COP15: Cold and grey but buzzing with excitement and hope.


The United Nations climate change conference begins in about five hours time.  Being from the other side of the planet, I am significantly jetlagged, awakening from a nightmare at 1 am about a fire trapping me and my family on a hill.  I don’t know if I got away.

As I exited Copenhagen airport yesterday, friendly young Danes wearing COP15 shirts greeted me and directed me to the train which would take me to ‘Centrum’, where my hotel is situated.   The area around the central station is certainly a ‘colourful’ place – complete with streetwalkers, sex shops and Middle Eastern markets.  Not my choice but a consequence of the fact that all other hotels are completely booked up.

The weather is chilly – prompting me to go out this morning to buy some warm clothing.  You see, in a last-minute rush to finish things up at the University, I forgot to consider the weather that would greet me at the other end of the trip.  Perhaps a little ironic given I was headed to a conference on the climate change!

My focus is now on the schedule for the next two weeks. There are literally hundreds of interesting events in talks scattered across the two weeks of the conference.  My contribution will be to address a number of different groups and organisations in order to ensure that the very best and most credible information within my area of expertise (coral reefs and climate change) is available to negotiators and other influential parties.

I am aware that the message must be direct and to the point – much of this will be to remind people that we don’t have much wriggle room.  We can’t talk blithely about 550 or even 450 ppm – this will kill off coral reefs and most other critically important ecosystems. We have no other choice on this planet but to immediately adopt an international strategy to reduce emissions more than 30% by 2050, and 95% by 2050.  Only this will ensure a safe pathway back to greenhouse gas concentrations well below 350 ppm, while at the same time not exceeding carbon dioxide concentrations of 450 ppm on the way.  In adopting this strategy, significant changes will inevitably occur. This is not a business-as-usual strategy but is (as is becoming increasingly clear) the only one which will allow us to survive as global civilisation.

Saying this, I am one of the optimists about Copenhagen. The overwhelming sense of momentum that has greeted me here enthuses me with the belief that Copenhagen will result in a compelling commitment among nations to deal with this planet threatening problem.

And perhaps my next dream will be one from which I will awaken knowing that we did all survive after all!

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