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Throughout the UNFCCC COP15 Conference the common call has been the need for the process to end with a Fair, Ambitious and Binding deal. Being in Copenhagen fills one with the sense of urgency to contribute towards clinching a deal. While us as observers are disappointed that we were not allowed into the Bella Center for the last two days, world leaders are expressing their frustration that we do not have a deal yet. So what can we do? Well, the simple message seems to be that countries need to be more accommodating of each other and we need to act now – in Copenhagen. The past week has involved a combination of working groups, high level segments as well as the unmistakable voicing of concerns by activists both inside and outside the Bella Center. Of our ERC team A/Prof Harald Winkler and Dr Andrew Marquard form part of the South African Delegation to the talks.

We’ve also seen the continued action by activists inside and outside the Bella Center with some of the outside protests turning violent. The clear indication is that people are no longer willing to go home empty handed.

The long-awaited arrival of President of the US President Barack Obama was finally over this morning. There has been criticism that the US and China were preventing a political agreement to emerge over climate change. In the backdrop of these criticisms, President Obama met with world leaders, prominent amongst these being from Russia and China. In his speech this morning he reinforced that if unchecked climate change will generate drastic negative impacts on the natural and human environment. That ‘…Our ability to take collective action is in doubt’, and that he ‘comes today not to talk but to act’, ‘as the world’s largest economy and the world’s second largest emitter’ America is responsible to take action.

What has the US done? Obama highlighted that the US has worked with both internationally and domestically to undertake historic actions to support renewable energy and comprehensive and transformative action to address climate change. He indicates that the way that fuel is used in the US determines their economy and that the way energy is used determines how their economy will develop. Clean energy production can create employment and economic growth in the context of a financial crisis. Ultimately the way forward involves mitigating emissions and moving towards a clean energy economy which can only be done through collective global action to make economies stronger and better off. This is only possible if countries work together and hold each other accountable to certain commitments. After months of talk and two weeks of final negotiations accompanied by numerous side-meetings he believes that the pieces of that accord should be clear.

Obama closed his speech saying that ‘we can be part of making a historic decision now which determines lives of future generations or we can do nothing‘ and leave climate change to persist worsen our lives and those of future generations. Ultimately, he reaffirmed that there is ‘no time to wait’ that the US is ready to get a deal signed today but more importantly than a deal is that there has to be movement on all sides and it would be ‘better [to] choose action to inaction‘.

For the moment we’ll have to leave it to the world leaders to ensure that COP15 fulfills its intentions – to fulfill our hope for a better future for current and future generations…

On arrival in this city I was no doubt surprised by the icy cold weather, which for someone who has never experienced a winter in the Northern Hemisphere, has taken a while to adapt to. That said, once here I found myself immediately immersed in COP15 activities. Once I had done my two and a half hours in the registration queue I finally entered the Bella Centre.

While a number of events were attended it was obvious from this first eventful day that its easy to get absorbed into the various research endeavours as well as the stance of different countries under the negotiations. Most apparent is that developing countries are not willing to the Kyoto Protocol be omitted from the debate. Most developed countries are of the opinion that such a deal, which is not ratified by big emitters like the US and China, would get us nowhere in reaching the low carbon path that such an international deal is meant to. Further, there were attempts by Annex I parties to do away with the Kyoto Protocol. This attempt was responded to by a brief walk-out by some developing countries led by the African Group. Soon after these concerns were voiced activists had their say in their own unique way…


It’s virtually impossible to escape the talks – one can leave the Bella Center after a long day and still be traveling home amongst the many ‘Hopenhagen’ signs. The message being that now is the time for change, now is the time at which real action can be taken. Amongst the flurry of crowds here at the Bella on a daily basis one never forgets that to have faith. Even if some of us can’t be taking the difficult decisions at least voices can be raised and hopefully heard…

As an observer at this conference there is an exciting selection of side-events to attend. Some of those I’ve engaged in thus far include a meet and greet with the part of the SA delegation, analysis of the potential for sectoral crediting in developing countries by PointCarbon, the experiences of emissions-trading schemes in the US and EU and the potential therefore in Australia and just this morning I sat in on a talk about Climate Justice and Sustainable Development. It’s definitely been an enriching experience for us as researchers and in fact, it’s been hard to choose amongst the many side-events!

Some of the working group sessions have been closed to NGOs. In addition, the participation of NGOs and IGOs is being curtailed substantially especially on the last day (this coming friday) when only 90 representatives from NGOs will be allowed into the Bella Center. So here’s hoping that the process continues to remain transparent.

Watch this space for more updates!

Hopenhagen

On arrival in this city I was no doubt surprised by the icy cold weather, which for someone who has never experienced a winter in the Northern Hemisphere, has taken a while to adapt to. That said, once here I found myself immediately immersed in COP15 activities. Once I had done my two and a half hours in the registration queue I finally entered the ‘Bella Centre’.

Events:

Meeting the SA delegation – off the record discussion but made time for us

ICAP side-event

It’s hard to miss the ‘Hopenhagen’ term which the city of Copenhagen has now been dubbed for its efforts to make a deal. While I will live in the Bella Center for the next two days I am quite aware of the fact that the debate is not in isolation of this building. The local newspapers are