No global deal sealed. No binding targets. Nopenhagen.
These headlines tell a story just about as depressing as Hans C. Andersen’s Christmas saga, The Little Match Girl. But instead of dwelling on an ending that many foretold, let’s celebrate the drama of Copenhagen. As the last blog of the year, One Stone lauds the theatre and cast of characters of 12 days in the land of H.C. Andersen.
Unexpected moments are few and far between in the well-orchestrated world of politics. But there are exceptions. We salute Brazilian President Lula da Silva for delivering one of COP15’s great surprises.
Putting wealthy nations to shame, Lula da Silva promised to contribute to the $30bn of aid for developing nations over the next three years, announcing “I have not said this at home, and not even to my team here in Copenhagen, but if it is necessary for Brazil to tap money to other countries, we will be willing to participate in the (UN) finance mechanisms – if we reach a global agreement here in Copenhagen today.”
Was this improv the smartest move? Maybe not. Is this contribution better invested in the Amazon forests? No doubt. His pre-COP15 promise to cut deforestation by 80% will need all the financial support it can get. But unexpected moments make for great drama.
When politics trumped science
Think how this narrative would have taken a different twist if the U.S. public had a better understanding of the science of climate change. A joint poll from the Washington Post and ABC news on 18th December showed that four in 10 Americans place little or no trust in what scientists have to say about the environment.
With no support back home, Obama settled for a three-page agreement with no short or midterm goals. Before the next climate summit in Mexico, the President would do well to invest in raising awareness on the implications and opportunities that lie in proactive engagement. Only then may these antagonists morph into protagonists.
The unsung heroes
If anyone came out of Copenhagen with their dignity intact, it is the representatives of the many NGOs that patiently, courageously and persistently reminded decision-makers what was at stake. Friends of the Earth International chair Nnimmo Bassey and most other NGOs were not allowed to join in on the final days in the Center, although business representatives were permitted access. NGOs deserved to share in the spotlight. What was going on behind the scenes to prevent them assuming their rightful place on the stage?
No story is complete without an unsung hero. We recognize the courage of Roz Savage, who rowed across the Pacific Ocean in 2008 and walked from London to Brussels; to inspire people to walk more and drive less—and to match her 10,000 oar strokes each day with 10,000 steps. After facing peril on the seas and enduring the trek across a grey northern Europe, this story took an unexpected turn on the streets of one of the world’s safest cities. At a Copenhagen event, Roz’ coat and bag were stolen, including laptop, iPhone and credit cards and was unable to continue to blog on her experiences of the event. The irony of it all!
No knight in shining armor
A knight in shining armor was sorely lacking in this fairy tale. Though there were a couple of potential candidates, it certainly wasn’t Barack Obama. Our vote goes to EU Chair and Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt—he never compromised on the importance of binding targets, and locked an agreement among European leaders for $10.8 bn financial support to developing nations. But the European ambition was sidelined by the clash of the titans, U.S. and China.
And what about Governor Schwarzenegger? His presence at COP15 brought a welcome sign of engagement among American politicians, but for some, his rhetoric was at times comical. We celebrate Schwarzenegger’s practical approach. He was right to say that agreement between all 193 countries is just a dream, and we laud his challenge to decision-makers to regroup in California to forge a way forward on the sub-national level. But he’ll only earn knighthood if his invitation is connected to binding and ambitious targets.
So cast your vote—who is your villain, and whom your hero? What were your high and low points and what drama awaits in the sequel?
Meanwhile, like Arnold, “we’ll be back.” (in the first week in January, in fact).
From all of us at One Stone, happy holidays. And here’s hoping for a better ending to the climate story in 2010.