Archive for the 'Copenhagen 2009' Category

A question for Obama as ‘Copenhagen’ climate negotiations continue in Bonn

Was the world doing better on climate change under President Bush?

The focus on international climate change negotiations has receded since Copenhagen last year. Copenhagen was seen as a disappointment, with its much touted outcome, the ‘Copenhagen Accord’ looking like it could lead to an almost 4C in temperature rises, causing massive devastation – and solidifying the opposition to the Accord among many vulnerable countries such as Tuvalu and the Cook Islands.

So with less fanfare than last year, the countries of the world have returned to the table to negotiate further agreement on international climate action. The second official meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for 2010 will begin Monday in Bonn, Germany, with countries hoping to begin work on a pathway toward new legally binding agreements on emission reductions, funding for adaptation to climate impacts, and international institutions/governance.

There are plenty of new things to get your head around in the climate negotiations this year. There is a new executive secretary (starting in July); a new draft-negotiation text that has just been released; and a new infusion of ideas, courtesy of the People’s Summit held in April in Cochabamba, Bolivia. There is also, of course, new science, which shows that the situation for the planet is getting worse and that climate impacts could be more severe than previously projected.

Unfortunately, what’s old is the approach of the United States. Just six months after President Obama received his Nobel Prize for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” and his “constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting”, people across the world are beginning to question whether he has lived up to that inscription in his actions.

Under President Bush the approach of the United States was easy to understand and easy to vilify. Bush denied climate change existed. He withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol. And he obstructed international negotiations. In a famous exchange at the Bali negotiations in 2007 a delegate from Papua New Guinea, asked the United states: ‘If you’re not willing to lead, then get out of the way.’

The approach under President Obama has been much more confusing – until now. It has been confusing because the US has actively engaged in the negotiations, not blocking with procedural issues, and actively taking leadership on issues, but often doing so in a way that hasn’t pleased campaigners.[1] Now, however, President Obama has followed up on his bald-faced blackmail of small developing countries to change their position in negotiations with a submission that clearly shows that the United States is not blocking negotiations but trying to take them backwards.

As the rules now stand developed countries have a collective target for emission reductions (an aggregate target) and then they negotiate their individual country targets underneath that aggregate. The negotiations focus on how comparable each countries’ individual target is, for example that the UK is doing the same amount of heavy lifting as Germany, and they work to make sure that the total sum of countries’ commitments will meet the agreed aggregate target. They then negotiate on the rules for meeting these targets and the penalties for failing to meet them.

The United States’ recent submission refuses to negotiate on any of these issues. President Obama rejects an aggregate target for the developed countries, which means we can’t be sure of how effective their contribution will be. He rejects that targets should be comparable, so different countries do their fair share of the heavy lifting. Now poor countries like India and Bangladesh will have to do a lot more than the US to keep temperature rises from wrecking havoc on their communities. Obama also proposes that there should be no rules about how targets are met or what penalties for not meeting them should be. In effect what President Obama has announced is that the US will not negotiate on emission targets – on their size, on how they are determined, or how they are achieved. In this context when the US says it’s for a ‘legally binding outcome’ I’m with outgoing UNFCCC Executive Security Yvo De Beor when he asks what does that mean in substance?

It’s also got the world asking the broader question: what’s the point of negotiating with the US at all? If the US will do whatever it decides (a 4% cut on 1990 levels by 2020 with unlimited offsets), no matter what the world decides, then what value is there for the world letting Obama save face by pretending to be a part of the solution? Increasingly the answer seems to be: very little. Perhaps someone at Bonn will say: ‘We want to go forwards. If the US wants to go backwards, please go by yourself. We’re going forwards and you can join us later.”

To see what is actually said at Bonn check back here as I (and others) provide updates – I’ll also be tweeting @climatedebtorg

[1] See p. 48 of this report for an example of the US bracketing the entire text on developed country emission targets at Copenhagen

Dispatch 1: Rumbo a Cochabamba

The historic gathering of the worlds most affected by climate change is kicking off in Cochabamba this week. Delegations of grassroots activists from the U.S. are going to help give a voice to the “South within the North” – communities on the frontlines of the impacts of climate change and resource extraction and fossil fuel development. Below is the first blog from Jason Negrón-Gonzales of the Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project on his way down to Bolivia. For up-to-the-minute reports back from Cochabamba check out Global Justice Ecology Project’s Climate Connections Blog.

Dispatch 1: Rumbo a Cochabamba
Jason Negrón-Gonzales

I’m writing from the plane in route to Cochabamba for the People’s World Conference on Climate Change and Rights of the Mother Earth.  For those who aren’t familiar with the conference, it was proposed by Bolivian president Evo Morales in the aftermath of the COP15 conference in Copenhagen last December.  While that conference was billed early as “Hopenhagen”, this week’s meetings in Cochabamba, Bolivia hold the real seeds of hope for a global response to climate chaos that is rooted in justice, equity, and historical accountability, and led by global social movements of workers, farmers, and the poor.

