Copenhagen, Dec. 17, 2009. I’ve been at COP15 since Thursday last week and there’s a lot to be said about the logistical nightmare that is happening here. When I got here I had a letter of assignment from CBS Smart Planet, but the media accreditation process had already been suspended. At the media registration desk on Thursday, they told me they had over 15,000 press people trying to access only 5,000 available press spots.
Lucky for me, I was able to secure a spot as a last minute substitution on an NGO delegation for an organization I have contacts in, and was able to get into Bella every day until yesterday’s NGO shut out. I wasn’t happy being shut out but I didn’t take it personally nor did most others.
With 45,000 people having proper accreditation for only a 15,000 capacity venue it’s clear that COP15 was sorely under-planned for on every level.
Who’s fault is this? The UN? The Danish government? The police have definitely over-reacted to largely peaceful demonstrations with excessive violence, and this needs to be acknowledged and addressed.
But more than anything, on whom should we look to place blame for the under-planning of the biggest climate change summit the world has ever seen?
I’d blame it on the Universe.
It’s this pesky thing that’s happening, called awareness.
Even after factoring in the popularity of climate change issues after movies like “An Inconvenient Truth,” “The 11th Hour” and “Day After Tomorrow,” it’s important to remember that just two years ago you couldn’t find 15,000 people no less 45,000, willing to fly across the globe to a remote, cold location, just to be here and see what’s happening.
The Universe is stirring with awareness. And in less than 2 years, what was for a long time a fringe issue has become the thing everyone is talking about.
Just logistically, once a venue is chosen with limited capacity, and the event is overbooked, what is to be done? After shutting out two-thirds of the press and with Heads of State coming to participate in the conference, what can be done, except to limit the NGO’s and use those seats for participants?
I interviewed Bill Becker (a regular contributor for Huff Post) several times during the course of the conference this week. See my interview with Bill outside the Bella Center here. We both happened to be shut out of the conference on the same day. They had shut down the Bella Center metro stop due to a peaceful demonstration and people were forced to walk in the snow from the next metro stop.
The only difference was that Bill was invited to participate in a panel at one of the side events inside Bella. I’d been invited to blog the side event. Neither of us were able to attend.
NGO’s have been a peaceful, productive, and positive presence for the most part at The Bella Center, supportive of the UNFCCC and excited to make positive contributions. But nobody’s perfect.
Yesterday the Friends of the Earth video highlighted the refusal to accept 12 badges to enter the Bella Center after all the NGO’s had been shut out. This was done in pride and a “no bad deal if no good deal” attitude which, being here and being one of the NGO delegates who’s badge and secondary card was not honored yesterday, I still see as unproductive and immature.
When I was at the Bella Center and the African delegation effectively collapsed the talks, the first thing I did was head over to the African offices in area C-6 at Bella. I wanted to find someone to talk to – anyone who could tell me what happened – and I did find out. And that’s the whole point. Being inside is better than being outside.
Whether it’s 50 spots or 12, whoever can get in needs to go in and represent the rest of us. And refusing 12 badges in protest of losing the other 10,000 or whatever, is arrogant and unproductive.
Yes, this event was under-planned, poorly planned, and possibly with some idea of limiting NGO presence. Yes, NGO’s are in large part being neglected in terms of communications and conference security. And yes, NGO’s as a whole perhaps get a bad rap for the actions of a few loud and disruptive parties. But that’s still missing the point.
The fact that all the Heads of State are coming to this conference means the issues are in large part on the table, forestry and REDD are hot topics, the agenda is full and, with the exception of ocean protection is more complete than ever in terms of true environmental, restorative reform. The NGO’s have succeeded already, or none of this would be happening.
Yes, it sucks to have to go to alternate venues, with no personal access to conference participants, but strip it down and that’s really only ego on the part of attendees, and security officials.
And now, in the wake of the rumor that the COP15 agreement will lead to a 3 degree temperature rise globally and a concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of 550 parts per million (well over the safe limit of 350ppm) it’s important to keep our focus during heated moments.
As it has been said, “when the peasants are shouting in the streets, the kings aren’t listening.”
So we may be stuck with incrementalism when the science says it’s too late for that, and we may be on a course too late to reverse, due to factors well within our control as pointed out so eloquently today in the Daily Kos.
Now here’s the point:
At this time in the evolution of our species we can really decide where to focus our attention, and it should be on the highest context.
Just 2 years ago, you couldn’t find 45,000 people to attend a climate change symposium.
Today, we’re on the verge of a worldwide climate accord, and the whole world is watching with more than ever wanting to actively participate in the solution.
The Universe is awakening. We are awakening.
So blame the Universe, and let’s focus on the positive.
And make sure we have a bigger venue in Mexico next year.
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