document and full of good intentions. I encourage everyone to read it. It can be found on the UNFCCC website, is quite short and touches on many of the contentious issues in climate change policy. Unfortunately, it is almost entirely lacking of any consequence or even content. Today, this document is literally empty: it contains two tables that are intentionally blank. Let’s have a closer look.


This is the first UN document that mentions the 2 degree target. This aim of keeping the temperature rise below 2 degrees from pre-industrial times has been championed by the EU and others for a while but was never formally adopted. Over the past year, however, voices have become stronger that temperature rise should really be kept below 1.5 degrees rather than 2 degrees to save human lives and many species from extinction. This challenge of the initial magic 2 degrees target might actually have made it acceptable for mainstream politics to acknowledge a 2 degree target rather than going with the more stringent 1.5 degree target. How we can prevent temperatures from rising above 2 degrees globally and what that means in terms of limiting greenhouse gas emissions today remains unresolved. It is a comfortable goal for policy makers, because it remains fairly vague. That is, of course, not according to the IPCC report which prescribes a radical reduction of emissions urgently to stay below 2 degrees. But who will be held liable when temperatures surge beyond 2 degrees? Will the signatories to the Copenhagen Accord be dragged in front of an environmental court? Right now, we are already at a one degree temperature increase. It is almost a farce that the agreement states to review a 1.5 degree goal in 2015. By then, given that we are not lowering emissions, it is difficult to imagine that we would be able to keep temperature rise below 1.5 degrees.

Further figures are in relation to funding adaptation and mitigation measures in developing countries. The sum of $30bn is to be provided within the period from 2010 to 2012. This money is to be new and additional and to be provided by industrialized countries. This figure is similar to what has been promised by the EU and the US earlier in the negotiations. More significantly, the agreement promises developing countries $100bn per year starting in 2020. This money, however, is to “come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance.“ After the financial crisis the imagination is left to run wild on what alternative sources of finance could be. This latter money is to be managed through a newly established Copenhagen Green Climate Fund. Note here that the Adaptation Fund of the Kyoto Protocol took more than a decade to set up, even though its financial implications are not as wide reaching as this new fund.

The reporting requirements of the Copenhagen Accord are not very different from what the Convention set out 17 years ago. The frequency of reporting has increased since then (from ‘periodically’ to ‘every two years’) but the content of national reports by rapidly industrialized countries do not require more stringent attention as emphasised by the US and exact guidelines are to be decided on within the Conference of Parties process.

The Copenhagen Accord also appeals to the forces of the market. “We decide to pursue various approaches, including opportunities to use markets, to enhance the cost-effectiveness of, and to promote mitigation actions.“ It is a very hollow commitment to the belief that the market will lower costs of mitigation action. After a decade of experimenting with market mechanisms and debating their flaws, falling for fraudulent behaviour and being exposed to years of arbitrage, this sentence seems to be a weak declaration that market approaches to climate action can still be seen as useful.

Surprisingly, the Kyoto Protocol is mentioned in the agreement. “Annex I Parties that are Party to the Kyoto Protocol will thereby further strengthen the emissions reductions initiated by the Kyoto Protocol.“ Does that mean that somehow, miraculously, the emission reductions promises delivered for information purposes only to the Copenhagen Accord next month will transform into a second commitment period? It is not clear.


Here, the writers of the Copenhagen Accord take a rain check: watch this space after 31 January 2010. Until then, countries have time to enlist (literally, sign up to the currently empty list) and express their intentions. Industrialized countries need to state their emission reduction goal for 2020 and the baseyear they calculate that on. Developing countries need to state their mitigation actions, including a wish list of actions that need financing from the wealthier nations.


Countries still need to sign on.

Emission targets still need to be set.

Mitigation actions in developing countries still need to be declared.

The finances still need to be sorted out.

The extent of the market mechanisms still needs to be determined.

The reporting still needs to be improved.

The planet still needs to be saved.

The Copenhagen Accord does not go beyond the Kyoto Protocol. More ambitious targets including a broader group of countries, more stringent rules on the market mechanisms and limits to using credits as alternatives to reductions could have all been negotiated under a second commitment period. Was it really necessary to start with a new agreement from scratch?

The bottom line

All seemed lost in Copenhagen when the Copenhagen Accord was agreed on as a last ditch effort to come up with something that had the word ‘Copenhagen’ in it. Since many of my American colleagues already call the Kyoto Protocol the Kyoto Accord, this name seems most agreeable to an American public. Whether this document can be called a treaty is another matter. The climate summit in Copenhagen has been marred by poor organization, posturing and arrogance as well as the usual political divisions and struggles. After two years of almost continuous negotiating since Bali, we would have been left with nothing were it not for the Copenhagen Accord. The world leaders have saved the day – just not the planet. One thing is clear: there is a whole lot more work to do. Luckily. The climate conference caravan can now move on. We already have dates for the next COPs – see you in 2010 in Mexico and 2011 in South Africa. In the meantime, climate change will take its toll and irreversible climate chaos is becoming inevitable.

Commentary by Bettina Wittneben

Saturday, 19 December 2009

out of control

More and more and more procedural issues... where did we take the decision on taking note of the Copenhagen Accord? We are not sure.
Every one is so tired, feeling numb.

Points of order, requests for clarification, double and triple badges of all colors, a resignation, the Secretary General into the Plenary in support of a specific document.... what is going on? Everything is out of control, and has been since last week, maybe for 10 out of 18 days.


the morning after and the year that follows...

The COP has just 'noted' the Copenhagen accord (this is not as strong as a decision) and countries can sign an annex to say that they accept it. The Copenhagen accord was developed in consultation with about 26 countries with the final deal done between Brazil, China, India, South Africa and the United States. The text has lost some of the key points including any specific reference to a 50% (or other) reduction in global emissions, has no reference to peak emissions, and has no specific country commitments. It sets a goal of staying below 2 deg C, accepts the forest (REDD+) proposals, commits $30 billion (balanced between mitigation, including forests, and adaptation) between now and 2012, and hints at $100 billion pa by 2020. In plenary the rainforest countries such as PNG and Gabon, some island nations, and the least developed all argued for supporting the Copenhagen accord and everyone agrees it isnt enough to prevent dangerous climate change. There is a goal to get some specific targets in next 6 weeks. More later.

Friday, 18 December 2009

BBC claims a deal has been done in Copenhagen

But its not a strong one. Looks like an agreement on a 2 degree target, some finance and monitoring with details filled in over next year. BBC reports Obama reaches a deal with China, India, South conferences about to start

The inside story

Yesterday morning, Rasmussen (Denmark) left the high level multilateral negotiations in the hands of Brown (UK) and Rudd (Aus).

By the night, everyone was in compliance with the dress code as indicated, and they had studied the "Conversation topics with the Queen" cards that were prepared well in advance. Yesterday night, the Queen Margrethe II of Denmark offered a reception dinner for Heads of State and Government. All of them attended.

But meanwhile no deal had been reached yet. Heavy rumours about a long night coming. Then it was official. After the dinner, Heads of State and Government were to return to Bella Center, discuss the shared goal and the contributions, and seal a deal. Could not been easier. In a sudden, all the delegations, prepared numbers, bulleted briefing notes, handed graphs... 2 or 3 pages.

Sarkozy and Lula convened. A group of developed and developing nations met at 11pm.
The Big Shots.
Tic tac tic tac. Around 4am, the Heads of State had come to an agreement. The next step was to put it in paper. The ministers for the environment (or its equivalent) came in.
A text was proposed. A short document. Four hours later, around 8am, no agreement on the phrasing of paragraph 3. The towel to the floor, the arms to the side., the bell rang. KO.
It was not possible to translate spoken words into written words. When we knew we were angry. Fours year of work to the trash bin. It is useless to say who proposed the text. Does not matter anymore.

Just before 9:00am, Air Force one was landing at CHP airport. The city semi-paralised. Police everywhere, even the parking lots exits and several streets all over the city were closed, with a police cars parked; a helicopter suspended over an area of the airport. No one could move.

The presence of a Head of State may tremble you. But High level does not always mean high-leadership.
Neither a long night full of Heads of State and Government, preceded by a delicious dinner (I presume) could make the magic.

THe negotiations are not anymore on climate, 2°C, or 450ppm. They are on who makes concessions on lifesytles of its people. We've come to the core, the principles that guide our lives in different countries. If they couldn't, then who?