What’s at stake?

While the world needed and hoped for a responsible and sufficient (if not radical) response to climate change, or at least a solid step in that direction, instead what we got in Copenhagen was more of the same: corporations and developed countries trying to extend their advantage and wealth.  The class character of the debate was striking.  One the one hand, delegates from Global South and Indigenous communities who are least to blame for emissions and are facing the loss of the livelihoods and homelands were demanding strong action now.  On the other, economic powerhouses like the US, which consumes about a quarter of the global energy supply, refused to be accountable for the environmental impacts of their economies and way of life.

Continue reading ‘Dispatch 1: Rumbo a Cochabamba’

Commonwealth Challenge: Will Massachusetts Lead the Next American Revolution?

Today Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino announced a $63 million investment to retrofit 4300 public housing units. The plan trumps Chicago’s $43 million project as the nation’s largest energy efficiency investment in public housing.

Mayor Menino’s announcement comes after Massachusetts finalized a three-year plan to triple utility investments in energy efficiency. Boston and the State of Massachusetts are moving toward a clean energy future. But will it be enough?

An emerging coalition of faith, business, environmental, and workforce development groups are joining The Leadership Campaign in challenging the Massachusetts State Legislature to double-down on recent clean energy and energy efficiency investments by creating a task force to achieve 100% clean electricity by 2020. The campaign – The Commonwealth Challenge, launched on March 4th – is not your typical political initiative.

Continue reading ‘Commonwealth Challenge: Will Massachusetts Lead the Next American Revolution?’

Remaking the Global Climate Framework

Originally published by The Stanford Daily

Two months ago, hundreds of world leaders and tens of thousands of activists gathered in Copenhagen to craft a new global treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol in 2012. Green groups put on a spectacle – yes, Greenpeace even docked two of its famous boats nearby to “help in pushing the delegates” – and some observers declared it a make or break event in global climate history.

Today, there is strikingly little to show for the whole affair, momentum has slowed to a crawl and hardly anyone is discussing the aftermath. For good reason: the Copenhagen Accord is basically a voluntary agreement with obscure objectives, and its impact will be negligible. Michael Cutajar, the former chairman of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiation group, said that “Beyond the lack of clarity in its drafting, its main weakness is the lack of ambition and identifying responsibilities… Who should do what, and when, in order to limit warming to two degrees?”

What went wrong at Copenhagen? As I recently argued on BBC World View, the outcome was primarily the result of a flawed UNFCCC process and policy framework. The first and most obvious problem was imagining that 192 countries – some of which represent thousands of times more people than others – could produce a meaningful climate mitigation treaty. The UNFCCC process is kind of like the U.S. Senate (today one of the most dysfunctional national legislative bodies in the world) but at least four times as complicated.

Continue reading ‘Remaking the Global Climate Framework’

The Climate Movement is Dead: Long Live the Climate Movement

Rising Tide North America is pleased to announce the release of our latest publication:

The Climate Movement is Dead:

Long Live the Climate Movement

In the aftermath of the COP15 talks in Copenhagen, the inability of the Big Greens, governments, and market approaches to find genuine and sustainable solutions to climate change is undeniable. As author Naomi Klein so aptly observed at the end of COP15 talks, “A particular model of dealing with climate change is dying.”

In the same uncompromising spirit as Rising Tide publications such as Deal or No Deal, and Hoodwinked in the Hothouse, CMID:LLCM delivers a timely critique of the failures of this “particular model” as exemplified by the mainstream NGOs who have grown all too cozy with corporations and the political establishment. It explores the ways in which “green” capitalism,electoral politics, and market mechanisms, far from solving the climate crisis, are some of the climate movement’s biggest obstacles.

Not content with mere polemic, CMID:LLCM charts a course that diverges from the dominant discourse of the mainstream climate movement. The essay lays out a strategy of supporting and escalating frontline struggles againstdirty energy while building a new global climate movement from the ground up, based around core principles of climate justice, grassroots power, solidarity, and direct action.

The Climate Movement Is Dead: Long Live the Climate Movement is a must-read for anyone left disenchanted by the mainstream climate movement, and all who are ready to step it up and fight for climate justice.

