Sunday, December 20, 2009

December 20th, 7:30 PM CET

Alex's Apartment

Until I can get a few interviews and thoughts up from the final days of the conference (having bandwidth problems here) let this suffice for an explanation of the last two weeks ;-)

Friday, December 18, 2009

December 18th, 4:28 PM CET

NGO Forum

Around 8:30 this morning, Air Force One touched down in Copenhagen, beginning what many hoped would be the last, big push on the final day of COP15. President Obama's day began with select one-on-one ministerial meetings, including one with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jaibao. A later meeting between multiple ministers, however, resulted in a distinct snub as the Chinese vice foreign minister, He Yafei, was sent in the Prime Minister's stead to meet with heads of state. Rumor is that this is in response to Secretary Clinton's "Chinese proverb" quip yesterday, prodding China to cooperate, but this is unconfirmed.

The President's speech was brief, dry, and hardline - but not in a positive way. His message was that the United States has given everything it had to offer, and would not be giving any concessions. He did, however, acknowledge that the United States bears responsibility for climate change - a sticking point in the language of the negotiations between developed and developing countries.

He made no further concessions on emissions targets, sticking with, "cutting our emissions in the range of 17 percent by 2020, and by more than 80 percent by 2050." One of his final lines - "We have charted our course, we have made our commitments, and we will do what we say" - sounded more like the 43rd President of the United States, not the 44th. (For more on why the more things change, the more they stay the same, check out this article from a fellow couch surfer at, and the Daily Kos article that inspired it.)

Deviations between the speech distributed to the media beforehand and what actually came out of the President's mouth speaks volumes to the lack of progress today. The first read, "There are those developing countries that want aid with no strings attached, AND NO OBLIGATIONS WITH REGARD TO TRANSPARENCY and who think that the most advanced nations should pay a higher price," with the change noted in bold. Though it was clearly a stab at China's reluctancy to accept MRV (monitor, report, and verify) measures, it seemed petty and out of place considering China's recent adoption of additional concessions. China has indicated it will agree to measures of transparency, though it is not clear what they may be. This remark could just as well have been aimed at China for their snub of the ministerial meeting earlier in the day.

The second should have read, "After months of talk, and two weeks of negotiations, I believe that the pieces of that accord are now clear," but instead finished with, "should now be clear," reflected the stagnation among leaders leading up to the President's address, instead of the quick resolution that was forecast.

There were no expectations that Obama would announce a surprise move, like Secretary Clinton's $100 billion bomb. The US is still very much bound by domestic politics. Though developing nations are still hoping for strong leadership from President Obama, the United States is definitely not putting anything else on the table than what they already have. With their will for a significant agreement eroding - the idea that it will be legally binding has already been scrapped - the United States seems like it has given up, and will punt anything binding to COP16. This is hardly the groundbreaking conference for which the world, owever futilely, had hoped.


December 18th, 12:35 PM CET

Alex's apartment (new digs)

I spent the morning lugging bags across the city, so before heading out for the day I thought I'd post some videos from past events.

(President Obama is currently speaking live - thoughts on his speech to come.)

From Saturday, December 12th, opening remarks by Tuvalu.

From Tuesday, December 15th, Avaaz activists inside the Bella Center.

Klimaforum and Dr. Vandana Shiva! (Sunday Dec 13)

I wanted to add on a little bit to Kathryn’s post about Klimaforum on Sunday. In the afternoon I attended an event on carbon trading. Here there was a panel where many discussed the problems of offsetting and involvement of banks and speculators. Many of them noted the problem of many projects of “clean development and regulation of markets” maintaining the same system that created the problem, as well as providing opportunities for profit. The developed countries have made 75% of emissions, and are only 20% of the world population.

