Monday, 14 December 2009


My Copenhagen blog has been quite positive and cheerful I think. I’ve spent a week in the company of many thousands of people who want to see an ambitious deal realised, and many thousands more – researchers, industry representatives, and environmentalists – who are confident that the answers exist to curb dangerous climate change and would like the politicians to put in place the instruments to realise them.

The lower tier negotiators I have talked to have been making progress on their various briefs, and consensus is being secured about huge chunks of text of a final agreement. I would be astonished if the prime ministers arriving this week didn’t leave proclaiming success.

But the question remains whether whatever agreement they make will be of real significance, and I don’t think it will be. There are too many governments that have self-interest in avoiding making the commitments that are needed. You only have to consider the weak outcome of last week’s European Council meeting to appreciate this, and yet the EU likes to think of itself as the leader of the pack.

They don’t get it. Governments are thinking short term and not about the scale of the problems that the world will face if the 90% concerns of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are realised. They seem to think that we’re dealing with some aspect of trade policy: important but not vital.

We need to scale up, put efforts to combat global warming in the same bracket as fighting a war on an immense scale, realise that if we make a commitment of this order then technological progress will be stimulated and industry will meet the challenges.

It could be exciting. It could create a better world. But it won’t happen yet.


Jargon may be useful shorthand but it also obscures understanding. It’s hard to keep track of all the acronyms used in climate change negotiations, and even harder when they get changed.

COP is easy to understand. COP15 at Copenhagen is the 15th Conference of the Parties (signatories) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Early COPs drew up the Kyoto Protocol, a legal commitment to take various actions to curb global warming. But not all parties ratified it – notably the USA – so at COPs there are parallel sessions of the MOPs, the Members of the Parties that have ratified Kyoto. For a while the events were billed as COP/MOPs.

Then, for reasons I cannot recall, the MOP got changed to the CMP: the Conference of the Parties acting as the Meeting of the Parties (a terrible acronym). Even so, many people still refer to COP/MOP because it flows off the tongue more easily.

These things can matter. On the first day of the conference China objected to the fact that the conference logo only included COP and not CMP: did this not imply that the intended outcome would be the sweeping aside of the Kyoto Protocol with the legally binding commitments it makes upon its members? The logo got hastily adjusted.

A key negotiating issue is whether a new protocol should be created that will displace Kyoto, or whether a twin track approach will be followed with a new agreement existing in parallel to the old. Negotiators who want a serious outcome insist that it be legally binding, and Kyoto does that, but the very word ‘Kyoto’ is political anathema to the Americans and any reference to it will make it difficult for Obama to sell a deal to the Senate.

One reason why the letters CMP are said to stand in reality for ‘Conference Missing a Party!’


The climate change conference is not in session today. In any case it’s the day when I have to head for home, regretting not being able to follow the negotiations through to their conclusion but not sorry at avoiding the frustrations of all those second-week closed doors.

I managed to meet up with the Liverpool and Manchester students in the Oxfam contingent of Saturday’s protest march. I missed the start, and didn’t know the route, but it was easy enough to track it, catch up and overtake by keeping an eye on the helicopters hovering in the sky. Marches march slowly. The newspapers report various arrests being made but the vast majority of demonstrators passed me twice as I searched for ‘my’ contingent and I saw no trouble as all.

The students had all succeeded in hitchhiking their way to Copenhagen in 3 days, even though only one, Nicola, was wearing a polar bear suit (I for one would certainly stop if a polar bear held out its thumb). Some wondered if the effort had been worth it and asked me, ”do demonstrations like this make a difference?” “Without doubt,” was my response. “The march generates media coverage, and that raises the profile of the issue and increases political pressure on decision-makers. We all want to do more but by being here you show how much this matters to you. What more can be asked?”

Saturday, 12 December 2009


It’s the Global Day of Climate Action, and demonstrators are marching from the city centre out to the conference centre. I know there will be students from Liverpool and Manchester with them, though whether we will get the chance to meet up I am not sure.


The programme announces: “A group of elves will sing a Christmas song to remind negotiators that plantations are not forests and that intact natural forests must be protected.”

I hope it works. But maybe the threat of torture would be more effective.


The agenda says that the plenary meeting of the Conference of Parties will resume at 10.00. Conference president Connie Hedegaard takes her seat at 10.10 and shuffles papers. Five minutes later she is called into a huddle of advisors to the side of the platform. She resumes her seat. A new huddle starts around her. By 10.35 she seems to be ready to start, but nothing happens. Is it time to scream “get on with it?” In the European Parliament members would have started a slow handclap half an hour ago. At 10.39 she gets business under way.