You can download a digital copy to view online or print yourself. Continue reading ‘The Climate Movement is Dead: Long Live the Climate Movement’

Call to action by Naomi Klein, Terry Tempest Williams, Bill McKibben, Dr. James Hansen and Peaceful Uprising

[The following was co-written by Naomi Klein, author of #1 international bestseller The Shock Doctrine, Terry Tempest Williams, world renowned wildlife author, Bill Mckibben, founder of and author of The End Of Nature, and Dr. James Hansen, author of Storms of my Grandchildren, and who is regarded as the world's leading climatologist. All recognize the trial of Tim DeChristopher to be a turning point in the climate movement. Please visit our resource page for more information]

Dear Friends,

The epic fight to ward off global warming and transform the energy system that is at the core of our planet’s economy takes many forms: huge global days of action, giant international conferences like the one that just failed in Copenhagen, small gestures in the homes of countless people.

But there are a few signal moments, and one comes next month, when the federal government puts Tim DeChristopher on trial in Salt Lake City. Tim—“Bidder 70”– pulled off one of the most creative protests against our runaway energy policy in years: he bid for the oil and gas leases on several parcels of federal land even though he had no money to pay for them, thus upending the auction. The government calls that “violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act” and thinks he should spend ten years in jail for the crime; we call it a noble act, a profound gesture made on behalf of all of us and of the future. Continue reading ‘Call to action by Naomi Klein, Terry Tempest Williams, Bill McKibben, Dr. James Hansen and Peaceful Uprising’

Funk the Warming Takes DC Fossil Hawks by Storm

Friday, DC Students for a Democratic Society and DC Rising Tide led a direct action parade against the Fossil Hawks. The War on Terror and the Corporate War on the Earth are one in the same. The same corporations that lead the world in CO2 pollution are the main lobbying force behind the Resource Terror Wars on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Palestine. The Fossil Hawks are growing ever wealthier off the war while military recruiters feast on 50% youth unemployment like vultures.

“Young people are turning up the pressure because we are not convinced by Obama’s promises to draw back from war and support a clean energy-driven economic recovery,” says Brian Menifee, Howard University student activist.

video from

Stay tuned for more footage from the parade, including our Green Jobs Not War action at the Armed Forces Recruiting Center.

From the press release…

Continue reading ‘Funk the Warming Takes DC Fossil Hawks by Storm’

Poem: How will we remember Copenhagen?

I wrote this poem on new years and thought I would share it:

The morning that followed
Our message was echoed.
A failure! A failure!
My heart in despair.

The science lost, funding tossed,
No commitment in sight.
A stench of injustice,
The result: A failed plight.

“What more did you expect?”
Accusing voices chimed,
“Your efforts are a waste
Of carbon, cash and time”.

Continue reading ‘Poem: How will we remember Copenhagen?’

Climate Generation: From Humble Beginnings To A Global Movement

Did you ever wonder where It’s Getting Hot In Here came from?  I mean beyond the Nelly song, which is now a distant relic of early-2000s pop culture.

Here’s that story.

It’s Getting Hot In Here, the blog, was founded at the United Nations climate negotiations in Montreal in 2005: COP11/MOP1.  Just that year Russia ratified the Kyoto Protocol, meeting the requirement that countries producing at least 55% of global emissions signed on for Kyoto to take effect.  Montreal was the first meeting of Kyoto Protocol signatories. It was also the foundation of the International Conference of Youth, the body that brings youth from around the world together to develop a common platform, strategy and story.

The atmosphere in Montreal was both hopeful and frustrated.  The Kyoto Protocol had finally come into effect, the first ever international treaty on climate.  This was a major step forward.  And yet, the United States and Australia, two of the world’s largest emitters, had refused.  While delegates met to discuss making the Kyoto Protocol stronger and how to improve implementation, parallel negotiations began to discuss a new framework to replace Kyoto after 2012.  It was in this context that I found myself thrust into the international climate movement.

Continue reading ‘Climate Generation: From Humble Beginnings To A Global Movement’

Drops during COP 15

Written by Yiting Wang, a member of China Youth COP15 team

Yes things did not turn out to be as fair, ambitious and binding as we all hoped for upon the conclusion of COP 15. Yet in many lights, it was inspiring, constructive and everlasting. I want to share several little a few serendipitous moments when I was struck by what I said, what I heard, what I was part of and what I think it now.


In the wake of Wednesday 16th riot, the police had pushed back the crowd. I was walking toward Bella Center trying to get in, a guy with a little video camera stopped me and asked me to say a little something about what I think the solution [to our climate crisis] was. I replied, in gasps, that I think we need to put ourselves in each other’s shoes. We need to understand that we are one people in different forms;our lives connected. He asked me where I was from. I said China. He waved one of his hand whiling the other still holding the camera, “thanks for the Chinese wisdom.”

I don’t know if it is particularly Chinese. I just always remember a peacemaking guru who only sleeps for four hours everyday, once said that we are all one. I just cannot agree more. Continue reading ‘Drops during COP 15′

Copenhagen 2009

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