Louis Blumberg directs the California climate programs for The Nature Conservancy. He’s also been keeping us posted as an official observer to the UN climate conference. And yes, views expressed in his guest posts are his and not necessarily those of KQED or the Climate Watch staff.
Things Heat Up Copenhagen
By Louis Blumberg
Emotions erupted at the Bella Center today during the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. Demonstrations, street theater, leaked documents, heated words, threats of walkouts and huge crowds all collided to increase the energy level throughout the massive hall. Frustration was driven in part, according to one of the key treaty negotiators, by the fact that little progress has been made.
At this point in the process, the open meetings have stopped and negotiators are meeting in private to work out their differences. This loss of transparency was exacerbated when demonstrators disrupted one of the last public plenary sessions of the week and the organizers threw out representatives from all non-governmental organizations–including me.*
As discouraging as this emerging gridlock is, my optimism remains because I see that three key pieces, which are falling into place, can produce a real deal:
- First, for the first time ever, key countries, including the U.S., China, India, Brazil and Korea, have all put numerical proposals on the table to reduce emissions.
- Second, as I reported before, the U.S. is providing real leadership, in part by proposing a $10 billion annual fund to help developing countries reduce emissions and adapt to climate change while continuing to grow their economies.
- Third, President Obama and 110 other heads of state will arrive next week for the final negotiation.
In the meantime, the process of creating a new international treaty amps up…
Yesterday I joined 200 activists in a standing ovation for EPA Director Lisa Jackson as she confirmed U.S. leadership by listing the administration’s actions to fight climate change, including this week’s official finding that greenhouse gas endangers human health. [Ed. Note: This creates authority for the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases on its own, with or without enabling legislation].
African countries called for more forest protection. Delegates from one island nation faced with imminent destruction by flooding due to sea-level rise, threatened to walk out on the talks unless the developed countries exhort to cut emissions by 95 percent.
I, alongside a coalition of forest activists, struggled (in what may be a futile attempt) to close a new loophole in emissions reporting rules proposed by some European countries.
And finally, the energy, passion and idealism of demonstrators in costume–walking trees, polluters dressed in red, vegans for climate, and Mr. Green (you can figure that one out on your own)–were both captivating and inspiring.
The frenetic pace is both tiring and energizing and will only increase as we move toward the conference closing on December 18. But there is much more to come before then. Stay tuned.
*Ed. Note: We’re using the term “delegate” somewhat loosely here. Blumberg is a member of The Nature Conservancy “delegation” in Copenhagen but technically he’s an official observer, as are all NGO reps. That’s why he can be tossed out of sessions.