After an all-night session that stretched into the gray Copenhagen afternoon, COP 15, the climate summit, is over. A 12-paragraph agreement has been “noted,” and government delegates, NGO representatives (who’d largely been shut out of the negotiations at the Bella Center in recent days), journalists and assorted others were packing, bleary-eyed, and making moves to leave the city. Few expected the two weeks of intense deliberations to end like this. I’d had several late nights this week, attending panels at the people’s climate summit, the Klimaforum, and ruminating with colleagues about the prospects of a climate deal. Last night, as the deliberations stretched on, three of us followed the news on TV until just after President Obama gave his news conference around 11 p.m. He finished and initially we were silent. What had happened? What did it mean? Then the deflation set in; had all led up to this…just this, what Obama called a “first step?” The science of climate change, he admitted, warranted more action, but the political process simply couldn’t provide it.
This morning, puzzling over it all along the Copenhagen waterfront, I realized that this lovely, prosperous and very expensive city (a reality felt keenly by NGO delegates from the global South) is bounded by two sets of active smokestacks. They’re ugly, visceral evidence of industrial society, spewing pollution into the sky non-stop. I couldn’t help but wonder, in the frantic final days at the Bella Centre, had smoke gotten into the heads of states eyes, clouding their judgement? It’s something I’ll be pondering for weeks, if not months, to come. Despite the lack of a binding climate deal, the UN has declared 2010 International Year of Biodiversity. Perhaps it’s apt here to quote President Obama seeking out Chinese premier Wen Jiabao yesterday: “Are you ready?”