Waiting’and Sneezing’in Copenhagen

Waiting’and Sneezing’in Copenhagen

Bill McKibben waiting in line to get into the Bella Center

People have taken to calling it the “COP cold.” Many here in Copenhagen, waiting to see what actually comes out of the climate summit as the temperature drops outside, are suffering from it. That includes me, at least for the last 24 hours. The news from the Bella Centre isn’t definitive. We hear that a deal may be near, particularly now that Obama’s here (his arrival on Air Force one and short car trip to Bella was broadcast live on Danish TV). Others say that prospects for a deal are slipping away.

Even though the UN advised delegates to reorganize their travel plans to stay in Copenhagen through Sunday evening, we hear the Chinese delegation has gone to the airport; so has French president Nicholas Sarkozy. I haven’t been to an international meeting like this ever that finished early. But why the negotiations always have to go down to the wire, or beyond, isn’t clear: nostalgia for the days of writing student term papers?

Bill McKibben, 350.org founder and author, said this morning at the Klimaforum that we can’t expect much from the government deliberations at this point. The story of the summit lies elsewhere, in the small island states and other developing countries standing up to the industrialized countries and demanding real cuts in GHG emissions, and serious financing, for adaptation and mitigation. The story’s also about civil society activists, McKibben, continued, who’ve built a global climate movement and showed their strength and determination in Copenhagen. Many delegations from poorer countries took strength from the solidarity they felt from 350.org and other civil society movements organized around climate justice, McKibben, clad in a bright red 350.org T-shirt, concluded.

If that is a story that come out of Copenhagen, it’s a good one. So would be one that goes like this: governments truly acted here on behalf of their citizens, the climate, and the planet. That the international political process worked. That a price wasn’t required to be put on everything. That the agreement is proportional to the challenges. That, perhaps most simply, the work expected to be done in Copenhagen was done’fairly, transparently and equitably.

Photo courtesy of Kris Krug