Live from Copenhagen: US climate science and NGO demonstrations

I arrived in Copenhagen early this morning and to my delight there was a shuttle bus taking COP participants to the conference center.  In front of the venue they have an illustration of one tonne of CO2 equivalent, which has considerably more volume than one would imagine.

I try to prepare my expectations in advance but COPs are always overwhelming.   Upon entry there is a sheer magnitude of conference space, activity, visual stimuli and people speeding in multiple directions.  The best thing is to pick a strategy for navigating the venue and the program, which involves first locating maps and schedules.  Nothing of much interest was on in the regular meetings so I headed for the EU Pavilion, a COP favorite of mine.  The EU hosts its own set of side events which are an excellent place to get a feel for the EU’s stance on the negotiation as well as its member country internal and external relations.  Clustered in the same area I found the newly established US Center, which has an awesome ‘science on a sphere’ visual screen which displays dynamic climate findings.

The expectations on the US are incredibly high at this meeting, so it was no surprise that the US center was overfilling attendees.  But perhaps as indicative of the US general stance, there are no political statements of targets or actions on the agenda, but rather climate science presentations including ‘cleaner cook stoves in the developing world’ and ‘climate change and coral reefs’.  The US climate science (as well as the climate sphere) is state of the art, but the topics on offer do little to promote or communicate a US commitment to a post 2012 agreement. Like the many individuals queuing outside, I am keen to discover the US’s actual political stance.

Later, I came across one of the more vocal NGO demonstrations.  The NGOs do not have a voice in the official negotiations, so they make up for it by bombarding delegates with their perspectives.  Friends of the Earth had formed a storm wall at one of the venue bottlenecks and declared their demand for a 40% reduction target by chanting ‘offsetting is upsetting’.  Catchy.  Whether delegates listen or not the NGOs are effective in that they are youthful, visual, vocal and difficult to ignore.  Cheers, Janelle Knox-Hayes

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