COP 14: Poznan, Poland

COP 14: Poznan, Poland

Not yet a last stand

Some good news from the global climate talks in Poznan, Poland that, like many UN meetings, didn’t wrap up until the wee hours of the morning last Saturday. Groundwork was laid for a new, post-Kyoto climate agreement to be agreed this time next year in Copenhagen. And forests did make it more fully onto the climate agenda–that is, protecting standing forests and restoring those that have been lost. County delegations also agreed on the importance of supporting REDD initiatives for slowing global warming, that is reducing emissions from forest destruction and degradation. In fact, a new web portal has been set up by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to share information on REDD initiatives. However, there are some significant, shortcomings in the forest deal: language on the rights of indigenous peoples was struck, at the request of several industrialized nations, including the U.S. and New Zealand. And the forest agreement, bizarrely, doesn’t mention biodiversity protection, which could, some observers argue, allow countries to clear forests for agricultural commodities like palm oil and soy.

Nobel laureate Al Gore was in Poznan and he was impassioned. His speech drew a standing ovation. Basically, he told the delegates, the world needs to get real and loud. “I call on the people of the world to speak up more forcefully,” he said. And in what may be a first for a UN conference, he uttered a bunch of boldface, tabloid names, as he continued: “We need to focus clearly and unblinkingly on this crisis rather than spending so much time on O.J. Simpson, Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith.” Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai spoke after Gore. We don’t have a copy of her statement yet, but when we do, we’ll post it.

I was intrigued by some things I read posted by a Poznan observer, a professor at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Law at the University of Cape Town named l. Glazewski. In a report from the climate talks for a South African newspaper, he wrote the following about the substance of the negotiations and the atmosphere surrounding them:

…[O]n the last day of the conference I was buoyed by Al Gore’s inspirational speech. He acknowledged the delegates’ struggle between “hope and fear” as we ride the road towards the next meeting in Copenhagen. He referred to Mahatma Gandhi’s irrefutable adage about the power of “truth force”, which here was provided by the science; he referred to our moral duty to future generations and the spiritual dimension of the challenge and quoted statements by the United States president-elect. These indicate that there seemingly will indeed be a major sea change in the superpower’s approach to the challenge of climate change.

As Gore left the podium to a standing ovation, Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmental Nobel prizewinner, came forward and he gave her a warm hug.

Earlier in his report, Glazewski wrote this, which struck me as particularly perceptive:

…A passionate second-year Polish law student assisting at a small-scale farmers’ food security stand and side event put her finger on it for me, exclaiming, “There is no ethical dimension in all the deliberations here.” Perhaps we need to give some thought to developing and giving effect to a global environmental ethic as we enter “the second commitment period”, which will be in the spotlight at the next meeting in Copenhagen.

Only 11 months and 28 days (or thereabouts) to go.