Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

Compelling late night/early morning reading – 12/16/09

Posted by Danny Morris on December 17, 2009

Technically, since I published it here first, this didn’t originally appear on Weathervane, RFF’s climate policy blog, but it’s over there too.

Yesterday (Wed. the 16th) was the last day for on-the spot reporting at the Bella Center. NGO access has been severely restricted due to security concerns from potential invading protestors and the critical mass of heads of states with their extensive entourages. According to the UN Secretariat, 7000 delegates from NGOs were supposed to be allowed to enter the Bella Center yesterday. Much less than that actually got in because security cut off access to the NGOs about mid-morning, even if they had the proper documentation to get in. Today and tomorrow (Thursday and Friday), only 300 NGO delegates are allowed in. According to UN officials at a briefing this blogger attended last night, Yvo de Boer argued vigorously with Denmark security officials for more access for civil society, but ended up with only 300. Needless to say, in my humble opinion, civil society has got the shaft over the pat few days. Security concerns typically trump everything (and rightfully so), but the NGOs are a major part of these proceedings and have every right to be consistently engaged in the discussions at the COP. It’s hard to be part of the discussion, however, when you’re locked outside. On with the show…

Messy (I) –  Last night, talks hit another major snag, or as UN climate guru Yvo de Boer called it, “an unexpected stop.” Delegates apparently needed more time to discuss the basis of further talks, which is in theory what they have been doing the past two weeks. de Boer remained optimistic, but underlined that the next 24 hours are absolutely critical.

Messy (II) – Connie Hedegaard, Denmark’s Environmental Minister, resigned as president of the Conference yesterday morning, handing the keys to Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen. There are two ways to look at this development. One is Hedegaard was simply following protocol, which says that when heads of state arrive at the conference, it should be led by a head of state. The second is that Hedegaard’s resignation signals how much trouble the COP is in, especially with rumors about her unhappiness with the negotiating language Denmark is developing. Hedegaard remains in the thick of talks and will be there until the end.

Messy (III) – If you think the negotiators are happy, you should see some of the other folks around here. More protestors were arrested as they tried to storm the Bella Center, resulting in violent clashes with police. Inside the Center, indigenous peoples demanded more rights and larger voices with a march through the halls. Some demonstrators were removed. On top of all that, 60 members of NGOs held a sit-in at the entrance gates to protest their exclusion from the proceedings. There are not a lot of happy people in Copenhagen right now.

One bright spot – If you’re looking for some good news, or you like forests, you’re in luck. Some major developed countries, including the US, pledged serious money to help protect international forests from deforestation. US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack pledged $1 billion in support over the next three years. Combined with commitments from Japan, France, Norway, Australia and Britain, $3.5 billion will go into rainforest preservation over the next three years. Once again, forests are the thing on which people can agree.

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