Thursday, December 31, 2009

Limited Edition Lego sets!

At the Future Energy Seminar at Samso Island we were gifted limited edition Lego sets by Vestas of a Wind Turbine.We all thought about the kids we had left at home who would LOVE them as gifts. Being Christmas time it was the perfect Christmas gift for my Steven who is 20 but I was sure would love the set.

However - I never anticipated the rush of sudden star status I achieved just carrying the box home! At the Copenhagen airport itself I had a really loud American who was before me in the Q to check in suddenly start up a conversation and even ask if I was willing to sell the set to him. He was a collector he said and had a MAERSK limited edition set as well!
In my seat another guy from Brussels talked over the occupant of the middle seat about the set and was almost drooling when he looked at the outside of the large box throughly.The lady who sat in the centre finally just got up and moved to an empty seat elsewhere once the flight took off.
On the flight from Paris to Bangalore too I had a Frenchman who sat next to me smile widely when he very willingly put the box up in the overhead bins and took it down in Bangalore for me.
There are all these ads and as the legend goes, its a beautiful woman who draws the most attention from men. However after this experience I am very sure all men are still just little boys at heart and there's nothing like a Lego set to get them all excited and a little envious of your sons Christmas gift!

Sunrise on Samso Island

As we got off the bus to attend the Future Energy Seminar on Samso Island in Denmark run by Rob Taylor of the International Center for Journalists ( ICFJ) we were stunned speechless with the sight of the sunrise over the sea. Take a look at the picture, I shot it with my small Canon digital camera and yet the picture is simply stunning.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wind Energy used in an intriguing form

Just outside the COP15 venue here at the Bella Centre in freezing Copenhagen is a coffee stand doling out free coffee. Grateful participants line up for cups of the hot Brazilian and Peruvian brew to stave off the cold. What’s interesting is the coffee is brewed by wind energy according to Jacob Holst from the Wind Energy association. “ This is part of a campaign since Poznan to raise the profile of wind Energy as one solution to galloping Climate change. We also are active with the Wind Turbine Manufacturers association in India. We believe wind energy is clean and free and the way to go.”

Ice Sculpture

Just outside the Bella Center, there would be interesting exhibits put up by various NGO's everyday. Very early in the first week, Friends of the Earth had an ice sculpture of The Little Mermaid, which is Denmark's favourite icon. She is small and delicate unlike the huge and ugly Statue of Liberty. Danish Fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen immortalised her in his tale which children all over the world know and love. The mermaid sculpture lasted for just a day inspite of freezing conditions.By the next morning she had melted down to the size of a tadpole.Wonder how many of the visitors really knew her significance or even cared.

Mundus Classmates

At COP15 I bumped into my classmates from the Erasmus Mundus Masters in Journalism class -- Miriam, Maren and Katya. They were all there in different capacities and it was such fun to meet after a gap of two years!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Text book on Climate Change

Hey all my readers and friends out there --- I have a question. Would you as a lay person be interested in buying a small text book which I want to write up on -- 20 questions on Climate Change. Questions like --What is the difference between global warming and Climate Change? The selling price will have to be at least Rs 100.

Any thoughts?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Copenhagen brought Climate Change to the world’s attention!

It’s been a few days since my return from the Copenhagen Summit. And, there is just one remark made by everyone I meet or I am in touch with across the globe- ‘Copenhagen was a failure!’ But, I do not agree!
Having covered the conference from start to finish for both the Indian and International media, having followed the negotiators from Poznan, Poland (COP14) to Bonn, to Bangkok and then finally Copenhagen, the summit to me was no failure at all.
Agreed that in the all-night negotiations, leaders had reached a weak agreement in Copenhagen that failed to set the emissions targets needed to prevent catastrophic global warming. Agreed that the Copenhagen Accord was stronger on funding, but it was not binding, and set no urgent deadline to sign a real climate treaty. Agreed that big polluters like China and the US wanted a weak deal, and potential champions like Europe, Brazil and South Africa didn't fight hard enough to stop them.

While leaders failed to make history, people around the world did. In thousands of vigils, rallies and protests, hundreds of thousands of phone calls, and millions of petition signatures, an unprecedented movement of the common man has begun in the world. After hearing the result of the talks, one member from Africa wrote "It takes a lot to get an elephant moving, but when you do it is hard to stop...the elephant is moving..." That really sums up what organizations like Aawaaz, WWF, Action Aid and Greenpeace achieved with their relentless drive to insist that the leaders did more. That sums up that Copenhagen woke up a slumbering world populace to the dangers of the crisis confronting us.

