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COPENHAGEN: Gillian Caldwell’s First Week in Copenhagen: Voices, Vigils, and Lead or Go Home

COPENHAGEN:  Gillian Caldwell’s First Week in Copenhagen: Voices, Vigils, and Lead or Go Home

EDITOR’S NOTE: Once again we are honored to offer coverage of the Climate Conference from 1Sky’s Gillian Caldwell.  Let us know what you think the President should do when he arrives.

I spent my first week in Copenhagen at the U.N. Climate Change talks wondering if, during the two-week discussions, the world would come together to meet the greatest challenge of our time. It quickly became apparent that, with 190 countries coming to the table with their own agendas, it was hard to see where steps towards an agreement would be met. The negotiations started slowly, but then voices from a few key players began to emerge during the week:

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced the agency’s long-awaited endangerment finding that greenhouse gases present a threat to public health and welfare — potentially setting the stage for the U.S. delegation in Copenhagen to adopt a stronger position for negotiations despite the lack of a Senate bill. Many environmental groups applauded her decision.

Meanwhile, the tiny island-nation of Tuvalu took center stage along with many of its G77 allies  (developing nations). Tuvalu made an emotional plea for developed and industrialized countries to deliver a binding treaty, to make science-based cuts in global warming pollution, and to deliver substantial financing commitments to help developing nations transition to clean energy economies. The call to “Stand with Tuvalu” spoke to the urgency felt by these developing nations that could experience the worst effects of climate change. 

When it comes to offers from industrialized nations in the negotiations, the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance said,

“20% of people living in developed countries would consume over 60% of the Earth’s atmospheric space while the 80% who are poor will be consigned to live within the remaining 40%. You are literally stealing from us the very sky over our heads.

The hundreds of thousands of protesters who marched in Copenhagen on Saturday (see photo) carried with them these voices from the developing world; voices desperate for a strong and legally binding treaty. I marched with thousands that evening and 1Sky advocates joined them at candlelight vigils across the U.S. Our partners at 350 and TckTckTck organized a beautiful rally for climate action in Copenhagen, with more than 100,000 climate advocates marching.  It culminated in church bells ringing 350 times on Sunday morning to echo the call for 350 parts per million — the level considered safe for concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Lead or Go Home

This week starts with an urgent call to U.S. leaders arriving in Copenhagen: Lead or go home.  One way to start leading is to adopt 1Sky’s call for the U.S. to shift fossil fuel subsidies (which currently amount to $10 billion a year!) to long-term climate financing for developing countries that will allow them to deploy clean energy technologies and adapt to the consequences of climate change. Developing nations also want stronger emissions reductions targets from the U.S. and other nations. The U.S. has among the weakest short-term emissions targets of any major developed country thus far: a laughable 4% below 1990 levels.

President Obama needs to validate his commitment to bold climate action later this week by embracing targets that recognize the latest science and the scale of the crisis. His speech is only a few days away — but for now, the U.S. negotiators aren’t budging.

What do you think the President should do?  Let us know.

Gillian Caldwell is the Campaign Director for 1Sky, a new national campaign to build a diverse nationwide movement and convince our federal government to take bold action to tackle the climate crisis and harness the enormous economic opportunity of the renewable energy economy by 2010.  Most recently, Gillian served as Executive Director of WITNESS, which uses the power of video to open the eyes of the world to human rights abuses. Gillian led WITNESS’ rapid expansion during her decade of leadership and helped produce numerous documentary videos for use in advocacy campaigns around the world.

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Photo Credit: Carl Ganter/

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1:11AM PDT on May 9, 2013

Thank you for article.

1:09AM PDT on May 9, 2013

Thank you for article.

1:08AM PDT on May 9, 2013

Thank you for article.

1:04AM PDT on May 9, 2013

Thank you for article.

9:01AM PST on Dec 20, 2009

One thing further Renee - the poorest of the poor in your country do not have cable, a roof over their heads and enough to eat!
They sleep on the streets, have no access to medical care and survive off soup kitchens provided by charities!
I don't know where you live in the US - but take a walk through Washington or New York late at night if you don't believe me.
I am not condemning the people of the USA - it happens here too! and it's not easy to see from the comfort of home.