One speaker describes how the UN process has, “reduced the problem to molecules,” rather than changing the structure of the system. I also went to an event on the Manifesto on Climate Change with
Dr. Vandana Shiva (mentioned first to us by Dr. Beach on the far right in the top picture). As Kathryn has already described, this woman is absolutely amazing! She is a radical progressive scientist, a beautiful speaker, and grassroots organizer. She is my new found inspiration for life. I mean, she's a scientist! Perhaps, I am making a big deal out of this 'being a scientist thing', but it’s just something I don’t see very often. She is part of a coalition working to make radical on-the-ground change. They have in-depth alternative solutions to the problems we are faci
ng. It is wonderful to see something concrete from an international group. They especially work to integrate agriculture, poverty, development, and the environment. If you want to learn more and read there unique manifestos look at:

One more thing about Dr. Shiva - Kathryn and I worked to talk to her a bit after the event. We fought against many aggressive reporters, including Amy Goodman from Democracy Now. After pushing through the crowd, I asked, “How do you balance being an activist and a scientist?” She smiled sneakily in response and said that, “There is no contradiction between these two things - they balance each other.”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Flood + Day of Action (Sat Dec 12)

A post from Olivia…. From Saturday December 12, 2009

On Saturday, Julia and I attended the large marches in Copenhagen, working to shake things up a little bit. I woke up in the morning to check out Klimaforum09 – a public conference on climate change being held in the city – leaving Julia asleep for another hour. At Klima many people were in blue ponchos, paint on their faces, with creative signs. One group of people had a space craft offering tickets at “a discount price for 1 billion dollars. This is your last chance.” The Flood began to flow, a protest put on by Friends of the Earth International, where approximately 5,000 people marched. People in the march were calling for no offsets, a strong climate treaty, reform of the economic system, and much more. The flavor of this march was, well, like a flood. We did “the wave.” Literally. The front would start and then everyone would jump all the way to the back. When we got to the square, this march closed with a few speeches.

The next march for the Global day of Action started up a few hours later. By then the crowd had grown quite large. We joined in on some wonderful dancing, made friends with activists dressed as clowns, polar bears, pandas, and more. In the Global Day of action, the march took on a size between 50,000-100,000 participants (reflecting the range presented in the media). This action was part of thousands that took place all over the globe calling for meaningful serious action taken on climate change, and for a binding international agreement. In Copenhagen the march was sponsored by many organizations with their own banners calling for action at COP15. These were transported and handed off to delegates of COP15, after 2-5 hours of marching. (We were in the 5 hour time block.)

During the march there was amazing drumming and a line as far as one could see of people. There were people of all sorts. As described more clearly in Julia’s recent post, the police have been engaging in pre-emptive arrests during the Copenhagen conference. Groups of police follow/target particular blocks of the march, particularly anarchist and black block groups. Julia and I got caught in one scuffle where we did not even see what had initially happened, but all of a sudden people were running away and the police were surrounding a section of the block. They backed off and the march continued after arresting a few people; However, at the same spot a few minutes later, the police surrounded and arrested 900-1000 activists at the same place, with only a few actually being charged. After searching for those being arrested, but blocked off by police, we arrived at the Bella centre at approximately 6pm. Here we met David, got a hot dog, and hung out with fellow activists around a series of fires that had been started. We finished the night by wandering around looking for food and returned to Morten’s around 11pm. Absolutely exhausted, legs pounding.

December 17th, 6:50 PM CET

Forum, NGO Center

There were two sights I saw today that typified the current state of the negotiations. The first was a police-escorted motorcade, lights flashing, racing down one of Copenhagen's main streets towards the Bella Center. I suspect it was carrying a head of state from one of the upscale hotels downtown to the negotiations, stalled for the better part of the week. The second followed shortly after. One of the COP15 buses, running a special route to connect the Bella Center directly to other central points, passed by at a markedly slower pace. It was almost entirely empty.

As world leaders fly in, NGOs and observers are increasingly shut out. Temporary work spaces have been erected all over the city and side events and lectures are taking place in cafes around the city, if they still happen at all. Grassroots networks struggle to reach their members and find physical locations in which to meet and organize. The question this raises - and my opinion is still changing on this - is how the content and progress of the negotiations are affected.

