Welcome to Hopenhagen (ugh.)
By Global Justice Ecology Project Executive Director Anne Petermann
As Co-Director Orin Langelle and I flew from the U.S. to Copenhagen for the 15th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-15) last Wednesday, we perused the special section of the in-flight magazine that specifically addressed the Climate COP. The cheery text that greeted us extolled the positive forward movement of the international climate negotiations and the “greening” of many of the world’s biggest companies. In a full-page graphic in the article, a coke bottle was spewing some kind of happy fairy tale effluent. Overlaid was the word “Hopenhagen.” The message was that the greening of companies like Coca Cola allows us to solve climate change while continuing business as usual.
While the PR machine in Copenhagen is pushing “Hopenhagen,” however, climate activists have been coming up with other, more cynical names for the climate conference. At Global Justice Ecology Project, our preferred moniker is “CorporateHaven,” which emerged out of our experience with watching these Climate COPs year after year being driven by corporate interests. In some instances, corporate representatives are even part of government delegations. At the Poznan, Poland Climate COP last year, there were 1,500 registered industry lobbyists. Every year, the inside of the climate COP looks like an industry convention, with hundreds of booths showcasing all of the latest corporate solutions to climate change—from “clean” coal to natural gas to nuclear power to agrofuels. Many of the large NGOs also have booths and highlight the work they are doing to help polluting corporations green (aka greenwash) themselves.
This might make it easier to understand why the opinion at large is that the Climate COP will fail. Another major reason for this pessimistic view has been the position of the U.S. The U.S. delegation has approached the climate negotiations with a three pronged attack—first, eliminate any binding commitments to emissions reductions; second, lower the targets for emissions reductions even further than their already ridiculously low level; and third, put in place new market-based mechanisms and carbon offset programs that will further enable companies to avoid cutting emissions.
Obama has finally announced he will attend “Hopenhagen.” He will do so to promote his administration’s targets for emissions reductions, which translate to approximately 3-4% below 1990 levels. Even the hopelessly inadequate Kyoto Protocol called for 5.2% reductions below 1990 levels. Climate scientists, meanwhile, have called for 80%-90% reductions. And with the addition to the mix of carbon offsets, polluters can keep right on polluting while pretending to “offset” their emissions with a project in a developing country—like a tree plantation—that supposedly makes up for the pollution in the North. How have these carbon offsetting mechanisms worked out so far? Well, since the Kyoto Protocol went into force in 2005, the combination of a ridiculously low target for emissions reductions combined with the inclusion of market-based mechanisms like carbon offsetting and carbon trading have resulted in a steady increase in global emissions. Obama’s public relations team, however, is working overtime to create a spin to make his garbage look like a banquet and appease the growing chorus of critics–which includes climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, who recently stated that based on the expected outcomes, any deal coming out of Copenhagen will be a disaster.
Sarah Palin, meanwhile has called on Obama to boycott the talks since the “Climagate” scandal has now “proved” that climate change is a hoax. Not quite. As George Monbiot points out, even if the studies named in climagate are questionable, they are only two among many hundreds of others demonstrating that climate change is not only definitely real, it is accelerating beyond the worst of the worst-case scenarios. But if Obama’s emissions reductions targets are any judge, his Administration is not much more interested in climate science than was the Bush Administration.
The climate negotiations officially begin on Monday, December 7th. There are over 25,000 people reportedly registered for this year’s Climate COP. The Bella Center, where the negotiations will take place, has a maximum capacity of 15,000. Entry will be granted on a first come basis.
In other words, its going to be a clusterf*@k.
Hopenhagen? I think not.
Stay tuned for more posts every day throughout the two weeks of the Climate COP.