Obama’s Hopenhagen

I have to admit, seeing President Barack Obama finally walk up to the podium did make my heart beat just a little bit faster. After so much hype about his arrival - the potential visit in the first week, then a firm commitment to support the process personally in the second week and, yesterday, some rumours that he may not come after all – it was exciting to finally see him there. Agile, hopping onto the stage, adjusting the microphone, obviously fully comfortable in his role of addressing the world on the most important issue of our time. It is all too easy to rekindle your hopes when you see President Obama speak.

His tone of voice was serious yet hopeful. He spoke of climate change being science, not fiction (a comment most likely addressed to his home audience), of not wasting any more time by talking, and of taking action now. Of choosing the future over the past. He eloquently reiterated the US position:

1. All major economies need to declare to take decisive action. The US proposing to reduce emissions by 17% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.

2. Transparency in the reporting of emissions that leads to a credible treaty and accountability of the parties.

3. Financing of adaptation in the poorest countries, with the US contributing $10bn by 2012 for the fast start and later, in 2020, being part of a $100bn funding effort globally. This is contingent on countries signing a treaty that fulfils the first two aims.

This triple aim of mitigation, transparency and financing could be the backbone of a new treaty, says Obama, one that has gone further than any treaty before.

President Obama’s speech was very moving, motivating and makes one think: hey, why have they not all gone for this great deal that seems so honest and makes so much sense. Well, let’s look behind the words and see what is left when we boil down Obama’s speech to what the US is bringing to the table and what they are demanding of others.

Stop talking, start acting – It must be a slap in the face of the countries that have been serious about reducing emissions since signing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. The US has spent the majority of the past 17 years either openly blocking progress or complicating talks to absurdity. Surely not Obama’s personal fault, but he is speaking for his country in this forum. Nevertheless, it is a positive note and gives hope for the US finally coming around to accepting climate change as a global challenge.

Choosing the future over the past – This is a direct confrontation with countries like Brazil (whose President gave a passionate speech just minutes earlier) who argue that industrialized countries have been polluting the atmosphere for the past century and cannot tell newly industrialized countries to halt climate change. It depends on your definition of equity. It depends on whether you look at emissions as a flow or a stock. Looking at emission flows, we know that countries such as China and India will be emitting much more in the future; looking at emission stocks, we know that most of the dreadful stuff in the atmosphere is due to industrialized countries having burned fossil fuels to fire up their economies in the past. President Obama wants us to look at climate change as a challenge for the future, not a bundle of opportunist behaviour of the past.

Mitigation – It is indeed very comforting to hear the US speak of mitigation. After all these years of the Bush doctrine, that is very refreshing. However, the numbers Obama is bringing to the table are very low. In his speech, he neglected to mention that the 17% reduction refers to the baseline year of 2005, a year of strong economic growth and high emissions in the US. Usually, negotiators refer to the baseline year of 1990, which is the one used in the Kyoto Protocol. When calculating the proposed US emission cut on a baseline year of 1990, we get a mere 4% of emission reduction. This is well below the proposed EU target of 20-30% and even below the US target that Clinton’s administration signed in Kyoto in 1997. I looked it up – it was 7% then. When Obama says ‘all major economies’ he means China. China has proposed taking on a target, albeit an emission intensity target, which takes the edge off the argument that the US has used for years to justify its refusal to act on climate change. It is questionable, whether Obama’s meagre emission reduction target can be called ‘decisive action’ and hence complies with his own first major aim.

Transparency – Now that China has come forward with a target, the US has a new complaint: are they really going to do it and how do we know? Both the Convention and the Protocol require industrialized countries to report their emissions according to agreed-upon methodologies. These emission inventories are checked by UN staff. Developing countries have been cut some slack and can report their emissions in any way they want and at any time they want. They do receive guidance from the UN but are not checked rigorously. Having said that, some industrialized countries have in the past failed to report adequately and timely. Given these previously agreed upon rules, countries such as China could take on targets but would not be monitored. The US, as an industrialized country and a member of the OECD, is under much more stringent requirements to report emissions. So, Obama’s requirement number two is firmly aimed at newly industrializing countries. It is a demand, not an offer.

Financing – Hilary Clinton already announced the large number of $100bn by 2020 yesterday. It turns out that this is not something the US administration will provide, but something that the US proposes to be part of as a global effort, both from governments and industry. It is supposed to be raised through public and private partnerships. It is a relief to see that President Obama was able to underscore that with a promise of a more concrete $10bn by 2012, similar to the EU amount, to support adaptation efforts by the most vulnerable in a fast start programme. But here is the hook – it is conditional to signing an agreement that the US deems ‘decisive’. Basically, it is a bribe for the least developed countries and other vulnerable states to pressure China to bow to US demands.

Mitigation, transparency and financing – Even with all its faults, the Kyoto Protocol already contains these three elements. Why not just ratify that and build on it to make it a better treaty in its second commitment period?

Overall then, Obama brings very little to the negotiation table: a mere 4% cut in emissions and some money if conditions are met. The only reason one can be excited about this is that, for once, they are not entirely blocking the process from the start. Asking China to open its books to UN evaluators is the gamble that Obama is willing to take to save the planet. If climate change is such a real concern to the country, why is the US not moving ahead with more ambitious plans to be part of the solution?

Bettina Wittneben


I just heard that Ban Ki-moon has asked world leaders and delegates to stay for another night. Maybe we'll get an agreement after all...


Still waiting outside closed doors....

Plenary has not yet resumed, many contact group meetings are also suspended. Obama and Chinese Premier Wen met bilaterally this afternoon. Obama was scheduled to stay until 5pm. German Chancellor Merkel apparently threatened to declare COP15 a failure at her press conference if no progress is made by 6pm when she leaves. Time is really running out. I haven’t heard anything new other than that nothing is agreed - except REDD. I am about to leave to catch my night train to Germany. My mind is still spinning with overall impressions and reflections. If my family lets me, I’ll blog again tomorrow.

Heike Schroeder
I have been following the REDD+ (i.e. forests) negotiations, and as a member of the Gabon delegation have been able to sit in on the contact group meetings and plenaries. Today I have been giving a few interviews on how the forest deal is going (Italian TV, BBC news hour, BBC Brazil)

Yesterday the negotiations resumed after the Danish presidency abandoned plans to introduce a modified text to move things forward (to very angry and emotive protests from China, Brazil, G77 and others), and resumed negotiations based on the negotiated draft texts that the negotiating teams had been working on until 7 am on Wednesday). The negotiating meeting the broke into contact groups to work on each of the issues, with reporting back at 8pm

Compared to everything else, the REDD+ text is in a good state. For the final meeting, about 40 very tired people huddled in small room and tried to move forward on outstand bits of the REDD+ text. Through skillful chairing and a few huddled breakouts a few more brackets were removed, but a few more remained. Having seen this process from the inside for the first time I am astonished how anything is agreed. The big outstanding issue is how REDD will be financed, whether there will be definite targets, and definite funding commitments. Everyone recognized that that would not be decided by this negotiating team, but at a higher level by the big negotiating team. As a newcomer (and less tired than the real drafters and negotiators), I was struck by a sense of history. The headlines and spotlights are in the big plenary next door, where the heads of state are gathered, but it is in small rooms like this that tired delegates are working through the nights developing the architecture of what REDD+, and other components of the climate deal, may look like. As Yvo de Boer said at the end of Forest Day , “don’t be blinded by the spotlights, it is up to you [negotiators and NGOs] to protect the nitty-gritty”.

Of course, nothing is sorted until the overall deal is sorted. But as long as there is some overall architecture for a deal (even if vague), I have the feeling that REDD+ will be promoted heavily as a positive outcome from Copenhagen. Barring the completely unexpected, the landscape for all those interested in the future of tropical forests is about to be transformed.


Informal high-level event convened by the Danish PM ... hours before end of COP15

After a long delay, the informal high level event is now starting. They were waiting for the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to arrive. Yadvinder and I are sitting at our laptops, watching. Ban Ki-moon is now speaking. Will this high concentration of political leadership now present in Copenhagen turn the tide? It seems that nothing else can. Next is Chinas Premier Wen Jiabao. He laid out China's efforts to date on GHG reductions (energy consumption by GDP dropped by 13% and share in renewable energies increased by 51%) and laid out China's target of 40-45% carbon intensity reduction by 2020 and willingness in transparent emissions monitoring. Next is Brazil's President Lula, giving a passionate speech. He says Brazil is willing to make sacrifices and to participate in the financing mechanism if an agreement is reached. Next, finally, Obama is speaking. But I am disappointed. It is very matter of fact and fails to inject anything new into the negotiations. He is convinced this danger is real and poses a risk to security, the economy and the planet (in that order!). To reach an agreement, there has to be movement on all sides. He does not single out America’s special role in this process at all.