On the one hand, mere access to the Bella Center may be a little overrated. The site is so large, and hallways so crowded that experienced COPers remark at how difficult it is to generate the sort of informal run-ins and brief encounters that have characterized past conferences. Draft texts are not printed and distributed (or even put online) until they are hopelessly out of date, if at all. Most of the action happens in closed meetings, "bilats", or consultations with the secretariat, all inaccessible to observers. Even press conferences are closed to NGOs, though they are broadcast on the website live. The open plenaries rarely yield any new information on specific topics. Overall, unless one is plugged in with a delegation or otherwise working constructively at the Center, it's almost easier to follow the negotiations by keeping one ear listening to live feeds of the negotiations and press conferences, and an eye on email listservs, blog updates, and official press releases from governments, etc., as well as the occasional draft text - all of which can be done outside the conference.

Avaaz's aliens demonstration - standing with a delegate from Panama. Hilarious AND smart - video to come.

However, by closing the Center to NGOs, as was done yesterday after protests inside and out led to concerns over security, the possibility for the kind of constructive work carried out by some NGOs was also shut out. One observer, expressing his frustration in an email on Wednesday, explained how he had been doing pro bono press work for a delegation from a small developing country without any communications staff of their own. Without help, they are unable to get their message out to their people at home or to news agencies at the conference. Now, the only leverage they have is what they can manage to accrue through the negotiation process, which amounts to very, very little. NGOs can also serve as resources to delegations needing guidance from experts on key subjects going into the text. By denying access to NGOs, a large wealth of knowledge is also excluded from the process. In this respect, there is no replacement for being in the same physical space as the negotiations.

So by protesting in order for everyone to "get their voice heard," one block of of civil society managed to obstruct the work of another. Ironically, the idea that the Reclaim Power Now movement on Wednesday would get everyone a spot at the table was patently counter-productive, and only served to further limit input from those poor, disenfranchised, and most endangered by climate change. But again, they were joined in their walk-out by the Bolivian delegation and Indigenous Peoples Caucus. I don't know that that's the smartest move those delegates could have made, but it obviously they saw it as their only recourse. After all, isn't this whole movement about giving developing countries control over their own future?

I welcome comments on this - I'm certainly far from understanding this dichotomy, and especially the role of youth.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

December 16th, 2:45 AM CET

An update from Julia about the movements surrounding the negotiations:
Hello there,
Apologies for not writing for a while. The past few days in Copenhagen have been something of an alternate reality, a place that you might dream of during general frustrations concerning the workings of this mad world. Yesterday, I attended a panel and general assembly with Naomi Klein, Michael Hardt, and one of the lead organizers of the "Reclaim the Power" action (who has now been stealthily arrested by plainclothed officers while coming out of the UN conference center. Yet another one of the 1300+ preemptive arrests here in Copenhagen.) The meeting was held at Christiania, a freetown that was built in the '70s - a haven for art, activism, and unconventional thinking. Beautiful graffiti everywhere, lights in the trees, and activists from all over the world coming together to hear Naomi Klein.

Friends, the sight nearly brought me to tears.

The energy in the tent was so powerful - people wanted to be mobilized, motivated, energized. I climbed a scaffolding and ended up with an excellent seat, for the space was so packed that people were sitting on top of each other. It was very emotional to see the global North and South come together in this arena - there were folks from Guatemala, Uganda, Italy...the list goes on. Discussions involved alternative energy examples from around the world, logistics for the "Reclaim the Power" action, climate change effects on various communities, and goals for the People's Assembly to be held on Wednesday, which would include the indigenous governments, autonomous nations, and NGOs excluded from the UN conference. International solidarity was rich and in the air.

