Category Archives: Copenhagen (COP-15)

December 2009

Brazil Commitment to Climate on Display

With the world’s largest tropical forest and a mostly hydro-powered economy, Brazil has been very busy with efforts to curb deforestation and use the resulting avoided emissions to fight climate change.

In Copenhagen, with a modest bit of help from EDF, several top Brazilian officials put their commitment to forest protection and green growth on display.

At the Mogens Dahl Center, just up the road from the Bella Center where UN climate talks are taking place, last night's Amazon Governor's Forum featured six state governors and Brazil's Environment Minister speaking about REDD. (That's the UN acronym for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, a policy approach to curbing deforestation.)

Brazil has become a global leader in curbing deforestation, developing mapping and monitoring systems to track forest cover, and creating legal systems to protect it. With a tropical forest half the size of the continental United States, officials know they need to be active players in climate talks -and most likely in emissions trading – to tap the resources they'll need.

Minister Carlos Minc told an audience of 250 people, two TV networks and a crowd of other journalists that Brazil will need public funds but also can't snub market financing for REDD.

While the governors were busy at the Mogens Dahl Center, three of the leading potential contenders for Brazil's presidency swept into the Bella Center – putting to rest any doubts about whether a national commitment to reducing deforestation will outlast 2010 presidential elections.

One possible presidential contender, Marina Silva, a rubber tapper from Brazil's far west state of Acre and a former environment minster, has the other candidates striving mightily to establish their green credentials. Her approach seems to be working for the environment; industrial powerhouse Sao Paolo state has passed an emissions reduction law, and Brazil's congress is looking at the possibility of an ambitious national emissions law.

The Washington Post published a Q and A with Ms. Silva following her recent visit to Capitol Hill.

The other likely presidential contender is Jose Serra, the governor of Sao Paulo. He's expected to be the leading opposition candidate in Brazil’s 2010 presidential race.

The third likely presidential candidate who's here in Copenhagen is Dilma Rousseff of Brazil’s incumbent Workers’ Party. President Lula himself will arrive in Copenhagen later this week.

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Out in the Cold for Global Warming

Thousands of climate advocates from around the world flocked to Copenhagen over the weekend to attend the second week of the UN’s international summit on climate change.

They got a chilly reception.

EDF President Fred Krupp and Media Director Tony Kreindler brave the long lines to get into the conference center for the UN’s climate change

EDF President Fred Krupp and Media Director Tony Kreindler brave the long lines to get into the conference center for the UN’s climate change conference

The summit was so overbooked that the UN and/or Danish security couldn't handle registration (each side was blaming the other for the confusion).  The problem, according to the UN, is that the number of people who registered is more than three times the number permitted in the conference center.

Conference participants – including half-a-dozen EDF staff – were stuck outside in the cold and snow flurries for six hours or more; some registered observers never got in at all.

Our compassionate co-workers brought us food, hot tea, and warm socks from inside the conference center, and passed them to us over the security gates and through the crowd.  Fortunately our stubbornness paid off,  and most of us eventually got inside.

On a positive note, we did get to talk with other stranded environmental leaders like Frances Beinecke of NRDC, and make new friends in the crowd of those stuck out in the cold — a crowd that included print reporters and crews for BBC, CNN and Australian TV.

The situation didn't sit so well with reporters. Check out these stories from Time magazine, the Wall Street Journal and Science News.

In spite of the difficulties, we’re glad the fight against climate change has become so popular.  We’re even more pleased to be thawing out inside the conference center, and to be getting back to work toward a productive outcome.

But by the end of the week, we may be looking back at today fondly, because at least we got inside the conference center.  Starting tomorrow, the UN will begin imposing its own "declining cap" on NGO observers. As the heads of state arrive, available slots will decline from tens of thousands today, to seven thousand tomorrow, to 90 on Friday.   Stay tuned; we'll let you know how it goes.

