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December 15th 2009 print

Tim Wilson

COP15: Day 8

Rumours around the conference are that a group of NGOs will try and storm the conference centre to try and get access to political leaders.

Week two of the Copenhagen conference has kicked off with a bang, and I’m not talking about the developing countries walkout.

Head of World Vision, Tim Costello, decried Tony Abbott as “singing solo” against the tide of climate change support.

According to Costello Abbott should fly to Copenhagen so he can take the 30,123 delegates to 30,124 and learn about how the rest of the world thinks climate change is the greatest moral challenge of our time.

The problem is that not even Costello believes his own rhetoric.

If Costello believed that rising sea levels will flood Bangladesh every emission counts and he should’ve stayed at home, saved the emissions and delivered his commentary and presentations by video conference.

But instead, according to his own script, he’s traded off the fate of poor Bangladeshis so he can contribute to the Copenhagen circus in the flesh.

And even if Abbott did arrive he wouldn’t find the sort of consensus Costello paints.

I’ve no doubt Costello is hearing lots of government delegates saying they think climate change is the greatest moral challenge of their time, it’s just that they say it as cover for their immediately following comments about why its someone else’s fault to cut emissions. The statement has as much credibility as “I don’t mean to offend, but …”.

And if governments actually thought climate change was the greatest moral challenge of our time there’d be an agreement already, but its actually an issue few political leaders are prepared to spend serious political capital on.

Costello’s suffering from climate change group think that occurs when you’re surrounded by twenty thousand self-flagellating green activists who are all convinced if this conference fails the end is nigh. 

Costello aside, the arrival of Ministers was supposed to end the polite discussion between bureaucrats so the impolite discussions can be held to nut out a deal, hence the walkout by developing countries.

Depending on your perspective informs what you think Copenhagen should deliver.

The United States basically wants the Kyoto Protocol to sunset at end of the 2012 emissions reduction commitment period and be succeeded by a looser agreement in the long term cooperative track that brings all countries to the table. Australia basically wants a second commitment period under Kyoto with new obligations through the LCA track. Developing countries only want commitments through Kyoto because it doesn’t oblige them to do anything.

While most at the conference appear dismayed at the current state of the negotiations, they shouldn’t be surprised because the current negotiating positions are consistent with those announced before the conference if anyone had been listening.

Developing countries even announced the intention of a walkout twice before the conference.

The negotiations are now back on, but for those who came all the way to Copenhagen to be able to say that they were there when the agreement to save the world was struck it may be the last day they can get into the conference centre anyway.

Tomorrow delegates need a special pass to get into the isolated Bella Conference Centre.

And with one hundred and ten heads of government and states accompanied by their security details on Thursday and Friday, the allowable number of delegates into the centre will be reached with government delegations and the media alone.

As a consequence non-government observers will be scaled back to one thousand on Thursday and a mere ninety on Friday.

Rumours around the conference are that a group of NGOs will try and storm the conference centre to try and get access to political leaders. But the fastest way to make sure political leaders go elsewhere is to risk their security.

Instead they’d be better off cracking open a non-carbonated beer, putting their feet up and watching the deliberations from their laptops. No matter what they do it’ll be the closest they actually get to the conference.

Tim Wilson is Director of the Climate and Trade Unit at the Institute of Public Affairs and is blogging from Copenhagen at www.sustainabledev.org

See Tim Wilson’s previous reports:

COP15: Opening Ceremony

COP15: Day 2

COP15: Day 3

COP15: Day 4

COP15: Day 5

COP15: Day 6

COP15: Day 7