As I strolled around Christiania later that night, suddenly a wave of tear gas came flooding through its streets. What came next was nothing less than a siege. Earlier, the police had sent a helicopter to watch over what had a been a very nice party in Christiania, shining its powerful spotlight into our faces...and suddenly they were behind the trees at either entrance. I'm not sure about how it all started, but what ensued was equivalent to a war film on hyperspeed. According to a long-time resident of Christiania, the community is under constant surveillance by the police. As the black block built fires to protect their home, the police rushed the community and I was trapped for a few hours in a center area - all dark except for the police flashlights, helicopter searchlight, and the bouncing cigarette tips of folks trying to escape. Finally, we were let out after a few random groups were cornered and taken away.

That night brought up many new questions, questions of police mentality and protest culture. If it were not 2:44am, perhaps I would explore them a bit more here. And so it goes.

Read some real COP15 news at and

Good night, dear friends.

*Christiania photo - credit to
*Raid photo - credit to

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December 15th, 6:54 PM CET

Bella Center

After a veerrry late night and unfortunately early morning, the proceedings this morning moved disappointingly slowly. Most meetings once open to observers are now closed, and it's very difficult to access substantive updates. Currently the opening ceremony for the high-level segment is drawing to the close. Things may pick up after this - I'll keep you posted.

For those who are wondering, here's the general process for keeping up with proceedings: Each morning, either download the 'Daily Programme' (one for official UNFCCC events and one for NGO side events) or pick it up at the Documents desk upon getting in to the center. Skim for important or interesting events. Scan the screens around the center that post updates and events that may not be on the program. Any event with celebrity status and late-day substantive meetings are usually posted here. Log on to gmail once in the conference (extra points if multitasking in a committee), checking you inbox and contact's statuses for their whereabouts and news on events.

SBSTA draft text, or a really bad multiple choice quiz?

Also, sign up for every listserv imaginable. Politico does a good morning update, and US Climate Action Network (USCAN) has been running a particularly good one, sending out information about anything from event updates to the protests occurring in the city. They also have members taking nearly word-for-word notes on all important substantive meetings (most of which are not broadcast live) which then are distributed for those who could not get in. When updated draft texts come out, either snag them from the website or the Documents desk. (Feel free to comment on the irony of wasting so much paper, but believe me, everyone's well aware.) There's even a Twitter for updates on the location of free food in the conference. Thanks for lunch, Oliver Bruce. Finally, good old-fashioned hallway gossip and advice shouldn't be underestimated either, and in fact that's how I learned how to do pretty much all of the above.

If that seems like a complicated and obtuse system to keep up with the most important climate summit ever held, it's because it is. It's hard to follow the flow of the negotiations, much less follow a particular issue, like REDD, CDMs, LULUCF, CCS, NAMAs... I could go on... unless one is actually a delegate on a subcommittee or working group, or advising such a delegate. Mostly, you try to build your own network.

Ruminations on how today went are to come.


December 15th, 5:55 PM CET

Bella Center

Compared to the confusion, bustle, and stupefyingly dull line-by-line edits that defined yesterday at the Bella Center, today has seemed rather... calm.

Calm? But this COP 15! Proceedings should be fast-paced, controversial, difficult to follow, anything but... calm. But underlying that calm is a very unsettling feeling that things are moving very quickly, and yet not at all. Twice I flattened myself against a wall while the 30ish-person US delegation literally ran by. (I guess Todd Stern walks very fast.) And unlike previous days at the conference, I could not tell you why. NGOs and observers are increasingly limited not just in their access to the center, but also in the meetings and plenaries we are allowed to watch.

Earlier this week the quota system limited the number of members from each organization allowed into the center. White cards were issued with the understanding that capacity had been reached. But as the week progressed and heads of state finalized their plans, it was announced that on Thursday, only 1000 passes would be issued. On Friday, the final day of the conference, only 90. Out of an official capacity of 15,000.