Heike Schroeder

Deal or no deal?

Deal or no deal? Suddenly the tide seemed to be turning last night and a deal was not that out of reach anymore. This seemed to be in part thanks to Hilary Clinton pledging to help with setting up a $100 billion per year for developing countries if the right deal emerged here and China signaling concessions on monitoring emission reductions. Also, the issues of technology and adaptation were moving forward in the contact group. But there was no progress at all made on finance and mitigation. Maybe it was my imagination but things seemed lighter all of a sudden in the Bella Center.

So my guess is that something will be adopted, not the most ambitious but enough to officially call it a success. The heads of states were out to dinner with the Danish Queen last night. Then there was some sort of G20 meeting with important heads of state. According to the BBC, some draft political agreement was drawn up during the night to be rejected again by those countries not invited...

...Now the informal high-level event convened by the Danish Prime Minister is about to start, so Obama must have arrived....

Heike Schroeder

Thursday, 17 December 2009

24 hour countdown?

Parties need to have an agreement by 3pm tomorrow (or as close as possible to that time) so that heads of state who are in Copenhagen can officially seal the deal while they're there. But is this possible given the deep disparities on a large number of key elements among countries? Tuvalu wants a legally-binding commitment, while US delegates have admitted they can only accept a (non-binding) decision because their hands are tied by their Senate. So this is a tug-of-war between the US Senate and whoever is advising Tuvalu, one might wonder? It's a strange practice that countries can be represented by anyone (e.g. international experts), who may or may not represent national interest - whatever that really means anyway.
I was just in a contact group meeting where they had negotiating text on the screen. It was about the Climate [Fund] [Facility]. Unbelievable that less than 24 hours before an agreement needs to be on the table there is still very little that's actually agreed on.
Meanwhile, TV reporters are looking for Brad Pitt who is supposed to be here somewhere.
This place is cold, heartless, artificial. It's a strange feeling to be locked in here all day, while time is being wasted and progress is stalled. But it's also heartening to see the word come together here in pursuit of saving 'mother earth'. In the wise words of Gordon Brown, we need to advance national interest more intelligently because for all of us and our children there is no greater national interest than the common future of our planet.

Heike Schroeder

Who cleans the mess?

NGO's party, last Saturday, was full, completely full. The venue was a 2 story building with access on two sides of the block. It was difficult to move around, diffcult to get a drink.
Dancing people, climate change experts, young first-time-attenders, former chief negotiators.
You name it. At some point, while a nice group was playing at the stage, I thought I could shout "REDD", Ädaptation", "AWG-LCA" and each time at least 40 people would turn their heads and some would come and talk. But no one thinks about the aftermath, the hours after the party. Who picks up all the empty or half-emptied bottles? Who sweeps the floor? Who takes out the bags full of trash? Where do they put it? Are all the utensils always there, maybe next to the fridge full of local and imported beers?

A COP is similar. Two full weeks with its days and nights full of excitment. Parties negotiators moving around all at the same time, in coordinated dancing; energetic talking in the alleys; regional groups discussing their position; side-events with lots of interest information. At the stage, not the band but the celebrities. From Mr. Brown to Mrs. Clinton; from Bernarditas Muller to Mr. Jiabao; from Greenpeace to farmers from Canada.

But who cleans the mess once the COP is finished? This is not a rhetorical question and I do not refer to the physical place, the Convention Center where everything happened.
What I mean is who cleans the name of the host if something goes wrong, if no agreement is reached? Who takes all the garbage, the words and words of numbing comments that stop the process? Where is the Secretariat when delegates with badges are turned down and forbidden from coming into the site? Was the person in charge always there, next to the cart full of 5 kr apples?

The host of next COP has to stand up for the aftermath. It is almost obliged to. If no good results are obtained from one Conference, the next host could intervene to save the face, clean the mess, and raise the morale. It is not the first time in COP's history. It is the way it is.

From Rio to Geneve to Kyoto... to Bali to Poznan to Copenhagen. There is always the risk of failure and the probability of success. But when things come out bad... who cleans the mess?

A moment ago, a negotiation session on NAMAs was suspended because "the room will be used by the next group". No indication on when the discussion will be resumed and where will take place. No rooms available. And who cleans the mess?


Attending a COP is similar to looking at a Dali's painting. Full of symbolism, full of meaning, everyone with its own interpretation.

This week, the Plenaries were full of symbolisms.
Tuvalu's negotiatior, concluded one of his interventions with tears in his eyes. India's delegate brought the wooden box he received as a gift in Japan, when the Kyoto Protocol was agreed. Burundi saw Virgin Mary in Connie, the COP's President (at that time). Lesotho presented argumens about the "sanctity"of the Kyoto Protocol. Nigeria concluded that you do not kill the mother before the child is born.

Can't think about what all of this, in the inside means to all, in the outside.

One of the most recent symbolisms>

"We wait for you in..(guess)... where the Copenhaghen agreements have to be transformed into a legally binding agreement" (Mexico's President speech @ COP15, Dec. 15, 10:25am) Thus if you were still waiting for the agreements, a hintch of what to expect.


Dark clouds over the horizon

Heavy snowing yesterday night, strong wind this morning, dark clouds on the horizon...
the Bella Center looks empty. The absence of the NGOs delegations turned the Bella Center into something similar to the outside. A cold environment.

But in some way, it reflects the status of the COP-15. Chilling to the bone.
The high expectations built over the year about COP15 fall apart every second.
The resignation of COP/15 president took many by surprise. Connie was substituted by Denmark's Prime Minister Rasmussen. That was just the beginning of what was about to come.

Today, after 24 hours with no concrete negotaition of any issue on the agenda, the groups were re-convened. Now all the items are again under negotiation. Thus what happened over the last week and a half? Many, including Parties' delegates, wonder.

With hours before the Copenhagen clock stops, there are dark clouds over the horizon.
A political statement as outcome is closer than ever. Mexico is now at the core, is the point of convergence. As host of COP-16, everyone approaches my country. From the UNFCCC Secretariat, to Poland, to Belgium as next EU President, to Denmark...

Rasmussen dropped out of this morning high-level breakfast. The message was clear: who is next?
Dark clouds over the horizon

webwatching...the US congressional delegation is speaking in code!

Oh dear...Nancy Pelosi and others from congress are speaking at a news conference in Copenhagen. Clearly talking to America as its about energy security and jobs ...rather than talking to the rest of the world more directly about emission reductions and funding! Hope people understand they have to talk about jobs to get domestic legislation passed. But still good to see Waxman, Markey and others (including Arizona's own Gabriel Giffords!) all there to support a comittment to pass US legislation. they are more globally is of 2 degree target and unleashing a technological revolution as big as the internet!

I may have the chance to join a group to think through how to better communicate climate change to American public (and my Christmas will be devoted to editing an NRC report for US Academies on information to support US responses to climate change). I want the outcome of Copenhagen to inspire me not depress me so I can reenergize my own efforts!

Next step today needs to be EU offering to cut 30% rather than 20%. Angela Merkel hinted at that. And of course we are all waiting for China....and do something good

From the Oxford/UEA booth

I set up the Oxford/UEA booth again. There are a lot of delegates passing by, coming out of meeting rooms nearby the booth. Copsticks and reports are going like hot potatoes! I've also chatted with a few people on the state of the negotiations. Generally, delegates are pessimistic that an outcome can be achieved by end of this week. I suppose Obama is in a difficult situation, as he can either please his Senate or the rest of the world but not both. An Albanian delegate just said that the US is stalling and that the US will not agree to anything before domestic legislation is in place. Obama will be here tomorrow. Nepalese and Nigerian delegates say similar things. Spirit is down. I'm still hopeful that we can turn this around, Kyoto was no different to now. I am off now to meet with other RINGO members and then get together with old UNFCCC secretariat colleagues.