She reminds the negotiators that we are half way through the fortnight’s proceedings, that the COP was formally suspended 3 days ago, although detailed business has continued in side meetings. On the issue of Article 17, which is whether whatever is agreed by the conference will be worth the paper it is written on, she claims that progress is being made but more time is needed.

Tuvalu takes the floor, with a speech clearly intended to emphasise its position and communicate with a greater audience. “The entire population of Tuvalu lives just 2 metres above sea level. We need to conclude with legally binding agreements. Our proposals have been on the table for 6 months.” He becomes emotional: “I woke this morning and I was crying. The fate of my country lies in your hands.”

Business moves on to discuss the draft conclusions paper submitted yesterday. Almost all say that it provides the basis for negotiations. The USA makes clear that it causes them severe problems. Sweden, on the other hand, speaking on behalf of the EU, slams it as inadequate: it will not do the job of preventing temperatures from rising by more than 2 deg centigrade, it makes provision for controls on only one third of global emissions, it does not properly reflect the Bali action plan, and it does not provide for an agreement that will be truly binding. Good stuff! I just wish I had confidence that Europe’s prime ministers shared the convictions of our negotiators.

You would not guess from the scores of other comments made that the document was so unsatisfactory. Platitude after platitude pours forth about the need to work together and build on the basis of this text, with recurring themes being the issue of legal certainty and the need for stronger financial commitments to help with climate change mitigation.

The daily information sheet includes a notice than an ADDITIONAL meditation and prayer room has been made available in Hall B3. I guess the first one just became too crowded.

The session concludes at noon.

Friday, 11 December 2009


There are said to be some 30 ‘contact’ groups and informal working groups considering various parts of the text; it’s impossible from the conference floor to keep track of them all. Many are closed to NGO representatives but I’ve got a pass that lets me in. I step into one where the proposed text for the section on the clean development mechanism is being considered.

The chairman is of Chinese origin I think, and jollies the negotiators along with a few quips and humour; he starts with a tale about the price of his lunch and the paucity of its substance. Most of the people in the room are lower tier or specialist negotiators and will have met each other many times over the past few years. The meeting is in English, without interpretation.

The draft document is displayed on a screen and the chairman proposes that he takes the meeting through it paragraph by paragraph. If no one has an objection then it gets coloured green on the screen. If changes are sought then it is coloured yellow and the objector is asked to submit alternative text within the hour. If any country cannot accept a paragraph then they should call out red.’ “But let’s call it pink,” says the chairman.

The first couple of lines get a green, then it’s a flow of yellows with the occasion pink, followed by a few greens. Saudi Arabia demands that a paragraph on forest protection gets coloured pink, but they are probably just planning a trade-off because the next paragraph is about the inclusion of carbon capture and storage, which Saudi wants and Brazil does not. Brazil duly demands that it be coloured pink.

We move on through the document. Someone says “yellow”, another negotiator says “pink”. The chairman asks: “can someone give me the colour if we mix yellow and pink?” “GREEN!” someone shouts, and everyone laughs.

There’s a bit of time left after the first trawl so the chairman goes through the document again. As we come to each pink paragraph he asks the objectors if they really want to maintain implacable opposition, and if so why. “I’ll have to consult,” is a frequent response. Presumably they are voicing pre-agreed national mandates.

“Now get your inputs in if you want modifications,” says the chairman. “We meet again tomorrow.”


The 30 working groups may keep the negotiators busy but what about everyone else at this conference?

The media are hidden away in their own space but have a choice of 24 press briefings every day to attend, scheduled at 30 minute intervals. The President’s slot will be packed, as every journalist tries to find out what is going on. I guess today’s 16.30 slot – ‘Delegation of Finland – Buildings and climate change’ – will be more for the specialists.

For everyone else there are the fringe meetings/side events, most of them held in the conference centre but a few elsewhere. I’ve just looked through the agenda. Today there are 87 individual fringe meetings.

The one organised by the Kingdom of Bhutan looks interesting: “This event introduces how the clean development mechanism can increase gross national happiness.”


The UN secretariat calls an informal meeting of the parties (the national negotiators) to present them with proposed draft text on “long term cooperative action under the Convention.”

In fact it is the outline of the core agreement that may be confirmed next week.

Its 7 pages propose the targets of limiting the increase in global temperatures to 2 deg or 1.5 deg, to reduce global emissions by 2050 by 50, 85 or 95 per cent, with developed countries reducing their emissions by 75-85, at least 80-95, or more than 95 per cent.

The issue of financing is covered only by the words “to be elaborated,” although various procedures are suggested as to how a financial mechanism for assistance with mitigation and adaption should be administered.

Various countries express surprise that the document has been produced, and some complain that they hadn’t been properly consulted. The USA declares that some wording is “enormously problematic.” Tuvalu says that the wording is not strong enough and that it wants an agreement that is legally binding, but they are still reading the paper and intervene again to apologise and admit that they have now noticed the words “legally binding” and “adoption of a second commitment period under the (Kyoto) Protocol.”