Plenaries,or general meetings of the entire body or working groups, are almost always listed as "open" to NGOs. But today, supposedly "open" plenaries turned away NGOs. The message was, "By order of the Secretariat, no NGOs. No need to wait. No NGOs in the next meeting. Please move away," according to a Climate Action Network email.

The purpose of these plenaries is typically "stock-taking," regrouping subcommittees to review text, (attempt to) compromise, and decide how to proceed. But today for the first time, guards at the door turned away NGO members for these stock-taking meetings. As there is typically a long lag time to receive a copy of the working text, at which point it is hopelessly outdated, these meetings are the only way those not personally connected with the proceedings can keep track of developments. Needless to say, this was met with outrage among organizations blocked out.

Right now, I'm sitting in the main hall listening to the proceedings live on the website from my computer, while watching it (slightly out of sync) on a screen to the side of the room. To those not lucky enough to squeeze or talk their way into the plenary, it's the best way to keep up. Draft texts are not available to anyone but negotiating teams, meaning it's incredibly difficult to keep up with changes in the text. Rarely, it is projected as a word document in plenary rooms so the body can edit it together - hardly an efficient process.

So what does this meaning? It seems there is a tightening of access for NGOs and observers; even the press is feeling the squeeze. If the purpose is to allow the negotiations to run more efficiently, fine. But if there is the intention to block out those who keep the process open and transparent, there may be larger issues at hand.


Monday, December 14, 2009

December 14th, 8:59 PM CET

A post from Kathryn -

I know my contribution to this blog has been minimal thus far, but I guess that’s fitting after the progress we saw made today. Jessie, Olivia and I headed out from Morten’s today only to find a huge line of conference attendees outside Bella. After an hour spent in the cold (The prize, aka one Danish pastry, goes to Olivia for making the best guess as to when we would get in - 10:30!), we finally got through security in time to sit down briefly with a STIA alum to talk about her experiences with the negotiations.

Later we headed over to a civil society briefing in which we were told that access to the center would be limited on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. On Thursday 1,000 NGO reps will be admitted, and on Friday only 90 out of 15,000 available spaces will be reserved for NGOs, to make room for the “high level officials and their entourages.” Needless to say, this may be one of our last days spent in the center, considering there are around 25,000 NGO employees and affiliates accredited.

But what an exciting day it has been! We were lucky enough to witness a historic debate about the pros and cons of the phrases ‘cited by’, ‘referenced by’ or quoted in’ , as well as some in-depth grammatical analyses. Many of the open working group sessions were cancelled or postponed indefinitely.

The actual excitement happened behind the scenes. We also heard through the grapevine that members of the G77 walked out of sessions earlier in the day. According to reports, the negotiations seem to be stalled in critical areas like emissions reductions commitments from Annex I countries, and our experience today seems to affirm these rumors. We are currently sitting in the Hans Christian Andersen room waiting to hear contact group discussions on emissions trading/project-based mechanisms and Annex I emissions reductions, and the word on the street is that the later will be juicy. But if nothing gets resolved soon, it may just be left up to the heads of state to come up with an acceptable, if last minute, agreement. In general I would consider optimism and energy levels low.

The contrast between my experiences today and yesterday, which I spent at Klimaforum, is striking. Despite (or perhaps because of) the informal setting, participants there seemed energized, full of ideas, and ready to start a green revolution. In particular, the guest speaker Dr. Vandana Shiva, a physics, activist, grass-roots organizer and official government consultant was incredibly inspirational. She is a shining example of an idealist that, throughout her extensive and influential career, has refused to sacrifice her core beliefs in pursuit of a greener, more sustainable future. Her message - that we don’t have to wait for governments to agree to start making the necessary changes to address the current global climate change, poverty, health and welfare crises - seemed to resonate with the crowds, particularly in the light of the current stalemate of negotiations.

Even after a particularly unproductive day of negotiations here in Bella (so far - it's not over yet), I can’t help but be excited for the future of these integrated climate, development, agriculture, gender and forestry movements.

