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Jasmeet Sidhu

Jasmeet Sidhu

Posted: December 14, 2009 02:57 PM

Ending the "Hopenhagen" Dream

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"Hopenhagen" officially opened Monday in Copenhagen to the tune of 192 countries, and over 10,000 delegates, journalists and civil society members. After months of hype, the so-called "last chance to save the world" began with high spirits, focused energies, and the general anticipation that negotiators could finally get this done.

Oh, how short that brief window of optimism lasted.

On just the second day of the negotiations, enraged African negotiators yelled and chanted "two degrees is suicide," after the leaking of the so-called Danish 'text' that was immediately rejected by many of the world's poorer countries.

On Wednesday, Tuvalu walked out of the plenary session and sparked protesters to push into the plenary room in support, leading to the temporary ban of civil society members into the negotiations.

On Thursday, negotiations were suspended once more after a proposal by Tuvalu to continue on a two-track agreement did not reach consensus. Earlier on a Canadian youth broke down and personally reprimanded her country's lead negotiator in a video quickly circulated throughout the international climate movement.

And on Friday, 40 protesters were detained on the streets of Copenhagen as a 'precautionary' measure by Danish police, no doubt just a taste of the level and size of demonstrations to erupt both inside and outside the conference centre next week.

What's gone wrong? It's halfway through the conference, negotiations have barely moved an inch, and climate advocates (and some negotiators) are enraged at the lack of progress. How and why did we quickly lose the dream of Hopenhagen?

It may have started from the fact that expectations were drastically downplayed even before the Copenhagen negotiations were to begin. A global legally binding treaty quickly transformed into a vague "political agreement" by parties as the goal of the conference, once again pushing the hard decisions to be hashed out at interim meetings and the next COP to be held in Mexico City.

Or it may even be that the whole idea of "Hopenhagen" the feel-good branding of the conference that could have sparked a drinking game over how many times the term was mentioned in the opening ceremonies of the conference. Indeed it's hard to miss the several Hopenhagen billboards sponsored by Coca Cola and other corporations plastered throughout the city and the airport.

No one could possibly argue being against the idea of "hope" and wanting to believe that Copenhagen can produce a climate treaty that will limit global warming to 2 degrees and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million. However, this mass-marketing of hope seems to have injected a sense of passivity amongst the delegates at the negotiations, a sense of waiting for the magic to happen with the arrival of the biggest man of "hope" to the conference next week.

I have no doubt that President Barack Obama's presence at Copenhagen negotiations will be marvelous, and that even his mere presence could surge the world into a new era of climate consciousness. However, his and the hundreds of other world leaders' presence in the name of Hopenhagen almost guarantees the creation of a substandard "political agreement".

This would accomplish the goal of Hopenhagen. This will make many leaving the conference with a little bit of the feel-good sentiment that the branding intended. However, it must not make the world blind to the fact that what is being proposed in the Bella Centre and will come out of Copenhagen in these two weeks, does not even come close to addressing the climate crisis.

The time for naivety and everything that Hopenhagen represents is over, and the right kind of proposals need to begin to be debated in Copenhagen. Just this morning, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) introduced a new text recommending the Kyoto Protocol to continue into the second commitment period, and that a separate, legally binding treaty be signed on forests and finance to help vulnerable states adapt to climate change, as well as reduce their emissions and pursue low-carbon growth. It's a start, and we need more of it.

So next week, as the protests get bigger, the frustrations run higher, and the world is seemingly calmed and inspired by the assurances of Barack Obama when he arrives, we should keep in mind what Hopenhagen really means.

We need something more than a weak political agreement that provides a satisfying ending to Hopenhagen and allows world leaders to say that they did not leave the summit empty-handed. We need the momentum into 2010 to see the talks through instead of settling into Hopenhagen fatigue

There's one week left of the conference. Let's demand what really needs to be happening from our world leaders, for a real, legally binding and equitable global climate treaty.

 

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