A second document is also circulated outlining proposed amendments to the Kyoto Protocol dealing with forest issues, the clean development mechanism and joint implementation.

Everyone is terribly polite of course, and on the whole they are pleased to have the beginnings of a final text in front of them, albeit with the tough decisions still to be taken in a week’s time. The meeting breaks up for negotiators to go away, study the words, and reconvene this evening.


35,000 people are registered to attend the Copenhagen event, but the Bella Centre is only certified for use by 15,000 at any one time.

People come and go (I leave on Sunday), but capacity has already been reached and higher numbers are expected next week.

It is said that 21,000 of the people registered are affiliated to one kind of non-governmental organisation or another, from business groups to environmental lobbyists. A limited number of ‘secondary badges’ are going to be issued to the NGOs and they will then have to decide which of their people get in and which do not. There will be a lot of unhappy people in Copenhagen next week, and some of them may be parliamentarians registered under the banner of GLOBE International.

When the prime ministers turn up for the high-level segment at the end of next week the restrictions will be even tighter. ‘Tertiary badges’ will be issued, with only 250 people from the NGOs allowed access into the plenary session, although it will be broadcast by webcam to screens all around the place.


The calmest demonstration of the day must have been that organised by ‘Wake up to Climate Change!’

Seven young women, in pyjamas and clutching teddy bears, posed for the cameras asleep on the floor.

Thursday, 10 December 2009


As at 5.30pm still no signs of Team Tuvalu giving up....


She nearly got away with it. The gavel came down with the words “it is so decided.” Then her aide whispered into her ear, and her heart must have sunk.

Like every meeting chairman, and especially one presiding over representatives of 192 countries at a conference with a lot of controversial business to consider and limited time in which to do it, Connie Hedegaard’s priority is to get through the agenda as efficiently as she can.

She had just announced her recommendation that private consultations should take place about the shape of any changes to the Kyoto Protocol intended to make decisions taken at the Copenhagen conference binding, with proposals to be brought back in two days’ time, and no-one had jumped up to express dissent.

The words came out reluctantly: “I give the floor to Tuvalu.”

Tuvalu’s representative, who has already become an environmentalists’ hero after his performance yesterday, apologised but said he had indicated his wish to speak before the gavel descended. Private consultations were not good enough. He wanted open discussion - here, now, on the floor of the conference.

The floodgates opened. A host of others indicated their support for the idea. Connie suspended the meeting for 10 minutes of talks in the corner about what to do.

She returned 30 minutes later. “Sorry. We have not achieved a consensus. I’m suspending the sitting for more discussions.”

The gavel came down again.

So the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is suspended, and so is the parallel Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. And both on the same issue.


Each morning the various groups of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that have observer status at the conference organise briefing sessions for their members.

The BINGO meeting is for business and industry; YOUNGO for youth organisations; ENGO for environmental ones; RINGO for research and assorted independent groups; TUNGO for trade unions.

Sadly the well of creativity then dried up. The women and gender non-governmental organisations come together as WOMEN AND GENDER, and the farming ones as FARMERS.


A group of Martians have just walked past me. At least I think they were Martians; they had green faces and were wearing silver suits. I suspect they were Japanese Martians.

I’m not sure what they were demonstrating about in particular. So many ‘demonstrations’ of a photocall type take place around the climate change conference centre that you stop noticing. Just so long as someone takes a picture they serve a purpose I suppose, and it’s nice that the demonstrators are on the inside. They are mostly young environmental activists affiliated to one of the many NGOs with the right to attend, and I think their presence give the event a bit of a ‘family’ atmosphere.


A Brazilian lady has just come up to me, introduced herself as a first-time delegate, and asked me if I know what is going on.

I’m sitting in the vast plenary hall, with maybe 200 other people scattered around, half of them observers and half government negotiators. There is no sitting scheduled for this afternoon, but the last thing we heard before lunch was the conference president suspending the meeting, and that wasn’t scheduled either.

I don’t think any of us know what’s going on, but it’s 3.30pm and we’re here just in case. Maybe the negotiators know something, or maybe they are here just in case Connie suddenly appears, re-opens debate, and tries to sneak something through.

Nothing is happening, but it’s great theatre.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009


Tuvalu objects, repeatedly and with determination, and the main business of the Copenhagen conference is suspended. OK, it’s almost lunchtime and a temporary suspension allows time for private discussions about the issue - which is what the conference president had in any case requested - but it’s still a moment of drama.