Look for more on Klimaforum from Olivia coming up in the next few posts!

December 14th, 4:55 PM CET

Bellona Center

In the scramble to keep up with the action, there are always those people, statements, and images that force us to pause, laugh, or reflect. Here are a few of my favorites, for various reasons:

Graffiti on the US Delegation room this morning:

Photo courtesy of Josh Dorner of the Sierra Club


This speaker, I believe a human rights activist from a developing country, at the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) plenary pretty much got it right:
"Dear leaders - please ask yourself, What would Mahatma Ghandi do? Please, do that."


An anonymous political cartoon, I'm sorry I cannot find the source:


The ad-hoc working group on the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) is currently attempting to discuss their draft text. The following exchange occurred:
Delegate: "But 'quoted' sounds a bit Shakespearean."
Chair: "Well, we are in Denmark."

Brace yourself for the Hamlet puns to come.

Finally, we did not see this sign at any of the protests, but I do hope we will:

December 14th, 3:28 PM CET

Bella Center

Walking through the hall, I passed a large crowd gathered around Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of the Earth International. Here is a short clip of his message:

As he says, until this is resolved, "There is no point in talking about anything else."

Right now I'm waiting for a contact group on potential consequences to begin, already 30 minutes late with no sign of starting. The conference seems to be getting dangerously behind schedule...


December 14th, 2:39 PM CET

Bella Center

Quick update from the negotiations:

- Controversy today surrounded the pullout of G77 nations as they feel steamrolled by developing countries as the final days of the conference approach. The G77 objects to closing the door on further extensions of the Kyoto Protocol, as they fear losing hard-won gains under that agreement. Though the Kyoto Protocol is essentially irrelevant without the support of the United States, there is a practical aspect to this debate. In the words of the Nigerian delegate on Saturday, "Don't kill the mother until the baby is born." That is, avoid scrapping the one mildly successful climate agreement on the table before the promised improvement has arrived. On the other hand, arguing over provisions that only effect signatories to Kyoto is most likely a gargantuan waste of time, especially considering the large amount of work left to do on crucial issues - short term financing, actual emissions targets - before the close of the conference. We hope to see a resolution to this stand-off before the end of the day if world leaders want to put pen to paper on Friday.

- US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu also dropped by today to deliver a delightfully wonky (in the science sense) powerpoint presentation leading up to the announcement of the launch for Climate REDI (Renewable and Efficiency Deployment Initiative). And I was beginning to fear we'd run out of acronyms. His science is right on, as are the initiatives involved, but the funding in puny - less than $200 million; $85 million from the US, $5 million from Australia, portions from Italy, etc., spread out over the next five years.

(Update - sources are reporting as much as $350 million.)

- In related news, the youth high-level press briefing by Connie Hedegaard (COP15 President) and Yvo de Boer (UNFCCC Executive Secretary) was just cancelled as they are still stuck in plenary. (I was in the third row...)

Yours briefly,

Sunday, December 13, 2009

December 13th, 5:30 PM CET

Baresso Coffee, Norrebrogade

With 8 out of 15 pages finished, I figured it was time for a study break.

While writing in what I strongly suspect is the Danish version of Starbucks, amid the multitude of bikers I saw large police vans tear by with sirens blaring. You could see the officers in riot gear through the tinted windows. Today was one of the largest and most controversial actions yet, the blockade of the harbor. It would begin as a march and end at the harbor, but as it was quite well publicized the police were prepared in advance. Julia and David, another Georgetown student who is staying with us, spent the day at the action. Here's Julia's perspective:

"David and I went to a protest today called "Hit the Production." This was targeting the center harbour of Copenhagen, built to be the main harbour of the North - thus, the center of capitalist production. The carbon emissions of one ship are equivalent to that of 50 million cars according to flyers distributed at the rally. The protest started out peaceful, with chanting and music playing from the lead truck, but then it quickly turned ugly.

