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.
Photo Credit: Carl Ganter/350.org