Li Xing

Troubles brewing over climate action

By Li Xing (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-12-12 14:07
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Contentious issues seem to be on the rise, both inside and outside the Bella Center where negotiations entered the fourth day in Copenhagen for an international agreement to tackle climate change.

Troubles brewing over climate action

The venue has seen quite a few protests. Wali Haider from Pakistan marched with a group of people from South and Southeast Asia to the entrance of the conference venue shouting, "Climate Justice".

He said: People from Southern countries demand a solution that, first of all, protects the poor people impacted by climate change, not to satisfy the greed of the Northern countries, which have contributed the most to greenhouse gas emissions.

Vibe Jensen, dressed top to bottom in stylish red, was with a group of youth wearing the same costume. Accompanied by a leader holding a big calculator, her two young colleagues unfolded a banner with $200,000,000,000 written on it.

"Don't get us wrong," she told me. "This is the amount that the rich countries owe the poor countries for causing global warming, not charity."

She didn't shy away from the fact that she was Danish and from a rich country. Instead, she said the Danes too have contributed to CO2 emissions and must make up for the harm they have caused.

Media scoops were clearly fanning the flames. On Tuesday, a press briefing by several top scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) attracted a full house, with many journalists and NGO members standing in the aisles or sitting on the ground.

However, before they could share their latest findings on climate change, the press, mostly from leading Western media outlets, grilled IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri for the illegal publication of personal e-mails from scientists at the University of East Anglia, who were involved in climate change studies.

The e-mails had raised doubts about global warming among skeptics, who had ignored the data that the scientists had presented, which indicated that the past decade was the warmest in recorded history, and that extreme weather now occurs once every four years instead of with a gap of thousands of years as in the distant past.

On Wednesday, the media were again excited about a leaked text of a political declaration drafted by the host country, which aroused a lot of indignation. The draft has "chosen to protect the rich countries," Lumumba Di-Aping, the Sudanese chairperson of the G77 plus China grouping, told Climate Chronicle, a free newspaper by NGOs circulated at the venue.

Then, in the afternoon, I overheard a colleague from a Western country speaking of how representatives from small island nations had had a "row" with the Chinese negotiators. He sounded almost congratulatory about the split in positions among the developing nations.

While the protesters had good reasons to vent their displeasure, I was left wondering whether some journalists were going over the top, or just being neutral and reporting the facts.

"I'm an optimist," the 50-year-old Peder Madsen, a local computer programmer, told me as he handed out a copy of the magazine, Ode, with the headline The solutions we need now on the cover.

On a more positive note, some 1,700 scientists from the British scientific community defended the findings of the IPCC.

I think we need to follow Jake Schmidt, an international climate policy expert, who wrote in his blog: "I hope everyone stays focused on the real action - are countries taking action to address this challenge... We must do better than this kind of 'made-up' drama if we are going to solve this challenge. Lead us to solutions, not to more games."