Saturday, 19 December 2009

Report from Copenhagen

Haringey residents Adrian and Robyn Thomas have just returned from Copenhagen:

Copenhagen, 10th – 15th December 2009

One or two friends asked us to report on our experiences in Copenhagen during the climate change talks. We came back to London before the final negotiations but were able to take part in the main public demonstration on Saturday 12th December. The temperature that day was barely above zero so it was a test of commitment, but some 60,000 people turned out. They were a mixture of Danes and others, mostly West or North Europeans. It was inspiring to march with such a variety of nationalities, all with a common concern. Contrary to some press reports the part of the demonstration we were in was good humoured and orderly.

The march went from the city centre to the Bella Conference Centre, a new development some 5 kilometres away, where the climate negotiations are taking place. There was of course no access without passes but a sports centre next to the main railway station had been turned into an alternative venue, the Klimaforum.

This attracted a great variety of people, from serious activists to the merely curious. Between us we attended a number of meetings and seminars. The quality of the speakers varied quite a bit, as did their standpoints, but overall they reinforced our concerns. Robyn went to an interesting session on consumers, ethics and food. She found the Danish speakers a little complacent so put them on the spot by asking what they personally had done to reduce their carbon footprint. She was then interviewed by Swedish TV!

Meanwhile Adrian listened to Prof Schellnhuber from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research talking with other specialists on how to agree and allocate national emissions targets. He gave a particularly powerful presentation, stressing that during the coming century we must restrict all our future emissions to 700 billion tons if we are to keep warming down to 2°C - and most climate scientists found that level of warming disturbing enough. It may seem a lot, but it is the same as we emitted between 1989 and 2009! See if you want to learn more.

It was a good place for quotes and sound-bites. Some interesting ones we picked up on were:
· Politicians talk; leaders act
· The political reality is nowhere near the scientific reality; for scientists carbon-based growth is no longer an option for anyone
· There is a narrow window between (climate change) denial and despair (at ever getting agreement to limit emissions)

In many ways Copenhagen seemed a good venue. It is a very pleasant seaside city, with lots of history in its pedestrianised streets. There are excellent facilities for the many cyclists, and public transport is very good (all our travelling was by train and ferry, which worked well). Denmark is well known for the high proportion of its electricity which is wind-generated, but its overall record is not as good as it might seem: emissions per head are still high and the smoke from several coal-burning power stations ringing the city hopefully reminded the negotiators what they are up against.

All in all it was a most interesting few days and we are very grateful to Robyn’s brother and sister-in-law for enabling us to experience the meeting at first hand.

Adrian and Robyn Thomas

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