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December 16th 2009 print

Tim Wilson

COP15: Day 9

NGOs don’t actually like being called NGOs. They prefer being referred to as “civil society”.

The first snow fall of the conference hasn’t stopped people wanting to get into the Bella Conference Centre with waits of up to four hours for new registrants, with total registrations now topping 45,000 to get into a venue that holds only 15,000. And the biggest overflow is from non-government observers.

NGOs don’t actually like being called NGOs. They prefer being referred to as “civil society” because it bestows greater establishment and credibility to claim they’re representing people, like governments, and as a consequence should participate in negotiations. Fortunately governments aren’t stupid enough to give them that license, but they come close.

A friend of mine has a theory that deep down all NGO delegates attend because they want to be in the actual negotiating rooms working on an agreement. Following yesterday’s walkout by developing countries such a fantasy could have been realised since negotiating rooms were empty but all perfectly set up for a game of mock NGO UN.

But the recommencement of negotiations means NGO delegates have had to ditch their serious-suits and get back into their polar bear costumes.

In response to rationed attendance NGOs have demanded that they still have access to conference proceedings and copies of all conference material, despite just about everything being available on the UNFCCC website.

So because some NGOs don’t have access to some documents and closed-door negotiations they’re planning to storm the conference centre at 10am. Organisers claim it will be a non-violent storming, but when you have Danish Police pushing one way and protestors pushing in the reverse I’m willing to bet at some point someone will do something more than simply push.

And apparently we should get used to climate civil unrest. That was the warning from former Irish President and now head United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Mary Robinson, who has claimed that people affected by climate change are likely to start getting unruly and may even start litigating against governments for climate-inaction.

That seems unlikely since the world’s poor haven’t been able to litigate against bad trade subsidies in the United States and Europe that have been doing much more harm for a lot longer.

Meanwhile officials are only reporting negotiating progress at the fringes, which means they’ve all agreed they might be working through this weekend as well. 

But the media void left by negotiators has quickly been filled by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Not that anyone appears to be listening to what he’s saying. 

And local governments are also seeking to appear to be stepping up to the climate-leadership plate, or at least that is what capital city Mayors think they’re doing in their push to have local governments referenced in a final Copenhagen text.

But since local governments aren’t recognised under international law it seems ‘recognition’ means the permanent right to dupe the public that they can do anything to tackle climate change to fulfil their Copenhagen obligations. Is that  symbolism? or just a junket?

At least a junket is rationally motivated, unlike the entrants in the competition for Copenhagen’s wackiest.

The current contenders are the LaRouche Movement conspiracy theorists decrying global warming as “British genocide” as they approach conference-going delegates arriving each morning.

But they now face stiff competition from Supreme Master Ching Hai’s followers who, dressed in animal suits, are also lining the train stations to hand out hardcover copies of the Supreme Master’s books The dogs in my life and the Amazon bestseller The birds in my life.

Then there’s the head of the British National Party, Nick Griffin MEP, who compared biofuel policies with the managed agriculture policies that led to the deaths of millions under China’s Mao and Russian’s Stalin.

Mary Robinson’s commentary today also deserves a worthy mention.

Al Gore also probably deserves entry for his stumble, some say deliberate, over the rate of melting of the polar ice caps.

Who’ll be the winner? I’ll let you decide.

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

COP15: Day 8