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.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I met a woman from the Met Office today who pointed me in the direction of the UKCP09 climate projections for London:

The key messages for Islington are that temperatures will increase, summer rainfall will decrease, but winter rainfall will increase.

Looking internationally, the FCO released a map of the impact of a global temperature rise of 4 degrees in October:

And the Met Office also has some information on the climate impacts on developing countries at:

Snowing in Copenhagen

It's just started to snow in Copenhagen. I had a late start today as I have been trying to arrange a briefing of British Parliamentarians by Joan Ruddock in the UK Delegation office. Co ordinating 14 MPs and MSPs diaries along with the department and Joan's is not as easy, let me tell you.

Also hammered the mobile sorting out various issues in parliamentary and constituency offices. Hope the much vaunted mobile phone bill crack down by my European Parliamentarian brothers and sisters has come into force!

Anyway, finally, am heading off to meet Terry Townshend from Globe. It seems I need a second pass to get in today. There has been "the culling of the delegates" and numbers are restricted to only about a quarter of what they were. Rumour has it that there will be a further restriction in the next few days. We'll see.
This conference is full of acronyms. In the corridor on the way out, you go past the rooms of various delegations, with their names on the doors. It borders on the surreal: IPO, ENGO, BINGO, TUNGO, RINGO and FARMERS.

I'm beginning to get the hang of it Indigenous Peoples' Organisation, Environmental Non Govt Org, Business and Industry NGOs, Trade Union NGOs. Haven't worked out who RINGOs are though and I presume FARMERS plough the land!

I forgive my hotel everything. The free breakfast includes black bread and two types of pickled herring!

I've learnt to my great frustration that on Sunday I missed Desmond Tutu and thousands of others who were just round the corner at City Hall Sq handing over a petition of over 500,000 to UNFCC chief Yvo de Boer.

They say he was brilliant:

"Hello rich countries - wake up! It's cheap to finance climate debt. $150B a year will do it."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Visions for Renewables

The European Investment Bank brought four organizations to conference whose renewables projects they had been helping. It was strange to hear bankers being praised in this day and age, but it happened in the Victor Borge Room at 3 o/c today.

DONG which is the Danish Energy company building a lot of our offshore wind projects including the magnificent London Array (that is set to supply electricity to electricity to 25% of London's population. Its Managing Director enthused about their plan to turn around their work.

At the moment 85% of the energy they produce is fossil fuelled and 15% is renewables. The MD thinks that in 30 year they can turn that round completely to 85% renewables! The first half will be the easy bit, he said, and we can do that in 10. The second half is more difficult and we'll need another 20.

Most of the energy will be windpower, whose production is volatile and unstable. So, he said brightly, we'll have to store it. We can store it in batteries. We can make these batteries large, put wheels on them and hey presto, cars!

This will all cost a great deal of money because we can't make cars when people can't charge them easily or get them repaired.

But my dream, he said, is that Denmark develops this new type of transport and we then give it to the Developing world. It would be similar to the way the Developing world developed its phone network. The old world put copper cables in the ground. The Developing skipped all that and went straight to mobile masts. They could go straight to electric cars as well.

He was serious.

Giving the Poles a hard time

The Polish Ministers of Finance and Environment were having a meeting about the implementation of their climate policy.

Went along, trying to keep an open mind.

They said that they wanted to cut carbon emission by 30% by 2030. Sounds good but this doesn't bear close examination. They want to use 2005 as their baseline and since only 5% of their energy comes from renewables their emissions have a long way to fall.

They are currently being helped by the European Bank for Development (The EBRD) to spend the assistance they have been given by the EU in a way that is "transparent", "efficient" and accountable. Hmmm.

I asked whether the rumour was true that they would veto any proposal from the EU that Europe cut emissions by 30% by 2020 with a baseline of 1990?

The chair got cross with me and said that the offer wasn't going to be on the table and muttered something about people who should have more will lacking it.

I pressed him "But if it was on the table, what would you do?"

More muttering. I heard "comparability" and "no fiddling"

Double hmmm.

UK Press Conference

Ed Milliband and Douglas Alexander fronted the British press conference today.

