Update from Copenhagen: How things have changed.


Well, I have been here for a little over three days.  The weather remains grey and non-descript with a bone slicing chill that makes wearing a beanie a delight.  I must admit, however, I am a little worn out – crowds have a way of doing that to you.  And it has been a big year.

Wandering around the Bella Centre in Copenhagen, I have been almost overwhelmed by the number of grassroots organisations that are present. There must be hundreds.  Each one proposing clever ideas by which to solve little parts of this global crisis.  One’s head aches with the amount of information that is being pumped out.

I keep asking myself, is this all for naught or will something magical happen here among all this creativity and goodwill?

I have also been reflecting on how different the current meeting is relative to one I attended in The Hague almost 10 years ago. That was COP6, which was suspended without agreement due to disagreements over carbon sinks among other things.  I remember ‘cunning’ proposals from the Australian delegation being greeted by the Europeans who exclaimed “it may be hard to define what a forest is, but we do know that they are something that kangaroo cannot jump over”. Australia was keen to define scrub land as forest and so on.

This was in the dying embers of the Clinton administration and in the period when John Howard was in the ascendancy in Australia.  This was when Kyoto went off the rails.

Several things are different now. One is that rapid climate change is on our doorstep with the dramatic loss of Arctic summer sea ice and the escalation of fire, storm and flood related impacts.  These incredible changes are hard to ignore.

The second thing is the very different attitude to this meeting with respect to science.  I remember wondering around COP6, feeling a little at a loose end.  But here, it seems that everywhere you look, people are hungry to know what is happening and how much time we have left before we see major impacts.

The last thing is a feeling of thinly disguised despair.  Scratch the surface of this meeting, with all its optimism, excitement and drive, and you peer into a chasm.  This chasm is a world in which the climate has run amok, and the future of us and our children has been dashed upon the rocks.

Let us hope that our leaders will steer us away from this chasm.  To do this, our leaders must come out of the negotiations with a firm agreement that cuts emissions by at least 30% by 2020 and by over 90% by 2050.

Nothing less is acceptable.

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