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EDF in the News: Today's Copenhagen Roundup

EDF's presence at Copenhagen is getting a lot of media attention. Check out some of the stories that quote our experts:

The Financial Times writes about carbon trading, and talks to EDF's Jennifer Haverkamp about ways to fund cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Jennifer says:

Any treaty must be adequately financed, and since the the bulk of climate finance will flow through the private sector, it’s crucial that carbon markets work.

When the climate talks hit a snag because of objections from the African delegation, the New York Times talked to EDF's Gus Silva-Chavez:

On the one hand, people expected it. But they didn't expect it to be such a red line. You're shutting down the negotiations two days before the ministers start their jobs. This is going to anger a lot of developed countries.

Later, when developing countries ended their boycott of the climate talks, Gus spoke again — this time to the Associated Press.

And EDF's Steve Schwartzman talked to the San Diego Union Tribune about deforestation, the growing "subnational" movement, and the efforts of the governors of the nine Amazon states to fight climate change. As Steve points out:

Once you start looking at the forest as an asset, deforestation becomes a liability.

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Ministers arrive, demonstrators hit streets

Climate talks ramped up a level Saturday as high-level ministers arrived and went behind closed doors to hash out differences over negotiating texts.

But the real excitement was in downtown Copenhagen, where tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in the streets to voice their support for strong action to stop climate change.

Desmond Tutu led a peaceful candle light vigil. And a few hundred demonstrators who got rowdy early on quickly found themselves lined up and handcuffed by Danish police.

Police line up Copenhagen demonstrators

Police line up Copenhagen demonstrators

A contingent of demonstrators marched across town to the Bella Center where ministers were expected to continue talks through the weekend. Here's a link to a CNN story on the march.

Inside the Bella Center, the chair's draft text released Friday opened up fault lines over finance numbers and compliance rules.

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Lisa Jackson Speaks at Copenhagen: "We Won't Ignore Science"

lisa jackson copenhagenThe Obama administration is heeding science to address climate change and protect human health, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson told an overflowing crowd in the U.S. delegation’s meeting room in Copenhagen this afternoon. Jackson won a round of applause from the audience, which included business representatives and members of non-governmental organizations.

Her speech highlighted EPA’s new endangerment finding, which she signed hours before boarding the plane to Copenhagen on Monday. The finding concluded that greenhouse gases pose a threat to health and welfare. She said 2009:

will be seen as the year the U.S. government began to seriously address greenhouse gases … Climate change is real, and now is the time to act.

Jackson said the Obama Administration will work with Congress to develop clean energy reform while letting the science "speak for itself."

Update: Here's the text of Jackson's remarks.

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Dueling Op-Eds on Copenhagen

Let's start with the good news first: Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp wrote an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal outlining the need for the Copenhagen talks to make progress toward an effective verification and compliance system in a final agreement.

Fred says:

The road to a serious global agreement goes through the U.S. Congress… The task, then, for U.S. negotiators and their counterparts, is to focus on establishing the fundamental building blocks for an effective treaty that can be finalized in 2010.

He then lists those building blocks as:

  • Inclusiveness
  • Financing
  • Verifiability and compliance

Read the whole piece for insight into each point.

Now the bad news: Sarah Palin wrote an op-ed in today's Washington Post that purports to be about Copenhagen, but really just rehashes "climate-gate." The piece tries to paint global warming as purely political issue and dismisses the underlying science. Read at your own risk. Media Matters has posted a thorough fact-check of the piece.

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Copenhagen: U.S. Climate Envoy in the House

U.S. Climate Envoy Todd Stern arrived in Copenhagen this morning …  and by mid-afternoon was already on stage conducting his first press conference.

When reporters started asking about the state of negotiations, he reminded them: 

I just got off the plane, had a shower and came straight over here.

As the first ever U.S. climate envoy appointed to spearhead American global leadership on climate in multilateral negotiations, Stern’s mere presence in Copenhagen signals the seriousness of U.S. commitment to stopping global warming.