Heike Schroeder

US supports $100billion a year fund by 2020

Hillary Clinton has just done a news conference stating that US supports $100billion a year fund by 2020...she doesnt say where it will come from though. First time US has supported this idea (proposed by EU). I think this is important news. Now its probably up to China for next move on the chessboard

Mexico and Indonesia being good guys

Watching head of state speeches on web...although most of the news is really grim now from Copenhagen with talk of failure there are small rays of light from two big developing country emitters...Mexican president Felipe Calderon promised a 30% reduction in GHG from business as usual by 2020 and Indonesia just promised 25-42% if there are some finance deals. Media doesnt seem to be covering this.
Juan, Yadvinder and Heike in the Bella Center at around 10am

Inside an empty Bella Center

Yadvinder, Juan and I are sitting in a cafeteria outside the plenary. We made it in ok but there was no secret bus to take us to the conference after all and we didn't need our passports either in the end. We even first got in with our old badges but were then told we needed new ones. Things are quiet in here. Plenary should start soon with the Mexican President making his statement. He was just awarded a prize but Juan and I couldn't get into the area where it took place because we have the wrong badge colour. I heard that there are now 130 heads of states here, which is the largest number ever to be in the same place at the same time. Hard to believe, but the pressure is on. I am hopeful that what Ivo de Boer said at Forest Day is true, they are not going to come here for failure.
Juan and I didn't get plenary passes. But I heard that laptops, bags, etc. are not allowed inside the plenary. And NGO people can only be escorted inside in groups. So instead we'll be able to be online, which is good too. More news soon...

Heike Schroeder

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The World Wants a Real Deal!

Tutu’s famous words:
“We marched in Berlin, and the wall fell.
We marched for South Africa, and apartheid fell.
“We marched at Copenhagen — and we WILL get a Real Deal.”

posted by Max Thabiso Edkins

A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall

Bob Dylan’s 1963 classic about floods and rising oceans is taking on new meaning in Copenhagen. The song has become a bit of a theme song for climate action. For the first time in its seventeen-year history, the United Nations climate summit is being bombarded with massive protests inside and outside the conference centre.

Inside the conference centre, representatives from poor countries and small island states have managed to halt the negotiations to bring attention to their needs. These groups of countries have in the past been treated with much care and given special allowances by the UN, but really, they were merely seen as the moral voice at the negotiations, the victims and the ones who will lose out. Tuvalu has always had the power to make negotiators face the detrimental impact of their decisions, for example, when their delegate pointed out that the two degree target proposed by the EU will mean Tuvalu will disappear. This sort of statement caused a sober response and a solemn pause in the negotiations – for about five minutes. In Copenhagen, these countries are refusing to remain in the victim’s role. They are not willing to be treated as children alongside a much more important adult game. They are standing up and speaking out.

This sense of renewed courage is also vivid in some of the main environmental nongovernmental groups. It is unusual to see so many protests staged inside the summit. Indigenous peoples are being encouraged to speak out, climate change victims put on the megaphone. Protesters have even been able to climb up on centre stage of the negotiations voicing their concern. They have matured from the main group organizing the famous NGO party at half time of the negotiations to taking a stance even if it is uncomfortable.

Outside, the cold temperatures have not been able to freeze activists’ anger and frustrations at the slow pace of international climate action. There are solid calls for payment of the ecological debt, setting ambitious, science-based emissions reduction targets and abolishing false climate solutions such as offsetting, nuclear power or clean coal. The number of arrests must be in the thousands by now but activists still managed to approach the conference centre in great numbers in an attempt to take over the talks.

Civil society has now been effectively barred from observing the climate talks. The Danish police are stepping up the defences of the climate bureaucracy. They have already brought out the pepper spray, police dogs and batons. There are still the water cannon that are rumoured to have been purchased before the summit. A meeting of over one hundred heads of state in the coming days will require high levels of security, at least for the ones on the inside.

Will these two sets of climate protest merge? Today they almost did. The crowds inside and outside the summit wanted to unite but were held back by police. Some of the delegates inside the summit have defected to the alternative summit outside because they are frustrated by the negotiations. Perhaps pushing NGOs outside of the confines of the summit will expose them to the more radical thoughts at Klimaforum.

Which one of the two protest movements will create enough momentum to change our collective path into climate chaos? Will the heads of state come out strong in support of climate change mitigation and adaptation? Will the alternative platform gain so much strength that its solutions will ripple through grassroots movements across the globe?

The good news is that there is momentum – perhaps for the first time since climate action was called for at the UN over twenty years ago. Climate change melancholy is over. It is time to roll up the sleeves and get a-workin’.

Bettina Wittneben

A few stops along on the metro...

As I learned today, not all the important Copenhagen events are taking place in the security-controlled, internationally manifold acreage of the main conference site. This morning, I traveled half a dozen stops down the metro away from the Bella Center to participate in the COP15 Humanitarian Day. Cold, in a tent, and with no more than a few dozen observers, the start of the event was sadly symbolic of the plea of the very subjects the day was devoted to (especially given the context of the state-of-the-art, multi-million dollar spectacle of the main COP site).

The plastic picnic tent venue was, however, made up for by the company. On stage was Robert Glasser, Secretary General of Care International, John Holmes, UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, Eric Laroche, Assistant Director General of the WHO, and Bekele Geieta, Secretary General of Red Cross/Crescent. Each gave a brief talk about the effect of climate change on vulnerable populations and the ways in which their organizations are responding to these new challenges.

The unification of these leaders under one tent was remarkable --not only in the sense of their prominence and commitment to tackling some of our greatest humanitarian challenges, but in the sense that they were all crowding together on the stage in freezing temperatures, speaking to such a small crowd. A cynic might say that this event was truly representative of humanitarian efforts in general (with, or without respect to climate change). Great minds and passionate hearts marginalized to the fringe speaking to a committed few while the masses are absorbed by the glitz and glam of big industry (energy), big government (delegations), and the buying and selling of interests on the floor of the main event (COP negotiations). An optimist, however, could say that this was a testament to these leaders’ resolve in championing their causes and engaging with those who are inspired by their work. Upon finishing their talks, each came off the stage and casually offered themselves to questions and conversation with the audience, dissolving any distance that may have been established by their presence on the podium.

To be honest, my brief interactions here were not entirely fulfilling, nor were they universally inspirational. They did, however, help me understand the human dimension of leadership in these organizations. Like the “evil-doers” in the political world and industry, the “do-gooders” of these groups must work within constraints to do their jobs the best way they know how, prioritizing projects and interests based upon their best information to maximize the positive outcomes for their institutions. Sometimes, or perhaps often, this might mean letting an intriguing idea fall to another who they think may have better resources to manage it. I mention this because I think it very easy to become disillusioned with an organization or individual for not prioritizing the interests we feel so evidently relevant and important to their presumed mission (e.g. the negative health impacts of climate change). The face to face contact, however, has helped me recognize the value in cutting those who we so idolize some slack, while digging deeper to discover our own imperatives and highlighting the causes we find most meaningful.

With round the clock negotiations debating the semantics of a document that will likely not have any legal binding power anyway, one cannot help but feel that the value in this event, for the majority of those in attendance, and certainly for myself, lies not in the actual creation of an internationally recognized text, but in the understanding we can find in new experiences and the imagination of a world outside ourselves.


remote anxiety

I am in London now watching the beginning of the high level segments on the Web. The PMs of Ethiopia and Grenada are speaking for Africa and AOSIS and I am finding myself feeling quite emotional about the whole thing. The plenary this morning had drama with one of the conference chairs (Connie Hedgard) resigning and replaced by her (Danish) prime minister and continuing complaints from G77 that processes are not transparent. A bunch of countries have asked to extend the negotiations by a day. Outside the conference center various live sites are showing encounters between police and protestors.

Yesterday, sitting at the airport I felt really depressed - all those planes flying in and out with their emissions (I will only feel better about my own flying if they agree an aviation levy for adaptation and if I can get more serious about not flying as much myself) and also because it seemed as thoughwe were still a long way from a serious deal in Copenhagen. While many people here are diplomats and others who come as part of their jobs and may be able to ride out the ups and downs of international politics I saw so many young people, native peoples, and others with so much hope and I fear they will be desperately disappointed. I've spent so much time thiis year working to get the science out in advance of Copenhagen (the March IARU conference, 4 degrees, the NRC committee, offset articles etc.) that I haven't thought about what I will do afterwards. Its clear by now that there will be a lot to do....thinking about how to react to the resurgence of climate skepticism for example...but because the next COP is in Mexico I suppose I might focus on working with Mexican colleagues.

But lets not give up hope yet. There are still 3 more days to go (maybe 4) and perhaps miracles will happen.


Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Snowing and snow jobs in Copenhagen

Its snowing quite heavily in downtown Copenhagen and watching the press conferences from the Bella Center here at the Business School we are hollering at the video screen as the EU and then the US are posturing and trying to say they are doing more without shifting their positions! But we just heard that Japan has put $10b over 3 years into climate aid.

RINGO refugees

My last post from Copenhagen. Restrictions on NGO access to conference center mean Oxford delegation has only a few passes, and even people with passes are lining up for hours to get in. So I am leaving to make space for others and will watch webcasts from my brother's flat in London. Several of us spent the last couple of days working with the University of Copenhagen to set up a hall at the Copenhagen Business School for RINGO delegates (Research NGOs), especially students, for people to come who cannot get into Bella Center. We now have a room with live web feed of press conferences and plenaries, wireless links, and a nice cafeteria nearby.

Conference seems back to work now and some people more optimistic. More later today.

Diana Liverman

Monday, 14 December 2009

Restricted Access – to Planet Earth

The United Nations Climate Secretariat has acted on its threat – access to the Copenhagen climate summit will be restricted starting tomorrow. Observer organizations, such as mine, the University of Oxford, will be restricted in terms of how many participants can be allowed into the conference centre for the rest of the week. Forty thousand officially registered participants are being limited to a group of fifteen thousand participants who will actually be allowed access to the site of the historic climate negotiations. That means that many of the observer organizations can only bring in less than half of their delegates. The rest are to enjoy the day in Copenhagen city.

The UNFCCC secretariat has always prided itself in providing for a very public and transparent process. Many of the negotiations can be followed online in real time and all official documents are accessible to the public. The UN climate secretariat has over the years made an effort to save documents on accessible CDs, distribute brochures explaining the process and its mechanisms. This is the first time that observer organizations are told to stay outside of the process, at least partially, at a time when climate change is topping the agenda of so many diverse organizations across the globe.

The reasons are understandable. A conference centre can only hold so many bodies before provisions for personal health and security cannot be granted any longer. Nevertheless, this innovative move sends a clear, yet perhaps unintended message: Some people are in and some are left out.

Who is in, then? Of course, country delegations. After all, they are the ones negotiating any Copenhagen outcome. Or are they? It is up to each country to bring the people it deems important to have at a climate summit. Extremely poor countries receive UN support to bring at least one delegate. Does that mean all country delegates are at the negotiating table? Absolutely not. Brazil, for example, brings several hundreds of delegates, many of whom are NGO or industry representatives. All acting in the interest of Brazil, certainly, but many in this group would not dare to ask for a seat at the negotiations. I talked to representatives from the Brazilian sugar cane biofuel industry who came as part of the Brazilian delegation – they thought COP was like an early Christmas treat for them! So many potential customers in one building!

Country delegations can also include advisors who do not even carry a passport to the respective country. As long as the government approves, they are in. Also, the governments in Copenhagen are not always democratically elected carrying the views and interests of the majority of their country’s people at heart. Governments more interested in backing a military regime or the ones run by corporate interests are more than welcome to attend the summit. Even countries who have over the past 17 years made no effort to ratify even the UN Convention on climate change will be attending the summit – such as the Vatican as the country of the Holy Sea.

Who else is in? Intergovernmental organizations, such as the World Bank, and finally the registered observer organizations that now have been given restricted access. For the latter, the UN secretariat leaves it up to the focal point, the person in direct contact with the UN, to decide who can get in and who is left out. Now these organizations face difficult decisions. Do they allow the seasoned climate negotiation observer into the sacred halls of the conference, or the innovative newcomer with fresh ideas? Does the person on payroll get selected first or the one who put in the most personal effort to travel to Copenhagen?

Isn’t this matter a simile for our real struggles in climate change? On our planet in 2050, wrenched by the unpredictable climate change impacts that we can still prevent now, there will be people who are in and those who lose out. Like with the climate summit, it helps to have good contacts in government. That will help grant access to cherished resources, such as fresh water, or shelter from floods and storms. Like with the climate summit, it will be those in power who can decide who stays dry, fed, healthy and secure.

This year for the first time, issues of climate justice are being championed on the centre stage at the climate summit. Countries such as Tuvalu, the Maldives and Bangladesh are fed up of simply being set aside as the moral voice of the summit. They are angry and many people are angry with them. These countries are still at the summit, but will they also gain access to Planet Earth in a few decades?

Climate justice is not only an issue across countries but also within countries. An increasing number of people will be living in fuel poverty in many Western countries. People may need to turn down the heat because a warm home cannot be afforded any longer when fuel prices increase. Living space is reduced when houses are flooded that are not insured. Small businesses cannot afford climate change adaptation measures.

Will keeping (part of) civil society out of the confines of the negotiations be successful? Grassroots organizations hammering out a Peoples’ Declaration on Climate Change at the alternative Klimaforum in Copenhagen may decide to ignore the UN’s cutting back of civil society participation and take matters into their own hands. Only broad participation across and within countries will allow for a just and effective climate treaty to emerge.

Bettina BF Wittneben

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Alumni dinner, agriculture and forests...and quotas on participation grrrr

Just returned from an outstanding ECI/Oxford alumni get together at a restaurant in Copenhagen - must have been 60 or more people there...too many to list but it was great fun and everyone introduced themselves and what they are doing. Included people on delegations for Pakistan, Turkey, and Grenada....and lots of people working for NGOs and in business. Some people looked a bit worse for wear after staying up most of the night at the NGO party on Saturday.

Weekend events included all day meetings outside the conference center on Agriculture, Forests, and Development in different parts of town. I went to the Agriculture event which was very good and I heard good things about the others as well.

The only real downer is that they are starting an entry quota for NGOs as of Tuesday. ECI has been issued 25 passes for each day but there are more than 80 people wanting to attend. We have to have a lottery and lots of people will be frustrated. I think its especially hard on the students who have come a long way and saved to be here. The UNFCCC should not have accepted so many NGO registrations....its awful to restrict it after everyone got here.

I am really excited that Mexico will make a committment to keep its emissions from growing. This is a serious committment from a non annex 1 country and may be key to a deal with the US. And everyone is hoping now that with all the heads of state coming in that there must be a reasonable hope of something that can be called success.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Midpoint assessments

Today (Saturday) I am attending Agricultural Day at the University of Copenhagen. Its a relief after the crowds at Bella Center as there are only a couple of hundred people and there are some good just now listening to the distinguished Indian agronomist Swaminathan, Gordon Conway spoke earlier, and we expect the US secretary of agriculture (Tom Vilsack) over lunch.

But I started the day with the terrifying but exciting task of being interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme (audience of millions! Can listen online at interview is at about 8.10am) about how the whole Copenhagen process is going. I chose to be relentlessly optimistic but was pleased to get the chance to defend the science - I was able to honestly say that I didnt think the attempt to undermine IPCC through the UEA emails had any significant effect on the negotiations at all. The draft texts are a strong reflection of IPCC and climate science (more on that below) and only a couple of delegations have paid attention to the media and climate deniers.

So what is happening in Copenhagen? Yesterday was exciting at the Bella Center. Late afternoon the chairs of the Kyoto Protocol track (the legally binding agreement that does not include the USA) and the Longterm Cooperative Action track (what may become the Copenhagen agreement including the US) released new drafts of texts that tried to bring everything together (you can read them on UNFCCC web site). There are still lots of gaps and brackets (things not yet agreed) and they are meeting today to try and iron some of them out before the ministers and heads of state start arriving.

So far as I can tell (and with lots of background insight from various alums and others) some of the key issues are:

Kyoto protocol will survive (and has to until they work out the details and mechanisms of Copenhagen agreement) and the major changes will include a new set of reduction committments for second phase (to 2017 or 2020) exact figures yet but maybe 30 to 40% from Annex 1, the inclusion of land use more broadly and especially deforestation within KP, some reforms to CDM (including easier access by poorer countries), aviation and shipping would be covered, and a larger adaptation fund (where they still need to figure out where the money will come from given that the big finance may be under Copenhagen agreement). The continuation of KP, so long as people sign off on committments, maintains carbon markets I suppose.