Douglas said that his presence at this conference as Sec of State for International Development shows that the British understand that extreme global poverty and climate change are indivisible.

Both men spoke with pride about the Fast Start Finance Initiative that was agreed last month and hammered through by Gordon. It will provide 10B a year for 3 years. Europe has agreed to pay a large chunk of this with Britain committed to 1.5B.

But as Doug said the Developing World needs long term and predictable financing.

Ed expressed everyone's concerns that the negotiations are not going fast enough.

In answer to a question from Ben Jackson from The Sun he emphasised the importance of getting a financial deal and an agreement on cuts of carbon emissions.

Ed also said that although the negotiations seem incredibly difficult at the moment, the stars are aligned in a way that is very propitious. There are 130 world leaders coming to this conference in the next few days including the new American president. It cannot all be left to world leaders though and the negotiations have to get a move on.

Gordon is coming tomorrow. A Daily Mail journalist asked why he was coming early. Ed explained that this was a sign of how very seriously we are taking these negotiations and that they are not going fast enough.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The official conference was closed today so I put my time to use changing hotels, freezing on the streets, reading and sounding off about the Tories on Channel 4.

I've moved to the centre of town - to The Grand. Unfortunately the only grand thing about it is the price!

It also seems to be the base for a large number of army and policemen, which is a little alarming. When I waiting for the bus, I saw 11 policevans rush past with their sirens blaring- sounding like something out of the Italian Job. (Note the gaggle of soldiers and police on the right of the photo).

The weather has got much colder and so has the general atmosphere. The centre of Copenhagen seems much more serious after the mass arrests yesterday.

I was interviewed by Channel 4 News about the Tories and whether we should go for an election. For what its worth my view is: Bring it on! The arrangement was made with London and they sent their Copenhagen team to meet me on the street. The team comprised an English journo, a Danish cameraman and a cab. I suspect their main job today has been chasing policecars looking for demos.

I attempted a bit of sightseeing, but it was too cold so I retreated inside for coffee and a read of The Global Climate Network's new discussion paper on low carbon jobs. Its a study of what is possible in eight seperate countries. And its central message seems to me to be that there are millions of green jobs that would be created by low carbon technology. Too often government action on climate change is framed by words like "limitation", "constraint" and "reduction" - the prospects for job creation is good news and something we have every reason to be positive about.

Went to see the lights at The fabulous Tivoli Gardens, then back to my warm hotel to CNN and to finish my Ian Rankin.

Am going to try to get to the conference early - like 8. Only those who know me well can truly appreciate what a challenge this will be. But the queues to get in are likely to be crazy. Will keep you posted!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

"Save our Snow": Alison Gannett is wearing her skiis around the conference. She is a World Champion Extreme Skier and says that 80% of our drinking water comes from snow.
Walking through the Exhibition Hall, I heard a heck of a kerfuffle, pushing through the crowds I saw that the fuss was about Canada. It was being awarded the "casket of shame" for being the Fossil of the Day.

Collecting the award, David Miller, the Mayor of Toronto, said he was ashamed of the fact that Canada was now the main obstacle to an agreement to a deal at Copenhagen.

And that Canada's cities disagee with their government. Canada's chief negotiator insisted in a briefing Friday morning that his country's target of -3% below 1990 levels are based on science. To the surprise of pretty well everyone - particularly IPCC scientists!
WWF media stunt: The message is simple, our sick world can only be saved by a strong dose of political will.

Some photos from the conference - first the ice sculpture outside the conference centre.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Another difference between Copenhagen and Labour Party conference is that so many people carry laptops. And when there are no seats left, everyone young and old, suited or not, sit on the floor and start making notes on their computers. This is fine but makes meetings very difficult to get into if you don't get to the popular ones early

The meeting on carbon trading and development was one such. It was so full, I couldn't get in straight away!

When I eventually could - tailgating one of the speakers who was arriving late- I was somewhat surprised to see a photo of my colleague the lovely Mark Lazarowicz MP staring down at me from the screen. The speaking was raving (albeit in a Northern European technocrat way)about his report on expanding carbon trading. The speaker was recommending to delegates they look it up on the DECC website!