Copenhagen has built a movement among the youth across the globe that can win the fight to save our planet. As a committed ‘green,’ I believe, Copenhagen brought Climate Change out from the shadows or the corridors of science onto a world platform. Worldwide people now know what the Climate Change crisis is about and will make an effort to reduce pollution. The youth who were indolent have been galvanised to act. It’s a good feeling, that Copenhagen struck where it should- us the common man.
Never mind the politicians and their posturing.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Santa Earrings from Denmark!

My Santa earrings from Denmark on display on Christmas day!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Picture of us journalists at COP15

Steve's reaction when he saw the pic --- hey! that looks like the actual room where Barack Obama and Manmohan Singh addressed the world. :-)

For me, COP15 brought Climate Change out of the shadows and to the world's direct gaze and attention. That was a job well done and we need see how we can deviate from business as usual in our own little way.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Images of shop windows in Malmo! Merry Christmas everyone!

Wind energy off shore farms

Wind Energy is big in Denmark and Sweden and as we came in on the train every morning and evening to and from Malmo in Sweden to Copenhagen, we would see the off shore wind farms.

At the COP15 the Wind Energy side event had a novel offer which had thousands visit them almost every single day.They had a rack stacked with beautiful, free picture post cards which had been taken in the country they had set up their wind farms. There were cards from Scotland, India, Spain, Germany, China, Poland, you name it, they were all there. You could choose your card, address it and 'post' it in a box they had on the table. At the end of the day, they would post all the cards free of cost to the address written on them.

You can bet all of us turned up regularly to do that and told our colleagues who also came up and posted cards home to India, to friends and loved ones!

Free travel for COP 15

Once we journalists had gone through the formalities of accreditation with the COP15 we were told to go to the Travel Desk and collect our travel passes. Those orange passes were to be our lifeline for the two weeks we lived in Copenhagen as it gave us free access to use the economy class bogies of trains, metros and buses in both Copenhagen and in Malmo, Sweden. That was a very generous gift to us journalists are always starving, never mind the generosity of the UNFCCC to us!

We were very careful carrying both the passes and our badges as the conductors came on and checked us on every single trip we took. Those who did not have their passes were strictly told off once and the second time fined.

We saw locals being fined 22 Euros for coming on minus a ticket.No wonder the cities work so well with perfect infrastructure, roads and public transport. We need similar tough rules followed in India if we want our public transport and amenities to work.

Swedish PM statement

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt gave out a statement on behalf of the EU and its member states saying that the first UN conference on the environment was held in Stockholm in 1972. At the conference Indias PM Indira Gandhi at the time raised the question, Are not poverty and need the greatest polluters? Mrs Gandhi confronted the world with the fact that poverty is both the major cause and consequence of environmental degradation.

He said the world has come a long way from 1972 but we have not been able to respond to that challenge. Hunger disease and poverty will never be defeated in a world where global warming goes above 2 degrees celsius. Science is clear he said, billions of people out of poverty. Let us answer Mrs Gandhi's question here in Copenhagen! Let Copenhagen not be just about restrictions and constraints but about sustainable development, green growth and possibilities!

Let us be clear, the EU has come here to seal the deal. Let us not leave Copenhagen before we have reached an agreement that is ambitious, global and comprehensive.

Firstly the Copenhagen agreement must be ambitious and enable us to satay below 2 degrees celsius. Secondly the Copenhagen agreement needs to provide for a substantial scaling up of financial support for developing countries. Thirdly the agreement needs to be global encompassing all nations of the world and comprehensive by covering all the Bali building blocks and balanced by being legally binding for all.

Let this be the place to take the decisive step to tackle the climate challenge. We are citizens of this incredibly beautiful planet and therefore we have to make this together.

However his voice could not be heard among the majority of developed nations who ignored what he said.

Around the world in a Solar ‘Plane

It is a sad day here in Copenhagen after president Obama’s speech effectively made it obvious that there will be no grandiose agreement coming out of COP15 after all. A side event put up by Switzerland on the use of Solar Energy to fuel a solar plane, was the only interesting happening of the day.

The event showcased the Swiss technological advancement in terms of renewable energy and energy savings. The Swiss Solar Impulse pioneering project which was presented by Dr Piccard and Andre Borsching in boiler suits explained that the sun’s energy is always available, the problem is we humans cannot see the obvious. It is just the fear of the unknown and for some it’s just way too simple to imagine. Today it may be expensive to comprehend, but later when the price of oil jumps to a price we cannot handle, we will be glad we invested in renewable technology with solar energy said Piccard.

