Friday, December 18, 2009

...have just realised, hall actually full, it's just no-one sits down. It's just not cool - those in the mix, get up and mix.

Waiting for Obama

Sitting in the European lounge in the warm, with coffee and a croissant. Waiting for Obama. Hall only half full. Having negotiated all night, did they fall asleep over their breakfast? More likely they are having difficulties getting past the nightmare security. Silver passes to get into hall today or "or a corresponding pin distributed to Heads of State or Government". He's an hour late. Is this a sign? Last minute concessions following at the door discussions? Or is it just that Airforce One got held up by the snow?

Less than 24 hours to go

With less than 24 hours left before the conference ends, Ed held a press briefing in the British Delegation offices.

He said he was more optimistic than he had felt yesterday. There had been a big move today from the U.S. on the issue of finance. The Americans seem to have accepted our suggestion about the level of finance necessary.

The groups were meeting again: the two plenaries had broken into 2-3 working groups.

There needs to be a mix of mechanisms for finance which need to be developed over the next few years.

He was asked about China and said that he was really pleased that they had committed to targets, but there needed to be some transparency.

He also explained that the presence of world leaders was very important. They are here to make a difference. Ministers negotiate over text and the Leaders make the big decisions.

He was also asked about there was a chance that all this could be pulled together in time for a deal. Kyoto had gone right to the wire, all night, looked like it was going to collapse and yet didn't.

But it remains a challenge to bring the process and substance together.

In answer to a question about whether there might not be a better process for making decisions, he said this is the best one we have, with all its flaws.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The most powerful demonstration I've seen in Copenhagen

On my way in on the bus today, we passed a group of about thirty youngsters at the side of the road. They were holding a long banner which read "politicians talk, leaders act". They were standing in silence in the wind and the snow and conveyed their message with much more power than any of the people shouting at delegates on the way into the centre.

This Year's Globe Award

Gordon Brown presented the Globe Award for International Leadership on the Environment to President Calderon of Mexico.

The award was in particular recognition of the work he has done in Developing The Green Fund which is hoped will play a very important role in financing a deal here in Copenhagen.

Hilary to the rescue

The issue of finance got a boost today from the Americans. Hilary Clinton said the United States "is prepared to work with other countries toward a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries." It would seem that they have accepted the level need first put a figure to by Gordon Brown and want to talk about how to raise the finance. This is very encouraging.

Gordon's Speech to Conference

Our PM made a really inspiring speech today - it was Gordon at his best.

"Hurricanes, floods, typhoons and droughts that were once all regarded as the acts of an invisible god, are now revealed to be also the visible acts of man."

"Informed by conscience, inspired by common purpose, we the leaders of this fragile world, must affirm, we will not condemn millions to injustice without remedy, to sorrow without hope, to deprivation without end."

"People will rightly say:if we can provide the finance to save the banks from the bankers, we ca, with the right financial support, save the planet from those forces that would destroy it."

"As one of the greatest world leaders warned at a different time of peril, "it is no use saying we are doing our best, you have got to succeed in doing whats necessary."

"Friends I do not ask my country or any country to suspend its national interest, but to advance it more intelligently. For nothing matters more than the fate of the only world we have."

I was watching the speech on a screen outside the hall with a large crowd of international delegates. At the end of the speech, we broke into spontaneous applause.

Freezing the Delegates

The heating in the delegates offices has broken down! Or maybe its some tactic dreamt up by the Danes to get delegates out of their offices and into the warm hall.

I've spent most of the day with Joan Ruddock in bilateral meetings. We broke off at one point to go to the Media Centre - NB they have heating. Joan was being interviewed by Simon Mayo. The problem is that it isn't possible to talk about everything that is being discussed as it's all so finely balanced. At least the execise warmed us up a bit.

Of course whilst the British might be finding it a bit uncomfortable - spare a moment for delegates from warmer countries. I went over to see the Australians and collect some documents: they were in a bad way. I spoke to some Italian women whose teeth were chattering so hard, I couldn't work out what they were saying!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Word had it that there were major demonstrations outside The Bella centre. So I left the centre of town on the COP15 bus, with a certain amount of trepidation. Low and behold the roads were blocked by police vans and we had to get on the train - with even greater trepidation.

