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Chaos and Capitulation in Copenhagen

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It has become clear amidst the turmoil in Copenhagen, that the non-binding political result of COP15 will be a minimal commitment to reduce GHG emissions dictated in large part by the United States. The process which has pitted the developed nations against the undeveloped, has seen dramatic pleas for assistance from the G77 countries most directly threatened by climate change.

Unfortunately, President Obama has had little incentive to take more aggressive action and commit to reductions above the minimal level expected to gain approval in the US Congress of 17% by 2020. The large NGO's from the US including The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), World Wildlife Federation (WWF), Sierra Club, have all positioned themselves to, along with the administration, declare COP15 a victory regardless of the outcome. Admittedly, this is a contentious issue, and at a late-night private round table in a hotel here last night with leaders of several US NGO's, it was a subject of much debate. It was agreed by all present that had the leading US environmental organizations applied more pressure on the administration and not been so eager to agree that any deal is better than nothing, more aggressive goals might have been achieved.

As world leaders begin to arrive today, chaos reigns supreme at the Bella center. Most accredited journalists and non-governmental observers are now excluded from the proceedings. As I write this from the Fresh Air Center in town operated by the Tck Tck Tck campaign, the live feed monitors show mass arrests and violent confrontations outside the Bella center over the issue of access to COP15 and what is theoretically a transparent process open to international observers. Many thousands of individuals after receiving accreditation from the UNFCCC traveled to Copenhagen from all over the world only to arrive and be denied entry. Today began with a "burn the badge" protest by individuals and organizations whose credentials have proven worthless. I was in the large UNFCCC plenary room when the announcement was made Monday that each day during the week the numbers of admitted representatives would be decreased until Friday when a maximum of 90 will be allowed. After a tremendous outcry and protests there are now rumors that that number will be increased to 500 and a remote site with a live simulcast available for accredited individuals to view somewhere off-site in Copenhagen.

Bill McKibben, who has led the global 350.org campaign this year attempting to create a large enough political space for a meaningful outcome at COP15, was resigned last night to a disappointing outcome. He spoke of the African nations folding much earlier than anticipated and the Maldives will soon follow, perhaps as early as Wednesday. Even though it is a matter of life and death - the survival of their nations is at issue - they simply can not stand up to the threats of financial ruin from the US. They have been told that should they further disrupt the process and embarrass the US and developed nations, their IMF funds will be cut off.

Hunter Lovins from the Bella Center on COP15

It is expected that when President Obama arrives he will deliver a victory speech regardless of the outcome. The political non-binding result from COP15 will fall far short of the concerted global action the world's leading scientific bodies have determined is essential to preserving a stable global climate system. If the current text proposals are adopted, Bill McKibben informed me CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere will reach approximately 770PPM by 2100. The "safe" level of CO2 has been determined to be 350PPM, a target for reductions that has been embraced by individuals and governments around the world.

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