Copenhagen agreement could include a goal of 50 to 95% reduction in GHG by 2050 (80% likely), a target to stay below 2 deg C/450ppm (I dont think the AOSIS push for 1.5C will stay in) and some declared mitigation actions from both the US and the developing countries (who might promise to reduce rate of growth in emissions). Proposal might be for one big climate fund, looking like it might be hosted by World Bank, that would fund technology, forest protection, adaptation etc. The big question is how much money will be committed to this by the end of the week - at the moment the EU has made a good committment to short term (up to 2012) but the developing countries want to see long term promises. One of the most interesting options is the proposed levy on international banking. I think the amount of money on the table at the end of next week will be critical and the developing countries will have to see it as additional (i.e. not a diversion of existing foreign aid).

There are still many potential loopholes and things may fall apart still but if I take the long view - say from 1987 when the idea of a climate convention was a twinkle in the eye of scientists at the Villach workshop - its amazing to see how far things have come (yes, its too late and still not enough but still....). The drafts are full of text that refers to the latest research, includes (at the moment) a lot of references to vulnerability, adaptation, rights and equity. I think lots of things may not be figured out this week and will be deferred to UNFCCC meetings during 2010 including the next COP in Mexico.

Today (Saturday) is the first big day of demonstrations starting about now. I hope they are peaceful ...and keep the pressure up for strong action.


Friday, 11 December 2009

REDD Revelations

Negotiations on Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation and Enhanced Carbon Stocks (REDD+) yesterday centered on the scope and objectives of a potential Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation and Enhanced Carbon Stocks (REDD+) mechanism, with a number of proposals on the tables by various countries and negotiating blocs (for an overview of these proposals, see the Little REDD+ Book). While questions over specifics—including whether an agreement on REDD should include specific reduction targets—are still being debated, the linking of REDD+ to carbon markets is being discussed as a near certainty.

REDD+ is considered as one of the more actionable items on the COP agenda, and it is predicted that a binding agreement on forests may be one of few substantive outcomes of the Copenhagen summit. However, REDD+ is widely criticized by most stakeholders, from broad calls for the three “E”s—
equity, efficiency, and equality, concerns that have carried over from Poznan, to admonition of REDD+ as “carbon colonialism” by indigenous peoples who have seen their lands and livelihoods usurped in the name of the CDM. Despite these criticisms, an acknowledgement of the critical need to halt deforestation, which garners support not only on the basis of emissions reductions, but also as a strategy for protecting biodiversity and providing essential ecosystem services, drives the REDD+ process along.

But can REDD+ deliver on its essential task of reducing emissions? New research suggests that deforestation probably accounts for around 12% of global carbon emissions, both because deforestation rates have decreased in real terms and other sources of carbon emissions have increased in proportion to deforestation emissions (
Van der Werf, et al., 2009). The significant challenges of implementing REDD+ mean that actual emissions reductions from deforestation will be somewhat less than this. Substantial issues have been raised in determining appropriate baseline levels of deforestation, developing methods to prevent “leakage”—i.e. deforestation displaced from forests under REDD+ governance to those which are not , and ensuring that compensation is only given to projects that are truly additional, that is, forests that would be deforested without the injection of REDD+ monies. None of these are simple questions, and what is appropriate in one nation or for one driver of forest conversion, may be disastrous in another.

Furthermore, long-term ecological modeling studies in the Amazon suggest that under conditions of drought and higher average temperatures, forest dieback may switch the forest from being a carbon sink to a carbon source (
Cox et al., 2004).
The uncertainties on REDD+ extend beyond emissions reductions. REDD+ represents the largest potential financial investment into mitigating deforestation that has ever been undertaken. This investment will be delivered to developing nations for avoided deforestation (RED), forest degradation (REDD), maintenance of existing forest stocks (
PINC), and/or enhancement of standing forest carbon stocks (REDD+), or some combination of these options, depending upon which proposal is ultimately adopted. If REDD+ (or RED or REDD) prioritizes carbon storage above all other currently non-market forest services (e.g. biodiversity, hydrological and nutrient cycling), it will create trade-offs between these services that may prove to be ecologically—and economically, if the critical role of water and nutrient cycling are to agriculture and human systems—unsound.

To counter these very real challenges, we have added ‘D’s and ‘+’s and ‘PINC’s and a plethora of caveats to what started as a relatively simple economic, though potentially dangerous, economic tool. We have created a REDD giant.

Given the high stakes and high uncertainty associated with REDD+, it is necessary that we critically evaluate the potential that the current market-based proposed REDD+ mechanism may ultimately cost too much, do too little, and have adverse impacts on biological and social systems.

These are not easy questions, and the political momentum behind REDD+, after literally years of negotiations and consensus-building, makes it unlikely that delegates will want to reopen this Pandora’s box. But if they were to just take a quick peek inside, they might be well advised to consider one aspect of deforestation that is becoming increasingly more clear—
the increasing proportion of deforestation that is caused by export-driven commodity markets, namely cattle ranching, soya production, and oil palm plantations. If the problem with deforestation were narrowed to simply commercial markets for these commodities (albeit admittedly leaving the smaller but important problem of poverty-based deforestation for another, perhaps aid-based, mechanism) deforestation could conceivably be addressed through a trade-based, demand-side solution, akin to the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (EU FLEGT) Program. Perhaps the market that needs to be regulated is not the one that does not yet exist for forest carbon, but the very well established markets for global “deforestation” commodities. The thought of changing course so late in the game may seem the type of thing to send a delegation into a frenzy, but fear not, we merely need to add on a consonant. Ladies and gentlemen, meet REDD+T.

Kelly M. McManus

Reposted from Climatico

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Networking day

Amazing entries from Max, Przemek, Joel and Juan - really thoughtful and hard to match tired and late at night. Arrived at conference centre this morning to shouts of many young people in their underwear protesting at the metro station (and it was colder today). I agree with a previous comment about the very large number of young people here...with lots to say and well informed. Today I mostly met with my Oxford students who are here to discuss their dissertations (since they have not been able to see much of me) and also bumped into other people including Peter Newell (James Martin fellow now at UEA working on the CDM), Ian Burton from Canada (adding to my encounters with former professors of mine - I worked with him as a Masters student at Toronto when global warming was only just starting to be discussed), Bruce Hewitson from Cape Town (climate modeler from Cape Town with strong links to Oxford - I was on his PhD committee at Penn State), and a whole bunch of different ECI alumnae. Participated in the Research NGO closed session and have offered with Benito Muller and others from around the world to help draft a brief RINGO statement for the high level segment....we get 2 mins to represent all the RINGOs. Whatever we write will be delivered by a local scientist but we will have to figure out what to say. Traditionally the RINGOs are very neutral but we may feel the need to defend some of the recent attacks on scientific integrity.

I was also delighted to visit the Mexican delegation to catch up with some of the people I know - and happened to be in their offices when the US negotiating team of Todd Stern and Jonathan Pershing turned up to discuss some key issues with Mexico. I was on a more modest mission to discuss how we (Arizona, Oxford) might support some events in Mexico running up to their COP/MOP a year from now. Feeling a bit too tired to review all the complexities of the negotiations tonight. Will try to get a better sense of where things are tomorrow.


Other side of the coin

Here I am, 9:30pm, at one of the "Internet with Webcam for Skype and Messenger" computers at the Bella Center...
I am part of the secrecy, the other side of the coin. My regular work at the COPs consists on attending sessions where the drafting of texts (for every single item on the COP and COP/MOP agendas) takes place. I should intervene if something that is against my countries interests or principles is incorporated. The secrecy... or should I say the disconnect? The burden in each delegate's shoulders, many with prepared discourses for every single item on the agenda (And I wonder: do they really mean it? Is that really based on the "most recent scientific evidence?"). The art of repeating the words creates truth.

"Old" and "new" blood on the part of the delegations mix in every session; the "old guard" playing the game: last minute inclusion of some wording on the text; the use of verbs or adjectives that irritates the enemy; asking for the bracketing (the ever present brackets that inundate the text) and therefore putting the negotiation of that paragraph on hold....

Meanwhile the "new blood" is not sure of its role; asking for where the next session will take place; asking what does a contact group means and how it compares to informal consultations; unaware of the impact of the most recent brackets now shown in the text... "We finished, the text is ready!" without realising that now there are only one bracket at the beginning and another one at the end of the whole document. No more negotiation on this text until further notice. "The friends of the chair" will discuss it in a closed session (the secrecy) where irreconcilable differences are polished by a few delegates of a few counties and where common points are finally found. Most of the time, at the exchange of support and financing (and capacity building, and technology transfer, and, and, and)

The COP whole process is slow, feels archaic, weights too much.

