Day 4

A major scientific report just out reports that the oceans are acidifying much faster than previously anticipated, threatening the species at the bottom of the marine food chains with extinction. This builds on a report launched earlier in the week saying that even if all the commitments already pledged at Copenhagen were to be met, temperature would rise by at least three degrees this century – way beyond what scientists advise is likely to be safe. Despite this, the newspaper boards on the walk to the metro station feature only a picture of a grimacing Tiger Woods next to a photo of a scantily dressed woman.

demonstrations in copenhagenBack at the Bella Centre, all those young people preparing banners and placards have a cause to rally around. There is a split within the G77 grouping of ‘developing countries’ that, confusingly, has grown in membership to 130. Some, mostly the island states and poorest among the African countries who have most to lose in the immediate term from a fudged deal, are holding out for radical cuts that would limit emissions to 350ppm. They are prepared to see the Kyoto Protocol abandoned if that is what it takes for such ambitious cuts to be achieved.

A richer segment of the G77, reportedly led by Brazil and China, oppose such radical targets, not least because they have natural resources to exploit and ambitions for a period of further strong economic growth. Noisy campaigners are out in force, expressing their support for Tuvalu, the country that has been most vocal in its support for radical cuts. Meanwhile, stickers have already been printed declaring ‘World Bank – Hands Off the Climate’ in opposition to the Danish Text (see blog for Day 2) that proposed handing the climate talks process from the UN to the World Bank.

Hopenhagen signsBill Mckibben flew in today and was straight into action on the side of the radical G77 segment. In a piece he wrote just a few days ago, he put his finger on the nature of the problem: we are applying the usual slow and grinding process of political decision-making, involving attrition and the trading of concessions, in a context where this is completely inappropriate.

In Bill’s words: “When Barack Obama goes to Copenhagen, he will treat global warming as another political problem, offering a promise of something like a 17% cut in our greenhouse gas emissions from their 2005 levels by 2020. This works out to a 4% cut from 1990 levels, the standard baseline for measurement, and yet scientists have calculated that the major industrialized nations need to cut their emissions by 40% to have any hope of getting us on a path back towards safety. And even that 17% cut may turn out to be far too high a figure for the Senate.”

I spent lunchtime giving a talk and leading a discussion in a yurt erected in the city centre by the folk organising the Climate Bottom/Window of Hope event. We were a small but enthusiastic group excited by the opportunity that ecovillages offer, to create our own solutions rather than waiting for salvation from on high.

polar bear art in copenhagenThis is one of the best events I have ever been to in terms of the quality of the associated art exhibitions. WWF has created an Arctic themed exhibition down in the old town, including a series of stunning photographs and a polar bear made from ice that is visibly melting as the talks go on.

At the ClimaForum, the meeting convened by my colleague, Daniel Wahl, is a major success. Representatives from a range of organisations – the Pachamama Alliance, Transition Towns, the Global Ecovillage Network, Gaia Trust, Gaia Education, the 2020 Climate Solutions and CLEAR Village – meet to discuss how they can cooperate in ways that make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. ‘What is your piece of the puzzle?’ is the logo on the bright purple T-shirts of the ‘meshwork’ team facilitating the meetings in the space we use. A rich and encouraging dialogue follows. In the absence of leadership from the Bella Centre, the mood is that of taking power for ourselves, building effective alliances to achieve real impact in building resilient communities.

As if to confirm the theme of interconnection and strength in alliance, I spend the entire evening bumping into people from an astonishing range of contexts at the Copenhagen cathedral where I go to hear a violin recital of Bach fugues – utterly exquisite, a participant from the first Positive Energy conference, a class of students from the Swedish university that Positive Energy was video-linked to, friends from Sieben Linden Ecovillage in Germany and a new Danish friend met just last week in Findhorn. The beauty of the music and the richness of the contacts leave a sweet taste to my day.

Jonathan Dawson
Copenhagen
10 December, 2009

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