His presentation was pretty dense, but very interesting. He said he would send me a copy of it. When he does, I'll put it up.

I met a polar bear in the hall, who told me if we save polar bears, we'll save the world. He then proceeded to be interviewed for TV. I took his photo.

I had coffee with an American from one of the central states who told me of the deep suspicion felt by many Americans of International agreements and indeed the UN. Many people, he said, believe that the proposed international agreements on Climate Change are nothing less than an international conspiracy to undermine America's economy. It all smacks of European style socialism in their minds. Obama is very boxed in, he said.
This conference is absolutely packed. And next week we are expecting even more people! There is some alarm starting to bubble up about just how everyone who wants come is going to fit in!

The conference is in many ways similar to a huge Labour Party Conference. It's hot, the food is awful, there is the main official agenda, a series of extraordinary fringe meetings and lots of stunts/media events.

Only this conference is more intense, focused as it is on one issue and the delegates are of course from all over the world.

Nearly all the conversations are in English and you find yourself getting drawn into debates everywhere with complete strangers. I had an involved conversation about CCS in the queue for the ladies (yes queues for the ladies are a universal experience!)

I have just been to a meeting organised by the Adaptation Fund. It's pretty embryonic at the moment, but it aims to fund projects to help small countries and Pacific islands adapt to climate change. It was established at Bali and resources are currently pretty limited. As the chair said, " it is a pleasure to welcome so many people (there were about 600 of us) to a meeting looking at a such a small fund"

But the negotiations here are about the future of organizations like these and may result in their massive expansion.

The discussions about how the fund will be managed highlighted many of the issues.

I sat next to Rachel van der Kooge, a journalist from Suriname. She asked a humdinger "Who would be able to apply for the funds? Will it be government, NGOs or community organisations? How about fishermen directly affected by climate change? And if it is governments who apply on their behalf, how will you ensure that the fishermen will benefit properly?"

There were others:

"When is an adaptation project an adaptation project and when is it a development project? And what happens when it is both?"

"Are all water projects adaptation projects these days?"

"How tightly will the fund monitor the projects? If it spreads best practice and gets value for money, will it be able to balance this with being sensitive to local need?"

"All very good questions" said the chair, "that we will endeavor to get the right answers in the next year as we begin commissioning".

But I'd met an Australian, Dr Robert Kay, who'd been working with atolls in the Pacific on adaptation to climate change. I asked him "what project would one of your atolls buy with a $1m one-off payments, soon available from the fund?"

Not much.

So I'm now off to a meeting about we can develop carbon markets and fund development and adaptation.
In the queue for registration with a woman from Zurich insurance, a woman in a pirate hat, the mayor of North Little Rock and a bout 30 women from Kyoto. The kyoto women are taking everyone's photo and giving out bookmarks of Japanese Temples.
Woke slightly disorientated- my usual alarm doesn't seem to working: no child bouncing on the bed, no teenager asking for money? No, the peace of a hotel room, company courtesy of BBC World.

The view from my window very different in morning: river, swans, swirly church towers, bicycles, windturbines in a line across the horizon. There's also a power station with unabated emissions and an eight lane road. Says it all really: the value and benefits of moving to a low carbon economy and the challenges!

The EU summit has been going through the night. They are hammering out a deal on how to put together a package of aid to help developing countries combate climate change. But they haven't got there yet.

O.K. - am off to The Bella Centre. Hope they have pickled herring in a bun at the station!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I’ve just arrived in Copenhagen as part of GLOBE’s cross-party team of MPs from the national parliaments of the G8, Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa.

I’m out here to help the Ministerial team from the Department of Energy & Climate Change who’ll be busy in negotiations over the next week.

We also know that after Copenhagen, MPs from around the world have got to keep up the pressure to make sure the deal gets implemented in individual countries.

So I’m speaking to MPs from different countries about what we all do next after Copenhagen – I’ve got a meeting next week with socialist and social democratic MPs from European states, who I hope will all club together to keep up the pressure.