8:45AM PST on Dec 20, 2009

Oh dear Renee, I hate to see battlers like you defending the super-rich!!
You say that they worked hard for their money and are entitled to it. I hate to disappoint you but most of the world's super-rich had a head start compared with the rest of us.
Take Rupert Murdoch, ex-Australian, now a US citizen and global media mogul, for example. He inherited a huge media business here. He had the best education money could buy and, because of his family ties, entre into the world's elite.
Please don't try to kid yourself that you or I could ever reach the sort of wealth he has. No matter how hard we work!
And he did it by ruthless oppression of ordinary working people - eg his battle with the printing workers in the UK.
Did you know that the 6 wealthiest people in the world own more money/resources than the 100 poorest COUNTRIES?
Even you have to agree that this just isn't right?
As Johan and Shaktiva say socialism isn't about government control! especially the Bolivarian kind, as seen in Venezuela.
Hugo Chavez talks about love for each other (sound familiar?), not greed and exploitation. The Venezuelan government has set up "community councils" for each neighbourhood to decide, for themselves, what's best for them!
Through government funded programs they have decreased the infant mortality rate 10% in only 10 years! through the simple measures of providing clean water to all, and vaccinating all kids.
Please think again! and don't condemn socialism before you know all t

8:37PM PST on Dec 18, 2009

Socialism is not about government control, nor is communism.
It's about dividing, sharing the wealth and maintaining public services and needs into governmental hands.

Don't take bad examples as proof of how wrong the ideologies are. I don't compare every American with Indian bashers, slavedrivers and warmongerers too. Excesses always existed and are not the rule but the exception.

Don't tell me that Corporate America isn't anything like a socialistic bastion. Still, that is approved because they are the shareholders. Like Stalin liked his communism because he held the bridles.
Talk about global government! It's already here. Regulations introduced by Bush and Obama to 'fight terrorism' resulted in an invasion of privacy for Europeans, even if we decide never to visit the US!

The problem with any ideology is that it needs to cover a too big base at some time. That it's based upon reasonability and sensitivity and caring. But we know that's not the case.

Not every monarch was bad and most elected aren't that well as expected. We only choose four years of our elected dictators.

5:26PM PST on Dec 18, 2009

Johan, socialism is NOT about equality, it is about more government control over the people, making everyone equal sounds good, but it rarely if ever truly happens. Those who work hard and sacrifice to build their businesses and their wealth deserve to keep it. Those of us who are poor, have every opportunity to do something to change our circumstances. I only made $5000 last year due to my disability. I do not whine and complain about those who have wealth. It is their right, just as I have the right to develop a product or service everyone would want and possibly make millions myself. That is the free market and capitalism.
What do you say to this very fact. NO ONE, who is poor has EVER been elevated out of poverty because of government hand outs. This has NEVER happened!! I do not know what kind of utopia you are living in, but the reason the world hates us is because we are strong and wealthy. Even our poorest of the poor have cable, a roof over their heads (though provided by our government) food in their bellies, and the list goes on. Our poor are wealthier than the poorest of the poor of the world and in developing countries. We built what we have through blood, sweat, and extremely hard work. NO! We will not give up what we built. I could give a crap about Chavez and socialism, you can keep it. I will take the American way of life anyday!! We earned what we have, we did not steal it.

4:01PM PST on Dec 18, 2009

Renee, Socialism is about equality and about sharing the resources fairly between the citizens, and helping each other out in soldarity - making sure that no one will be left behind or have to live in poverty while others live lives in wasteful luxury. And, I just don't really understand why you Americans are so afraid of that. What's so terrible with equality? But then again, I guess, if living in America, the land that is based on materialism, that worships mammon over all else, and where greed, wastefulness and egocentrism is seen as positive things, then I understand that an ideology striving for equality can be scary - that is, if you don't happen to be one of those millions of Americans who live in poverty, of course... And, also of course, Chavez is one of the few world leaders who actually with emphasis dare to speak up against and challenge the American dominance and world imperialism, and question the greatness of the American and Western capitalist, materialist way of life. And, I guess the fact that a politician in Latin America - which has always been regarded by the US as their own backyard - does so, must be a bit uncomfortable for many Americans.

3:59PM PST on Dec 18, 2009

Thank you, Margaret! Yes, you are so right! Chavez is in fact a president that is democratically elected by his people, which is more that one could say about the former American president Bush...! (Sorry, that was like kicking in an open door, but I felt I had to, lol.) A dear friend of mine comes from Venezuela, and even though he's definitely no socialist, he still thinks that Chavez has done lots of good for the country. Since Chavez was elected he has done so many good things for Venezuela. He has dramatically decreased poverty, and he has greatly improved the school system and the healthcare system, as well as greatly improved the conditions for poor farmers and workers, and the gap betweem the rich and the poor, which was previously immense, has under Chavez's lead significantly decreased. He has also improven their environmental protection on the country, and now his country is on the forefront when it comes to work against climate change. Also, of course there is free speech in Venezuela, and a very open debate about politics, and the elections are free and open. And I actually see Chavez as one of the greatest role models of our time.

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