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Copenhagen Climate Progress Feels More Real

November 22, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By David Turnbull
Climate Action Network

As Copenhagen prepares for December, a strange combination of Christmas lights, clean energy expos, evergreen wreaths, and security barriers have begun to crop up around the city.  It’s an exciting time to be in Copenhagen, reflecting on a year of intense pressure, activity, and engagement around the world.Copenhagen-Beautiful_City

Over the past several months (and years), a growing movement has coalesced around the climate change conference here next month and it’s hard to believe it’s finally almost here.  You may recall that in June, the sleepy German town of Bonn saw hundreds of activists descend in the rain upon the normally quiet Subsidiary Bodies negotiations at the UNFCCC’s home.  Thousands around the world participated in the September 21 Global Wakeup Call.  Then in Bangkok in October thousands marched outside the UNESCAP building calling for climate action.  October 24th saw the most widespread day of environmental action in the planet’s history, spearheaded by 350.org, with over 5000 events in 181 countries around the world.

And now, rumors of tens of thousands arriving here for the conference are looming over Copenhagen, including by my count, at least 15 heads of state who have committed to attending the talks — although Yvo de Boer, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said in Barcelona earlier this month that he expects at least 40.

The last time I wrote, it was a dark and gloomy day in Copenhagen. But today was beautiful – the sun was out, the weather warm, and the bustle on the street was electric.

The last time I wrote, I was convincing myself, and others, that all was not lost for December.  Now, on this bright and sunny day, I’m as convinced as ever that world leaders can achieve an ambitious outcome in Copenhagen if they try.

Even in the past week, we’ve seen movement around the world.  The Alliance of Small Island states continue to raise its collective voice of conscience against a weak outcome in Copenhagen.  We’ve heard that the Chinese would be willing to bring a number to the table in Copenhagen.  We’ve seen South Korea confirm a voluntary emissions reduction target of 30 percent below business as usual by 2020.  The European Union has said that it would like a binding agreement in Copenhagen.  France and Brazil came out with a “climate bible” – an agreement between two nations to work together on climate change.  This follows Brazil’s previous announcement of voluntary emissions cuts of 36-39% by 2020 below business as usual in a “political gesture” some weeks ago.

Even the Danish government, which had caused so many hearts to sink with its proposal of a “politically binding” outcome in Copenhagen, seemed to change its tune, if only a bit. Danish Minister for Climate and Energy Connie Hedegaard (who will chair the negotiations in December), spoke in a press briefing at the close of the preparatory meeting last week, assuring the world that her aim is a legally binding outcome from the negotiations.

Finally, eyes continue to focus on the US.  In the joint announcement between the US and China, President Obama indicated his team could bring further commitments to the table in Copenhagen.  As Copenhagen creeps towards December, the question remains, will Obama come to Copenhagen?  If so, will he come bearing gifts or a lump of coal?

David Turnbull is executive director of  Climate Action Network International. A version of this article was posted on Eco-Digest, CAN International’s blog.

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