03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Tree Grows in Copenhagen

My friend, Bill Liao, is currently in Copenhagen at the UN COP15 Climate Change conference. This "Conference Of Parties" serves as the yearly meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol for Climate Change. I've attended world conferences myself and know that a large part of being a "first timer" is all about learning the ropes, and Bill is certainly getting a crash course. He filed this report with me yesterday:

UN + Copenhagen = UnCopenhagen

It is amazing to be part of the Small Islands States delegation looking at the reams of paper being carefully worked over in order to create position and accord.

While the whole world watches from the outside, I have been sitting in meetings on the inside, and the mood of the G77 + China is one characterized primarily by frustration. Yet a sense of purpose also exists, for many have trod these paths and built line by line the accords that represent the consensus of many countries. There is a buzz in the air, born partly of recognition by the world that this stuff actually matters.

Last year's COP14 had roughly 11,000 delegates, while this year's conference has jumped up 4,000 delegates and is expected to have 15,000 delegates in attendance.

I have met delegates who have been at every conference since Kyoto -- they have been pushing quietly for various accords that could form the new agreement. I have met other newbies like myself; some intensely micromanaged by the leaders of their delegations, others just here as a perk. The majority, like me, are trying to cope with the huge amount of information being thrown at them every day. To get an idea of what we're dealing with, just look at some of this stuff from COP14!

Here is a single COP14 decision:

Financial mechanism of the Convention: fourth review of the financial mechanism

The Conference of the Parties, Recalling Article 4, paragraphs 3, 4, 5, 8 and 9, of the Convention and taking fully into account

Article 11 of the Convention,

Recalling decisions 11/CP.1, 12/CP.2, 3/CP.4 and 6/CP.13,

Recalling also the annex to the memorandum of understanding between the Conference of the Parties and the Council of the Global Environment Facility on the determination of the funding necessary and available for the implementation of the Convention,1

Noting that the fourth review of the financial mechanism may benefit from, and provide valuable inputs to, other processes under the Convention,

Further noting the update to the paper on investment and financial flows to address climate change2 and other relevant technical papers and reports prepared by the secretariat,

1. Decides that the report on the assessment of the funding necessary for the implementation of the Convention3 will be taken into account in the fifth replenishment negotiations of the Global Environment Facility Trust Fund;

2. Calls upon developed country Parties and invites other Parties that make financial contributions to the Global Environment Facility to secure a successful fifth replenishment of the Global Environment Facility and to ensure that the findings of the mid-term review of the Resource Allocation Framework are fully taken into account;

3. Urges the Council of the Global Environment Facility to help to ensure that adequate and predictable funding is made available for the implementation of commitments under Article 4, paragraph 3, of the Convention;

4. Decides that the fourth review of the financial mechanism shall be conducted on the basis of the guidelines contained in the annex to decision 6/CP.13 and in the annex to decision 3/CP.4;

5. Requests the Subsidiary Body for Implementation to recommend, in accordance with decision 2/CP.12, a draft decision on the review for adoption by the Conference of the Parties at its fifteenth session.

Have no idea what any of this means? Welcome to my world.

I see a lot of people working very hard to produce a protocol about the most crucial of issues that impacts all of us, and yet -- with phrases such as "No way will they let it be legally binding" and "Whenever there is talk of funding, the money is tiny" and "What part of the protocol are you pushing that benefits your country?" -- there is still an "us and them" mentality regarding the developed and developing world ... and an uncertainty of who must ultimately pay the bills.

This is personally frustrating because, with my work in, I know that Reforestation and Permaculture could have a real impact on solving a lot of the issues being discussed. However, there is little incentive for new concepts when people have been working on getting a workable accord for years ... and now must deliver one in eight days.

It's not all frustration, though; there have been some truly touching moments for me: the veteran delegate from a different small island who patiently walked me through the agenda, and the UN communications person who, on seeing our WeForest video, set about finding ways in which we could get our message out to the delegates despite all such avenues being closed as early as September. 

All in all it's been a great experience. Although, if I could change one thing, I'd have the COP meetings for the higher-ups held in the middle of summer -- in the center of the Sahara -- just to get the context right!