I travelled with Tariq Ali, a Brit, who is working for the United Arab Emirates Delegation. He is a scientist from Imperial. When we got to the Bella we were met by people in animal costumes and dozens of police. Whilst waiting in the snow to get in, some protesters rushed the centre. Suddenly about 50 police officers turned up with dogs. The protesters were wrestled to the ground, handcuffed and sat on the ground in a line.

I then went to the Delegation Offices for a background press briefing with Ed and Jan Thompson (our Chief Negotiator). Having caught up with Joan, I then went to a round table meeting with the European Socialist group to take her place, as she was double booked.

Boringly, I cant really relate the contents of any of the meetings from this evening, as negotiations are getting quite sensitive now. Suffice to say that there is mounting concern that too much time is being wasted on procedural wrangling and not on matters of real substance: emissions targets, transparency and finance. We have to get on with it.
Walked through the snow to the Danish Parliament where MPs from 62 countries were meeting to discuss Climate Change and our response. As the UKs only representative, I thought it probably best I arrive on time; but with my map turning into papier macheand the snow blowing into my face as I got progressively more lost, there were moments during my epic jurney when I had my doubts!

As I walked, the awe in which I hold the Danes increased. They are still on their bikes, even in this weather and not a centimetre of lycra or helmet between them.

After listening to the opening remarks of the Namibian President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the President of the Danish Parliament, we were treated to a compelling and eloquent speech from a man who has become a Climate Change superstar: the President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed.

Famous for holding cabinet meetings under water, Mr Nasheed has brought the plight of his country and other island states to the forefront of the public's mind.

I nade some notes of what he said:

"A 2 degrees in temperature spells death for my country"

"Whatever action we take on Climate Change, we must understand that this is not the usual international problem that can be solved by a messy political compromise."

"You can't negotiate with the laws of physics"

"You can't cut a deal with Mother Nature"

He urged that temperaratures must not rise beyond 1.5 degrees and the amount of carbon in the atmosphere cannot rise above 350 parts per million.

He also pointed out that this problem was not just one that developed countries must take action on. Even if developed countries stopped emitting carbon tomorrow, but developed countries continued to grow along the lines of business as usual, the temperature of the world will have increased by 4 degrees by the end of the century.

John Prescott spoke "with the freedom I now have from the backbenches"

He said that it would be impossible to cut a deal that would work to ensure temperatures do not rise above 1.5 degrees and with only 60 hours left in the negotiations, this demand was a distraction from what has been achieved thus far.

He said that he regretted some of the things that the negotiators had said in particular Tod Stern's remarks about China being a greater polluter than the US. Stern has said this is not about politics or morality, just maths. John made a point on the maths: the Americans should remember that they emit 22tonnes of carbon per person whilst the Chinese only 6 tonnes. Another indisputable figure is that America's GDP is seven times higher than China's. "Such remarks offend people of sense and fairness"

He didn't just have his sights on the Americans though. John also had a go at the Chinese. China's target of decreased carbon intensity underestimates the results of the policies they say they are going to implement.

I'm due to speak at a meeting at the Bella Center, but the pictures I've been seeing on the television shows complete chaos both outside and inside. Shall get on the bus and attempt to get in!
Climate Change Minister Joan Ruddock took time off from her bilateral meetings with other European ministers to brief British parliamentarians on how the talks were going.

Joan explained that Britain was pushing the EU to put its most ambitious offer on the table.

Also as Stern has shown us, the longer we delay making the necessary cuts in emissions, the more it costs anyway.

A 30% cut will also have a positive effect on carbon pricing and therefore improve the working of the carbon markets.

She has been trying to ensure that the Europeans do not backtrack at this time, but show a lead. It was the right thing to do, but also may help to pull in the most ambitious deal possible.

Joan also emphasisied, as all the delegation does, the importance of putting together a system and money to help the developing world and she explained what the British were doing to try to push the talks along on this.

She was asked what she imagined the worst case scenario was for the end of the week and said that she simply couldn't allow herself to think that way. It was very important to remain positive and keep pushing.

In answer to a question about how much sleep she expected to get in the next few days, she said that the upside was that it was a huge privilege to be involved in these vital talks about the future of the planet and that she was proud of our country in the lead it had taken.