The high expectations for Copenhagen now vanish. Internal politics play its toll. Some sessions are suspended given the lack of consensus.
Tuvalu argues that the Protocol provisions allow for Parties to propose amendments. One, two, four, ten... more than twenty countries back his intervention. Silence. No one replies but the Chair. Tuvalu asks her to go for a vote on the issue given the lack of consensus. If 3/4 of the Parties vote for, the amendments have to be incorporated into the Kyoto Protocol. The session is suspended until further notice.

Meanwhile, the youngsters prepare and give speeches where "coffins", "death" (and almost terror) are common to all of them. Some delegates applaud. Most are still thinking of what is happening and what they will tell back to the head of his/her delegation.

Attending a COP as a member of a delegation is not an easy task. I could be labeled as one of those mentioned by Przemek's waiter: "getting rich and using the money to travel around the world".

As matter of fact, life of a negotiator is not easy, seldom rewarded, and quite different compared to that lived by all the young people inundating the COPs. We are the evil incarnated in a tie and dark suit. You put your interests ahead over those of the World. Quite difficult to differentiate when is one or the other. Many times common sense does not attend the COPs.

And now, my country worries on what the expectations will be for COP-16.
"The remembrance of the future" says the oldest in our delegation. His has seen it all, again, and again, and again.

The other side of the coin plays its game... confident that we are working for the good of mankind... without realising that we are almost a decade late.

Juan C. Arredondo

The parallel worlds of Copenhagen

I got here on Monday night. The reasons: to meet people, educate myself, and to support my wife Marta, who organised a seminar on ecological consequences of climate change. On my way here I thought of all the vicious comments I read recently on internet (including the COP15 website) in relation to the email leak from the UEA. It’s a strange feeling to be aware that the emails’ contents do not mean anything important, and at the same time to see the damage done.

The seminar took place on Tuesday on the ship where the Norwegian delegation hangs out. Then, during lunch, we got verbally abused by the restaurant’s staff. We were told we are scammers who make up myths and travel around the world wasting public money. I see this as a direct consequence of the abuse of UEA’s emails and it really made me think about the differences in people’s perception of the world. Here I am, convinced that the Earth is changing dangerously and something needs to be done urgently. Here is my waiter, who thinks I am getting rich through some well coordinated international scam. Or maybe he doesn’t think that much and just finds pleasure in jumping on the bandwagon started by climate change deniers? It’s justifiable. First somebody breaks the law by stealing correspondence, and then twists its contents causing further damage, and then the press picks the message up without critical thinking or noticing that they participate in crime. I guess that could act as a message that a little abuse on climate change scientists is never a bad thing?

Soon after I have learned that our colleague Fabiane Oliveira died after getting very sick in Gabon’s forests. She was trying to clarify a few important bits of the puzzle. How do you compare this to sitting comfortably in front of the computer for the purpose of stealing other’s emails and smear campaigning?

So at the end of Tuesday I found myself overwhelmed by a mixture of sorrow and dismay.

When I finally made it to the conference, I started to be aware of two more parallel worlds. At the first glance the conference site looks like some kind of youth summit. In certain areas the average age is around 16. I was struck by how this huge crowd of young, happy and idealistic observers functions without connection to the much smaller group of negotiators, who draft the text in secrecy. I also feel very disjointed from the ‘core’ of the action; especially after I’ve learned that I am not allowed to get my hands on the drafted REDD text! But hey, who could really follow it all anyway?

While I am writing this the three speakers of the Tuesday’s seminar are being interviewed at the conference site and I am glad that bits of pure ecology find their way into the conference. So, mission accomplished, and now I can focus on meeting people and attending side events. I already came across a few people keen to discuss topics related to my remote sensing work. I think that after a rough beginning the conference will be gentler with me. Let’s hope the negotiators will also have some satisfaction from achieving a decent progress.

Przemek Zelazowski

Ditching REDD for geoengineering

A deliberate effort to steer myself away from all things REDD (crowded, uncomfortable affairs at COPs - although there are fewer of them at COP15 than there were at 13 or 14) resulted in my sitting in on an event entitled "Geoengineering the climate: Science, governance and uncertainty" (a Royal Society report of the same name was released earlier this year). I have previously no experience of the topic of geoenginering (other than a questionable Channel 4 documentary a couple of years ago about launching thousands of mirrors into space to reflect the Sun's rays), so I thought it would be interesting to test both the accessibility of the content of the presentations, as well as how interesting it actually is. As it turns out, it is very interesting!

The presenters all stressed that geoengineering was not an alternative to mitigation efforts - it is more of a way of providing an option for the future, in case of high climate sensitivity and/or inabilities to come to global and lasting CO2 reduction agreements. There are basically two broad options: let less solar radiation hit the earth or take CO2 out of the atmosphere. The solar options are characterised by being efficient (their effect could become obvious in as little as a year) and risky (no-one can accurately predict what the effect of injecting the upper atmosphere with aerosols would be); while the CO2 reduction ones are safer (we know we can do it safely - c.f. trees) but long-term (decades).

The presenters pointed out that the adoption of these options would ultimately not be technological (humans can't help but invent), but social: primarily the ethical acceptibility of these large scale (importantly DELIBERATE) climate interventions. But even if it is agreed that more attention should be paid to it: Who gets to control the climate - i.e. which entity sets the thermostat? If efficient technologies are developed, should they be publicly available or would that be too risky? Who does/has access to R&D? How do you conduct experiments, when it's the global atmosphere that we're talking about?

In truth, the session provided far more questions than answers, but very valid and interesting food for thought.

Joel Scriven

Senegalese agro-ecological impacts project manager seeks research collaborators from ECI

Hello ECI, Jasper Sky here manning ECI/Tyndall/UEA's booth at COP15 at the moment. A Senegalese gentleman has just stopped by and asked us whether there is a possibility that some researchers interested in climate adaptation in relation to agro-ecosystems might be found at ECI or among people we know. Here is a research opportunity, perhaps? Please get in touch with him if you're interested, or know someone who might be (Polly, perhaps this is your area?).

In his own words...

I am Souleymane Bassoum, Coordinator of Agrecol Afrique, an NGO in Senegal promoting local innovations in agro ecological farming adaptation on climate change.
We are working at community level and gathered a lot of rough materials. We are seeking
to have a connection with researchers in order to help us to digest such kind of informations.
My contact:

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

day one for me day three for many

Woke early to meet Julie's Bicycle team (Al, Catherine and KT Tunstall) for breakfast and then to the conference center where I was relieved that it only took 30 minutes to register and enter the center today. Was able to find ECI/Tyndall stand easily and find my way around. My first goal was to track down my own PhD adviser Steve Schneider and catch up. Was particularly keen to get his views on the email hacking and was not disappointed. His new book, Science as a Contact Sport is all about dealing with climate deniers and he doesn't mince words.

Next connection was lunch with ECM alum Simon Billet who is working for UNDP and had lots of interesting insights on what is happening. Also saw ECI alums Danae Maniatis (registered as a party for New Guinea) and had a long talk with SEI researcher Richard Klein about adaptation funding and eligibility which is a big area of debate. Then sat in on a long side event with speakers for Indigenous rights before heading back to the city center to speak at the Klimaforum. Its the alternative venue and full of people protesting for social justice and various issues. I saw banners on everything from WTO to corruption and whales to veganism. Was able to see Tim Jackson (sociology, Surrey) give a rousing speech on sustainable living without growth, then a session on sustainable agriculture, and then sat on my own panel on climate science and impacts where I thought we were a bit boring but we got good audience questions and response. A lot of discussion abotu forests and about climate science.

Then Will Steffen (Australian National University) and I found our way out to Katharine Richardsons (Univ of Copenhagen) house which is at the end of the local train line in one of the Royal forests. Her husband is, I believe, the chief forester for the Danish crown and the house is a beautiful old Danish farm/hunting lodge. They fed us a stew of local venison and we had a great conversation about REDD with another guest who is developing projects for Ecuador.

News from the negotiations is mixed. Apparently the negotiators want to nail a deal down before their heads of state arrive next week (they dare not leave it up to the leaders!) and the committment to funding that are on the table are helping smooth the way. I was reminded today that Kyoto is certainly not dead - there are two tracks here, the convention track (which the US is in) and the Kyoto track (which it is not). The diplomatic skill is to create parallel documents that work for both tracks and bring the US on board. Other signs look good for REDD to go ahead - within the carbon market with as yet undefined share of credits.