Because of "rocks."

Apparently one awesome new fad in Denmark is "preemptive" arrest. If the authorities think protesters are going to do something, then they have free reign to do whatever they like. And they go all out. Today, the po-pos stopped the demonstration before the bridge to the harbour. They jumped onto the truck because, according to one officer, there were "uh, rocks" on the truck and reason to believe that they would be used at the traffic-free habour. What ensued was nothing less than a battle, with police jumping onto the truck and taking down the demonstrators inside it. I was able to get some footage of one cop strangling a demonstrator, pushing his face into one of the truck poles. The police then sectioned off parts of the demonstration, brought out the dogs, and proceeded to arrest whoever they were able to catch inside their blockade. I was pushed out of the blockade while David stayed and exercised his right - he was released about 7 hours later after being held in a cage within a freezing warehouse. Before everyone had been booked and taken onto the buses, one demonstrator fell through the police line and was attacked - club to the head - by a swarm of police, who then pulled him onto one of the buses.

Now, what you might see on mainstream media, like you might have seen yesterday, is footage of a few "violent, anarchist" protesters. What you are being screened from are shots of the hundreds of people who came out today and the lack of violence that was utilized by the demonstrators. A member of the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA) from France mentioned that French mainstream television only showed footage of arrestees yesterday, with little mention of the 60,000 some people who had taken to the streets.

The rest of the day was spent trying to get to the jail vigil, meeting David with falafel, and trying to come to terms with the question that one demonstrator had asked the police --

'Who are you serving?'"

- Julia Shindel

Saturday, December 12, 2009

December 12th, 12:39 AM CET

Morten's Apartment

Our first full day in Copenhagen was exhilarating. Julia and Olivia participated in the Flood, a march involving a few thousand participants that walked from Klimaforum to a square in the city, on the way to the Bella Center (the conference center for the COP). Following a few speakers, the rally moved into its second part, the Global Day of Action, and they continued their march to the negotiations - one of thousands of actions held in cities worldwide. Anywhere from 30,000 (according to the city of Copenhagen) to 100,000 (according to the protest organizers) people participated, with 900 arrested by police. We'll hear more from their perspective a bit later.

I got up early to beat the crowds to the Bella Center, but security still took 30 minutes to clear. I spent the next half-hour before opening plenary wandering around and familiarizing myself with the conference space. First impressions: it's incredibly open, airy, and quite beautiful. It has been greatly expanded from the original center with pre-fab buildings and temporary spaces, which gives it a very modern, minimalist feel. Large trees, skylights, installation artwork, and welcoming couches and cafes makes it a very pleasant place to be. It's definitely bustling with people, but has yet to become overcrowded.

Opening plenary was fascinating. Connie Hedegaard, President of the Conference, moved discussion along concerning which issues should be addressed in subcommittees and which issues need the participation and input of all members and will therefore be decided in plenary. Financial measures, binding mechanisms, and monitoring/verification methods will all most likely be addressed in plenary. Tuvalu spoke first about fears that current actions on the table would not be enough to curb the damaging effects of climate change. The delegate actually came to tears concerning the possible future for his island nation. It garnered a round of applause from an otherwise dispassionate audience, though to me came off as rather theatrical.

It's as of yet unclear what progress is allegedly being made in the smaller breakout committees. They're often closed or at least unlisted in the daily schedule, so one has to find them either by word of mouth or by scouring the marquee screens with room assignments and updated schedules. Dr. Joanna Lewis of Georgetown University, our most helpful pre-conference contact and fellow delegation member, has arrived today, and hopefully will help us get connected. Kathryn arrived in the early afternoon, and together we began our surveys and interviews. More to come on that later.

Currently everyone in the apartment is asleep, so I'll take that as my cue to sign off for now. Tomorrow (Sunday) there are no negotiations, so I'll spend the day exploring the city (i.e., writing a term paper) and perhaps posting a few videos, including Climate Action Network's Fossil of the Day Award and my interview with Tom Polzin with Center for Clean Air Policy (and Georgetown alum).

