Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen
Friendly old girl of a town
‘Neath her tavern light
On this merry night
Let us clink and drink one down
To wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen
Salty old queen of the sea Frank Loesser
In an incontrovertible example of global swarming 35,000 official delegates and hangers-on descended upon Copenhagen two weeks ago for the UN’s climate change conference, which concludes today.
I am not sure about old queens but at the proverbial end of the day at the end of the fortnight, the negotiating glass was neither nearly half full nor half empty, depending upon your personal optimism setting. This was despite President Obama coming off the bench with his cheque book for the last play. (His speech about all nations “giving ground” would have had the leaders of low lying Pacific nations nodding their heads).
In fact, there is not much to celebrate. Despite the self congratulations of its diplomatic drivers and even if, as a negotiating vehicle, it was pointed in the right direction, Copenhagen looks more of a clunker than a clinker.
Hans Christian would have had a field day separating the fairy stories from the factoids. There were only some Thumbelina-sized advances, despite the Snow Queen and her ilk, including Father X and polar livestock, purportedly being in grave danger of getting the third degree treatment within the next century.
As might be expected very few officials- or protestors, for that matter- had arrived in the salty old town by sailing ship and several invited luminaries, including Prince Charles, arrived in private jets. (Even his scarf wearing mother used a scheduled train service two days ago to go to King’s Lynn in Norfolk for Xmas). It was just a tad too soon for Branson’s Virgin Galactic so the city was spared any ETs. Just as well-the ETS was quite enough.
Apart from the live and lively activities of a green deluge of tens of thousands of protesters, electronic petitions were a significant factor in accelerating cyberspace warming. With two days to go Avaaz* invited the global digital community to “sign the petition for a real deal” — the campaign already has a staggering 11 million supporters — over the next 48 hours let’s make it the largest petition in history! The name of every signer is being read out right now in the summit hall — this sign on at the link below and forward this email to everyone!“
Even if no one else signed the petition in the last two days-and it seems another 3 million odd did-to get through the list of names they would have needed 125 people simultaneously reading out aloud continuously for 48 hours. The Guinness book of records may be interested.
So was at least one politician. On an “emergency conference call” with 3000 Avaaz members two days ago, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “What you’re doing through the internet around the world is absolutely crucial to setting the agenda. In the next 48 hours, don’t underestimate your effect on the leaders here in Copenhagen”.
Not quite a brown out, but the other 109 (no, make that 110) presidents and prime ministers negotiating in Copenhagen no doubt also got the message: “We call on each one of you to make the concessions necessary to meet your historic responsibility in this crisis. Rich countries must offer fair funding, and all countries must set ambitious targets on emissions. Do not leave Copenhagen without a fair, ambitious and binding deal that keeps the world safe from catastrophic global warming of 2 degrees”.
Apart from the online mobilisation there were 3000 climate vigils in 140 countries last Saturday. Protests in the digital age make their analogue predecessors positively pedestrian, which, of course, they were.
Away from the last day’s superheated hyperactivity New Zealand can take some satisfaction from the agricultural pre-deal it initiated. Once he decided to go the Copenhagen Prime Minister John Key may have been elbowed out of the BBC climate change chat show by his jostling Australian counterpart, but, as NBR columnist Matthew Hooton points out, he at least has a significant agreement under his belt, courtesy of the work done in the months before Copenhagen by ministers Tim Groser and David Carter, supported by ex minister Simon Upton and MAF.
This significant initiative is not based on dubious market trading schemes but on research, development and the application of new technology that can reduce net greenhouse emissions. There is an impressive lineup of foundation members for the Global Agricultural Alliance who are funding new research, much of which will be done in New Zealand universities like Massey and Lincoln.
In this instance New Zealand was certainly playing to its strengths and lunching above its weight in diplomatic circles. That, at least, is worth celebrating.
#Lyall Lukey 19 Dec 2009