Rotten Eggs

Copenhagen is here. The world is set to come together to throw their eggs at a new climate change deal – or are they? Much of the discussion is on what Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission reduction targets developed (Annex 1) countries should take on by 2020.

Most following the climate change negotiations have safely placed their eggs in their negotiation baskets. How many of these will be broken is yet to be seen. Civil society for one, spear headed by the CAN International network, has published its Fair, Ambitious & Binding document highlighting what is expected from Copenhagen. The CAN eggs call on industrialized countries as a group to take a target of more than 40% below 1990 levels by 2020.

Similarly, much of the least developed world knows what they want out of Copenhagen. When it comes to emission reduction targets for Annex 1 countries their eggs are branded with bold “-45%” from 1990 levels by 2020. Their call is aimed at bringing GHG emission concentrations down to 350ppm CO2e, a target that returns the climate to a pre-industrialization state, as predicted by science. The Association of Small Island States has been throwing its eggs with particular strength, because they do not want to disappear under the rising seas.

But how are the eggs of the developed countries actually branded? Only three countries have presented ambitious emission reduction targets of 40% or more by 2020 from 1990 levels, namely Norway, Germany and Scotland. Of these, Germany and Scotland fall under the EU basket target of 20-30% reductions from 1990 levels by 2020.

Most developed country eggs are branded with a range and underscored with fine text stating what baseline year they wish for or whether carbon emissions from the land use and forestry sectors should be incorporated. Once transformed to a 1990 baseline the baskets of Australia, Canada and the United States contain the most rotten eggs. The foulest eggs in their baskets indicate pledges to increase their GHG emissions, while their best eggs project emission reductions of less than -10% by 2020. This is well outside of the range of 25%-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 required to stabilize at a GHG concentration of 450ppm.

In general the eggs of Annex 1 countries are rotting well below the levels required by science. According to the C-ROADS model the confirmed proposals presented would result in a climate stabilizing at 1035ppm CO2e, which could result in temperature increases anywhere between 2.2°-6° C. The healthier of the rotting eggs presented by Annex 1 countries would result in temperature increases of up to 4.5° C, which is miles away from the call to keep global warming well below 2° C.

So, let us throw all our healthy eggs at the developing countries to get them to commit to ambitious GHG emission targets.

By: Max Thabiso Edkins

Getting to Copenhagen

One of the ironies of the COP meetings is that bringing thousands of people from all over the world to gather together in one place is hardly the most environmentally-friendly act you can think of. So to encourage European attendees to reduce the climate impact of their journey, as well as highlighting the environmental advantages of train travel, the International Union of Railways (UIC) organised a special 'Climate Express' from Brussels to Copenhagen on 5 December.

I had a particular reason for travelling to Copenhagen by train, given that I work as the environmental adviser for the Community of European Railways, which lobbies on behalf of Europe’s railway companies in Brussels. Asides from rail industry folk, there were around 400 people on the train with me: these included senior figures such as Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP, Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, the vice-chair of the IPCC, and Isabelle Durant a vice-president of the European Parliament. There were also plenty of NGO representatives and activists, including Lizzie Gillet and Franny Armstrong, the producer and director of The Age of Stupid, Roz Savage, a UNEP ‘climate hero’ who has rowed solo across the Atlantic, and walked all the way from London to Brussels before getting on the train, and Alison Gannett, the founder of the Save Our Snow Foundation who was easy to spot thanks to the pair of skis sticking out of her backpack.

In addition, there was an assortment of media people who were looking for their first stories of the conference, including the BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, Associated Press, and representatives of several national UK newspapers. Somewhat bizarrely, there was even a reporter and photographer from The Sun booked to travel, but perhaps fortuitously they didn’t turn up.

Given the journey lasted most of the day, there was plenty of time to fill, so one of the coaches was set aside for a series of discussion panels on issues related to the conference. The train was also ideal for networking– with few places to hide, and only two stops en route, it was an ideal occasion to get to know many of the people on board. My particular favourite was meeting The Man In Seat Sixty-One, who has probably done more to promote international train travel in the age of the internet than any other individual. If you want to know how to get anywhere in Europe by train, then take a look at his website: getting to Copenhagen doesn’t automatically have to mean flying there.

Matthew Ledbury

Taking part back in the office...

It has been a busy start to Copenhagen back in the ECI and today I breathe a sigh of relief that the USB sticks, which we have been frantically trying to get out to the Oxford stand, have now all been removed from my office and are on their way to the exhibition centre. While a number of ECI affiliates are making their way to Copenhagen over the next week or so (we know of at least 60 Alumni, 16 current students from our MSc programme, and 25 ECI staff/DPhil candidates due to attend) many of us are staying put in Oxford to support and watch things progressing from afar.

While many of us have been thinking about COP for months and months (I should probably even say years?), we kick started our direct action a few weeks ago when the ECI knitting group began sewing a banner for the London Climate March last weekend: the Wave. Over 20 of us went along dressed in blue to proudly wave the banner (I must admit I was not one of them). From what I hear the day was very peaceful and enjoyed by all, with estimates of somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 taking part in London alone. It was good to have an ECI representation.

We have also been really busy trying to pull together a selection of research material from across Oxford University for a USB stick which is being disseminated in Copenhagen. For those of you not able to get your own USB, the material is also available online

You can keep up with all our other related news as it happens on the ECI website. I’m hoping to post updates throughout the two weeks, so do keep looking.

Deborah Strickland

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Arrival in Denmark

Arrived in Copenhagen which is full of people walking around looking for their hotels. Although I will be staying with a friend for most of the time (Katharine Richardson from University of Copenhagen) I am staying at an ecohotel near the main station tonight. Already bumping into interesting people - long chat with someone who has helped Virgilio Viana (from Brazil) set up a prototype REDD scheme in Amazonas.

News from the negotiations includes a 4 hour wait to register and get a badge and an exciting rumor that Russia will give the planet a Christmas present by retiring their unused credits (the so called hot air from emission declines after 1990). See the Climate Action Network ECO newsletter for details. Can't believe it will really happen.

Tomorrow I am meeting Alison Tickell and KT Tunstall for coffee (they are here representing the music industry and are associated with Julies Bicycle). Then will try to register at the main conference at the Bella Center and catch up with ECI alum Simon Billet who is here with UNDP and should have good insights. And at 4pm I am on a panel with the University of Copenhagen at the Klimaforum which is the alternative conference in central Copenhagen....we are supposed to be a science resource panel and answer questions.

Diana Liverman

Monday, 7 December 2009

Pre COP post from Diana Liverman

Last week I was with several hundred social (mostly political) scientists at the annual Earth System Governance (ESG) conference hosted by Frank Biermann and his group at VU-IVM Amsterdam (ESG). The ESG project is a new international collaboration of the International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP) which focuses on different approaches to understanding the governance of global environmental issues. The conference web site has many of the papers posted in full, and I especially enjoyed presentations by some of the graduate students who combined theory with empirical case studies. But it was also a good opportunity to hear some of the leading IR scholars like John Drysek and Ron Mitchell, and to catch up with some friends and colleagues like Max Boykoff, Kate Brown and Esteve Corbrera. Everyone was talking about prospects for Copenhagen with a mix of optimism and pessimism. The conference was held at a fairly rural conference center surrounded by cows and canals - but the weather was grey and rainy and did not help me feel healthier (I have a cough).

After chairing a session on the governance of agriculture in the morning I travelled to London in time to participate in an event at the Royal Academy of Art where my friend David Buckland (Cape Farewell) is one of the curators of a wonderful exhibition 'Earth: Art of a Changing World'. Opening a couple of days ago, the evening event brought together artists and scientists to converse in front of different exhibits and to answer questions from the public. I was asked to talk about the work I've done with the arts and cultural sector. The most powerful pieces in the exhibition (see photos to right) for me were Antony Gormley's Amazon Field (hundreds of small clay figures staring at you - you want to apologize to them) and Cornelia Parker's Heart of Darkness (made from burnt trees from a wildfire).

And I almost forgot that I was very happy that the commentary about the 4 degrees conference that I helped ECI to organize in September came out in Nature this week (New, Liverman and Anderson (

Finally, our colleagues at Julie's Bicycle are already in Copenhagen participating in discussions about the cultural sector. More than 100 music execs signed a letter and committed to an industry green spring to reduce emissions.

Diana Liverman
Posted by Diana Liverman at 04:58 0 comments