Stay tuned!

Friday, December 11, 2009

December 11th, 5:54 PM CET

Copenhagen, Denmark
Morten's Apartment

Jet-lagged but excited, we finally made it to wonderful Morten's apartment. He bears a slight but noticeable resemblance to Elvis, and soon left for the library to finish a term paper. Earlier at the airport, I miraculously happened to run into Janet Larsen, (Director of Research at Earth Policy Institute and my boss for the past year) as she was catching her flight out. She told us the conference was often crowded, and to expect Al Gore in the next day or so.

Check-in at the Bella Center took just over an hour. Most of the people in line were European, many speaking with British accents, but we also stood with a delegation from Nigeria and a group of Quechuans in traditional dress. We entered the conference just long enough to get our badges and pick up our transportation passes, and caught a glimpse of the immense exhibition hall featuring booths from organizations world wide. We'll be spending more time there, networking and interviewing people, over the next few days.

Traveling back to Morten's apartment, a combination metro-bus ride that took about 30 minutes, we started asking questions and debating answers that will define the rest of our stay here. Is climate change just an environmental problem, or an economic and security question as well? What does that mean for the people involved? Why do only a few have decision making power when the effects transcend the political and economic elite? Does this even matter, if it cannot be changed? Is finding a solution done through technology, or political will? Or both? And which comes first?

To me, the impediments to action are clearly political, but with economic causes and security implications. In fact, very little currently being debated surrounds technology (with the exception of the few fossil fuels that refuse to go extinct; for instance, CCS, some biofuels, etc.). Janet described the debate so far as squaring off between developing and island nations vs. obstinate well-developed and recently-developed countries. No surprises there, but perhaps what will be surprising is what happens when those developing nations have the platform here to at least try taking the world's biggest polluters to task. Recent news suggests the gap between what each bloc is willing to compromise on may be closing. Tomorrow we'll be diving in to see for ourselves.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, December 10, 2009

December 10th, 1:45 PM EST

Washington-Dulles International Airport

We've made it to the airport ahead of schedule, with plenty of time to kick back - and blog. The past two months have been a whirlwind, from first learning of this opportunity, to rescheduling exams and booking plane tickets, and finally arranging accreditation and finding a place to crash. We would be remiss not to thank the people and professors who have made this trip possible - first and foremost, the wonderful Professor Beach, whose enthusiasm and support were invaluable to us. To the rest of the STIA department, especially Dr. Lewis, we also owe a debt of gratitude for their guidance and advice for the conference. And finally, to all those professors who blatantly ignored department rules and arranged for our exams to happen a bit, er, unconventionally.

I'd like to answer a common question I've gotten over the past few weeks - what exactly will you be doing in Copenhagen? Besides having the adventure of our lives, we're going to be carrying out a bit of public opinion research as a group project between the four of us, as well as pursuing individual interests and projects (and future employers) while there. Look for a panel presentation and possible documentary viewing when we come back for the spring semester. The project will center around the environmental movement itself - the people and organizations that comprise it; their motives, goals, and obstacles; and the United Nations itself as a forum for negotiating on climate change. Through surveys and interviews, we hope to document or "map" the movement. The diversity of our groups serves us well - Julia is an Anthropology major bringing field experience and a cultural studies background. Olivia is majoring in Chemistry with a strong outside interest in grassroots work and social justice. Kathryn and I are both STIA (Science, Technology, and International Affairs) majors, specializing on the intersection between science and policy. Together, we hope to get a pretty good snapshot at the factors at work in the COP 15 negotiations.

Shortly we'll be boarding, but in future posts, look for more information on our day-to-day at the conference, updates on our research, and the deal on Morten, our Danish host whose couch we're crashing.

Venlig Hilsen,