The engineers said that by next spring there would be a ‘plane which could take a 5 day flight and by 2011 they were looking at crossing the Atlantic! “ The COP will still be on in 2040,” he said tongue in cheek, “ so its better that we handle the problem now, ourselves.”

A model of the airplane drew a crowd of spectators who wanted to see the zero fuel airplane with a wingspan of an Airbus 340. “ That is in order to minimize induced drag and offer the largest possible surface for the solar cells. The weight of the ‘plane is the same as a family car, and every unnecessary gram has been eliminated, in order to build a super light air-craft.”

Bjorn Lomborg at the COP15 is a joke!

Three years ago as a student with the Erasmus Mundus in Aarhus in Denmark, we were taken to meet the celebrated Danish ‘sceptical environmentalist’ Bjorn Lomborg. Blonde and blue eyed and very sure of his charm, Lomborg told us that it was the ‘scratch and burn’ methods of farming which had caused any increase of GHG’s in the atmosphere and he blamed our ‘third world’ economies for the problem. He even quoted Amartya Sen, Nobel laureate, but quite out of context to our fuming chagrin.

Today he is wandering around the Bella Centre acting the star, giving out his agents press card for appointments for interviews and refusing direct requests for comments. After a lot of badgering as to the reasons of his presence here at COP15, after all he acquired his fame being a skeptic he said, “ Climate Change is vastly exaggerated by the press. It’s a problem we need to fix smartly. The strategy has failed for the last 18 years since Rio in 1992. I suggest that 0.2 percent of each developed country’s GDP should be spent on Climate Change towards renewable energy technology, and that should fix the problem. That’s the only way you can get India and China on board.”

Smart turn around I must say!

Cycles a very visible presence in Sweden and Denmark!.

Reinforcing the point that we need to go back to the cycle to cut down on carbon emissions the Danes and Swedes seem to enjoy their biking all over the city of Copenhagen and Malmo, no matter the weather. What is most noticeable is the number of cycles parked for the day in cycle stands near the train station. Then they take the train to work literally cutting down on CO2 emissions with having less cars on the road.
No matter the weather, they just bundle up in woollies and boots and cycle on the almost empty roads to the station where they leave hundreds of cycles unlocked for the day. It was mind boggling for us to see the numbers of very basic cycles, being used by all age groups of people from ‘older’ retired people to the very young school going child.

The picture is of cycles parked in front of the train station in Malmo, Sweden.

Malmo --dressed up for Christmas

On the way back to our Hotel in Malmo, Sweden, after our first day at the COP15 in Copenhagen, Imelda Abano the prize-winning journo from the Phillipines took me for a walk about to see the towns central plaza all dressed for Christmas.
There was a skating rink, the leafless trees were covered with sparkly little lights and in the centre of the square was this huge ferris wheel called the Malmo Wheel. It resembled the London Eye but it was more a fun ride for the towns adventure loving.
The skating rink had lots of kiddies swanning around on the ice and the shop windows were full of Christmas goodies which we rambled through to take home.

Santa is busy in Malmo

Out beyond the ambit of the Bella Centre, and the Climate Change conference, the rest of Denmark and Sweden seem to be getting ready for Christmas. In a mall in Malmo Sweden last night, a Santa presided over the lobby in the centre of the mall. Children walked up to him while he very solemnly wrote down their requests for gifts for Christmas. Then with a quill pen the Santa with ruddy cheeks and a flowing snow white beard wrote them down in a large, old fashioned book. All around him were heaps of presents and the whole procedure was the cutest thing I had ever seen!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Stripping for the Climate

It's been a tough ending to an amazing two weeks at the COP15. In all-night negotiations, leaders reached a weak agreement in Copenhagen that failed to set the emissions targets needed to prevent catastrophic global warming. The agreement was stronger on funding, but it was not binding, and set no urgent deadline to sign a real climate treaty. Big polluters like China and the US wanted a weak deal, and potential champions like Europe, Brazil and South Africa didn't fight hard enough to stop them.

But while leaders failed to make history, people around the world did. In thousands of vigils, rallies and protests, hundreds of thousands of phone calls, and millions of petition signatures, an unprecedented movement rose to this moment. After hearing the result of the talks, one member from Africa wrote "It takes a lot to get an elephant moving, but when you do it is hard to stop...the elephant is moving..."