But we're a long way from March, when Stern got a standing ovation just for showing up at climate talks and telling delegates that the Obama administration won’t deny scienctific evidence of rising temperatures and melting glaciers.

Stern made it pretty clear he’s not expecting sugary smiles and lots of thanks here in Copenhagen. When one reporter asked what President Obama will have to do to get a standing ovation, Stern said:

When I got that standing ovation in March, I told myself that’s it, I’ve peaked, and I think that’s true. President Obama has had a lot more standing ovations than I have, and I’m sure it would be nice to get one here but he’s not expecting it. We’re not worried about standing ovations, we’re here to get a deal done.

Stern also answered serious and substantive questions about U.S. positions on climate for the next 30 minutes. The UNFCCC has video of the entire news conference on its web site.

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Copenhagen Controversy: "Danish Text" Stirs the Pot

Climate delegates in Copenhagen are buzzing about a leaked proposal from the Danish contingent.

The document, now being referred to as the Danish text, is a draft for a political agreement on climate change. It was leaked to the Guardian newspaper, which says it was written by delegates for a handful of developed countries including Denmark, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

Developing countries are reportedly furious because the text calls for them to take far more action to reduce global warming emissions than the Kyoto protocal did.  According to the Guardian, developing nations say the text is biased against them, and they object to its being created without their input.

But others, including delegates for Environmental Defense Fund, point out that any draft document is only a starting point for negotiations.

According to EDF's climate specialist Gus Silva-Chavez:

It is far better to start with a strong proposal in the first few days then to start negotiations on something that has already been watered down. The leaked document clearly shows ambition, although there are clearly areas that are vague or need improvement, like the parts about compliance. It reflects a clear desire from the Danes to reduce global emissions as soon as possible, and with efforts from both developed and developing countries.

A counter proposal from the BASIC countries is expected to be announced today or tomorrow.  That could help quell fears, reported in the Guardian, that the Danish text will be ramrodded through the treaty negotiations.

Gus will continue watching the situation, and we'll post updates as it unfolds.

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2000's Were Warmest Decade on Record

The past decade was the warmest on record, according to a new analysis unveiled today at the international climate change summit in Copenhagen.

The World Meteorological Association held a news conference in Copenhagen to announce a provisional summary of their study.

They found that the overall global warming trend is continuing and shows no signs of stopping. The data shows our current decade is likely to be the warmest in the past 150 years, and:

  • The decade of the 2000s (2000–2009) was warmer than the decade spanning the 1990s (1990–1999), which in turn was warmer than the 1980s (1980–1989)

Among their other findings:

  • 2009 is likely to rank as the fifth warmest year worldwide since we started keeping records in 1850.
  • Large parts of southern Asia and central Africa are likely to have the warmest year on record.
  • Above-normal temperatures were recorded in most parts of the continents this year.
  • Only North America (United States and Canada) experienced conditions that were cooler than average.
  • This year, Arctic sea ice extent during the melt season ranked the third lowest, after the lowest and second-lowest records set in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

The final figures will be published in March 2010.

The New York Times has a good article on the subject if you want to read more.

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EPA Declares Greenhouse Gas Pollution a Health Hazard

The Environmental Protection Agency officially announced today that greenhouse gases are a danger to human health.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson made the announcement at a news conference this afternoon. The statement finalizes an initial "endangerment finding" made last April, and sets the stage for U.S. action at home as officials from across the world gather in Copenhagen to forge an international solution to global warming.

The EPA news release and video from the news conference are now up on agency's web site.

Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp praised the decision, saying:

The danger of global warming pollution is clear and present, the solutions are at hand, and the time for action is now. It’s time for Congress to finish its work on U.S. legislation to cap and reduce the 19 million tons of heat-trapping pollution we emit every day. American leadership on climate change will strengthen our security, wean us off of foreign oil, and ensure that America wins the race to clean energy innovation in the global market place.

You can read more about the issue in EDF’s full statement.

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