The collection of Pacific islands that make up Tuvalu are about as small as you get by the standards of a nation state, but they are terminally threatened by rising sea levels so Tuvalu has huge moral authority. Decisions at the conference are taken by consensus and it’s good to know that one objection strongly expressed can make a difference. (It’s good to know, that is, so long as the objections come from nations that want an ambitious and binding outcome from the negotiations. But they are not the only ones who can shout “object!”).

Tuvalu and its backers wanted a ‘contact group’ established to discuss in the open ways of introducing measures to ensure that any agreement reached is legally binding and can help ensure that decisions taken in Copenhagen are implemented . The idea of having such open debate was vigorously opposed by Saudi Arabia and India.

The president must have known of the potential for controversy because she proposed that the issue be taken forward by way of ‘private consultations’ with the various governments. But the Alliance of Small Island States smelt a stitch up, and they had the backing of all those who wanted to remind everyone about the USA’s failure to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which does include a series of measures to secure implementation of the agreement from its signatories.

So the conference was suspended, to be resumed at 3pm after consultations had taken place about the best way of consulting on this issue.

If that sounds arcane you may have forgotten that this conference and the UNFCCC process of combating global warming has as many layers as an onion. 3pm came, and the president announced that the consultations had not yet secured an agreement. So COP15, the 15th conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, remained suspended.

Instead we turned to the agenda of the Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, which is not quite the same thing, and business continued.


Courtesy is a welcome thing, but you can have too much of it.

The climate change conference president was formally appointed on Monday but Connie Hedegaard, the Danish environment minister and European Commissioner Designate, is still getting the plaudits.

Every national spokesman felt the need to preface their first comments with congratulations on her ‘ascension’ to the role, an assurance that there was great confidence in her abilities, and some words of thanks to Denmark for hosting the event. After the first dozen they must have driven her mad! Time slips away.

I whiled away my time reflecting on the nations represented. I have never heard of Burkina Faso. Does it exist, or are its polite representatives perpetrating a giant fraud?


There are people here from across the world, but China has one sixth of the global population and they certainly don’t have that level of representation. It’s a rich world’s conference. Lots of Europeans, and Americans, and Australians (many of them drafted in to speak on behalf of small island states). Taking part in these events costs a lot of money and requires domestic political support. You don’t see many environmental activists from Russia here. Poorer countries cannot afford the huge numbers sent by wealthy blocs like the European Union, and do not have a hope of following every development in all the sub-groups and drafting sessions.

It’s also a young conference. The national negotiators may be a bit older but, looking around, I reckon the average age of the people here is in the upper 30s. By my standards (55) that’s young.

And it’s mostly an English language conference. There is interpretation available into Spanish, Russian, French, Chinese, and Arabic but I have heard Chinese, Japanese, and many other spokesmen speaking publicly in English. The Saudi negotiator emphasised a point with the words: “I speak in English to make it absolutely clear that....”

Friday, 4 December 2009


The team leaders (‘coordinators’) of the political groups on the European Parliament’s environment committee gathered for one of our regular business planning meetings.

The chairman, a German socialist who had perhaps been nobbled by one of his British Labour colleagues, started the session by referring to the fact that the Parliament’s delegation to the Copenhagen conference would include a climate change ‘denier’ who would hardly represent the majority view in meetings with other parliamentarians.

The arrangement is that every group gets representation in proportion to its size, but was there anything we should do?

I spoke first. “I know who you are referring to. I disagree strongly with his views. But this Parliament represents all shades of opinion, and there are many people who are not convinced by the scientific evidence on climate change. I must support the right of free speech.”

One by one the spokesman for the other groups – left, right and green, Austrian, Danish and Finnish – all expressed the same view.

So that was that.

Which will no doubt upset Nick Griffin greatly. How he would have loved to have been able to criticise the “Establishment’s” conspiracy to silence him.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009


We are overfishing and killing our seas. You think the EU’s common fisheries policy is responsible? You should hear the enlightened views of some of those calling for its reform.

A public hearing on outline proposals to reform the policy has just taken place in the European Parliament. Consider these thoughts:

From the representative of the Italian fishing cooperatives: “We want to safeguard jobs. The policy of decommissioning fishing vessels has been a failure.”

What does that mean - more boats, more overfishing?

From the representative of fishermen in Sicily: Control of fishing policy should be devolved to local fishermen practising “self limitation taking into account the needs of the market.” Fish stocks should be scientifically assessed “in ways shared and approved by local fishermen."

Oh please, so when the price goes up let's forget about limitations, and whatever happened to objective, independent, impartial scientific advice?

Or best of all, most tragic of all, from the representative of fishermen’s trade unions in Portugal: “Protecting fish stocks should not be the main priority of the common fisheries policy. Instead the priorities should be: (a) to meet the needs of the market, and; (b) to maintain jobs.”

What does no fish stocks mean? No fishermen. No food. No future.