Billed as the “most important meeting of our lives,” and “the last best chance for a deal to protect the world from calamitous global warming,” the United Nations Copenhagen climate change summit is taking place from today, December 7 through December 18th. Representatives of 192 nations are gathering in response to calls for a global climate deal that reverses dangerous climate change.
The conference opened in a hopeful atmosphere—the hope for a deal in Copenhagen within the next two weeks. Despite reports in the past several weeks that participating nations no longer expect a deal can be reached at the conference, Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said “A deal is within our reach” in his opening speech. He emphasized that the negotiations during the conference will have to prevail over the much-discussed distrust between poor nations and rich nations on sharing the burden of curbing emissions.
In addition to securing commitments from participating nations to cut emissions, a major aspect of the negotiations is financing the mitigations and the adaptations to climate change in developing countries.
And what of California’s role at the conference? The radio program “The California Report” asked that question of their “Climate Watch” reporter who is attending the conference, Rob Schmitz. Schmidtz replied that California is “one of the few states that’s passed bold carbon dioxide-reducing legislation, but in order for [California’s] laws to have their intended impacts it really helps if the rest of the world gets on board too” — and provided as an example California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, AB 32, which seeks to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. He also pointed out that California companies have the highest percentage of patents in green technology in the United States and these companies know it’s in their best interests–and California’s–for the rest of the world to adopt these technologies. The new global green economy could be run on technology that Californians are “inventing and perfecting.” Listen to the radio piece here.
Right after the opening press conference at the Copenhagen conference, the TckTckTck campaign, an “unprecedented global alliance, representing hundreds of millions of people from all walks of life” and “made up of leading international, national and local organizations addressing environment, development, poverty, human rights, health and humanitarian issues” delivered a petition signed by ten million people asking for a fair, ambitious, and binding climate deal in Copenhagen. Young people from a variety of nations handed over the petition to the UN’s top climate official Yvo de Boer and Danish Climate Minister and President of COP15 Connie Hedegaard. According to the TckTckTck campaign Web site:
The young people held boxes representing the building blocks of a real climate deal and handed over a collection of blocks from the iconic Danish company, Lego, to symbolize the missing element needed for a global deal, public pressure. The petition is the largest climate petition ever delivered and is one of the biggest petitions in history, demonstrating the broad support that a climate deal has from citizens of countries from all over the world.
Although the number of people that had signed the petition is a staggering figure, what really captivated the crowd was the short speech by Leah Wickham, 24, of Fiji, who spoke on the “hopes and dreams” of the ten million people that had signed the petition. Her heartfelt talk silenced the room and brought many close to tears. She said how small island nations like her own are on the frontline of climate change and she pled to the top officials to secure an agreement that would protect her country, her people’s culture and livelihoods, and their very dreams for their children.
Leah said the Copenhagen climate treaty, “represents our hopes and dreams for all the generations that will be…Fifty years from now, my children will be raising their own families and it is my biggest hope that they will still be able to call our islands home.” Tearfully, she told of the struggle her people are facing every day but she said that, “In the end, climate change will not discriminate.”
Meanwhile, here at home, the Obama administration leveraged the timing of the international climate conference to formally declared that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions pose a danger to the public’s health and welfare. The announcement by Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson lays the groundwork for an economy-wide carbon cap, whether or not Congress succeeds at enacting climate legislation. According to the Washington Post:
Jackson will speak at the U.N.-sponsored climate conference Wednesday; her address is titled “Taking Action at Home.” President Obama, who will attend the end of the U.N. talks Dec. 18, has sent a series of recent signals to the international community that the United States will curb its carbon output as part of a new global climate deal.