Despite the outcome, Copenhagen has built the movement that can win the fight to save our planet.

Outside the venue, every single morning, Greepeace, WWF, among a host of other activists, made their demands of the world leaders loud and clear.They stripped to bare essentials in the cold as the above picture shows. They distributed coffee and veg sandwiches to the crowds waiting patiently in the snow, to get inside the Bella Centre. They were a very visible presence, which ovbiously rattled the decision makers.

In the last week,they organized thousands of vigils and events in hundreds of countries, multi-million person petitions, and dozens of national phone calling campaigns that made thousands of phone calls. They generated thousands of news articles, organized peaceful petition-reading sit-ins at key government buildings, and ran several high level stunts and events at the summit itself.

The two weeks in Copenhagen saw that the fight to save our planet cannot be won at a single summit. But it was indeed a platform to show what youth activists are capable of, when they worked together as one. This post is to cheer them on to greater success in Mexico one year down the road.

What is the Copenhagen Accord all about?

So COP-15 is over. The two-year process that began in Bali has been extended into 2010, and nations will head to Mexico next year to try again to negotiate what they failed to agree on at Copenhagen.

The two working groups that had been charged with producing agreements on, a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and a global agreement on climate action that includes the United States essentially failed to reach agreement after two years of talks.

It was only the eleventh-hour intervention of a group of leaders of major emitting countries that allowed Copenhagen to avoid ignominious failure. The surprise appearance, late on Friday, of a text agreed between the leaders of the United States, China, India, Brazil, South Africa and up to 20 other nations, distracted the conference long enough to allow COP hosts Denmark to close the meeting with a qualified agreement.

Because the COP operates on consensus, any opposition to a proposal means that passage is impossible. Five countries – Venezuela, Sudan, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba – rejected the Accord outright.

During the early hours of Saturday morning delegates argued over how to proceed given the lack of consensus. Eventually, Slovenia proposed listing all those countries in favour and against the Accord, and it was agreed that the COP should not approve the text but simply “take note” of it. This gives the Accord some legal status without implying approval.

By the time President Barack Obama arrived in Copenhagen on Friday morning, it had become clear to most Parties and observers that the twin-track negotiations under the two Ad-Hoc Working Groups were failing to make any headway. Even bilateral discussions among leaders themselves were not producing any breakthrough.

During the night of Friday President Obama reportedly met with the leaders of the BASIC group of countries (Brazil, India, South Africa and China) and further discussions with a wider group of countries led to the creation of the Accord.

The Accord was then presented to a Plenary meeting of the COP, which after a long and tense debate, punctuated by pauses for legal advice, eventually decided to take note of the Accord.
Parties to the UNFCCC have until January 31 2010 to enter their pledges or commitments into one of two Appendices to the Copenhagen Accord. The pledges will then be held and communicated among Parties as they prepare to negotiate a legally binding treaty next year.
It has to be said that the Copenhagen Accord does not offer much in the way of environmental security. The vague commitment to a 2 degree Celsius limit on temperature rises is not in any way supported by definite actions. Money to assist adaptation and mitigation measures in developing countries has yet to flow.

But it may be that the five heads of state that met late Friday have created something that could eventually succeed more meaningfully that Kyoto has been able to, to date.
Kyoto mandates emissions reductions in countries representing just 30% of global emissions. Copenhagen could, if adopted as a legally binding treaty, cover in excess of 85% of global emissions. We concede that China committing to reduce emissions intensity by 40-45% by 2020 is no guarantee that its emissions will fall, but equally, once it has signed the treaty China may upgrade its commitment as and when it feels ready and able to do so.

What the Copenhagen Accord does is group all major emitters together in one group, unlike Kyoto. It creates a mechanism by which all national actions can be compared, and where all national emissions markets may be linked.

Copenhagen is a bottom-up, federal process. Sovereign nations contribute their national commitments to the process in the interest of all. Kyoto expressed a similar approach in a top-down fashion, which earned it the enduring enmity of the US.

For the markets, Copenhagen holds out the continued promise of interlinked markets in both developed and developing countries. In reality markets have never been a problem with Kyoto, as the US has itself said on many occasions; it’s just been the politics that Washington couldn’t agree with.

By agreeing to extend the AWG mandates for a further year, the Copenhagen COP has set the stage for a proper agreement to a second Kyoto commitment period, as well as an agreement on a mechanism that could, and indeed probably will replace Kyoto.

Marianne de Nazareth
(The writer is a fellow with the UNFCCC)