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inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #0 of 132: Lisa Harris (lrph) Mon 21 Dec 09 15:41
    
We are so very fortunate to have our own Emily Gertz as our guest in the
Inkwell.vue for the next two weeks.  Emily is a freelance writer and just
now (early Monday morning) back from the Climate talks in Copenhagen.  She
is here to share with us her unique perspective on this historical event.
Here on The WELL, Emily is the host of the Science Fiction Television
conference.  Emily also can also be found around www.worldchanging.com.
Who, when, what, wha?, at: www.secretmuseum.com on the Internet.

Leading our discussion is Jacques Leslie.

Jacques Leslie started his journalism career as a foreign
correspondent, covering the Vietnam War for the Los Angeles Times. For
the last decade he has written narrative nonfiction on environmental
issues, focusing on water. His 2004 book, Deep Water: The Epic Struggle
Over Dams, Displaced People, and the Environment, won the J. Anthony
Lukas Work-in-Progress Award and was named one of the top science books
of the year by Discover Magazine. His last major magazine piece, a
Mother Jones cover story on the international environmental impacts of
China's economic growth, won three awards. He has attended one Kyoto
Protocol climate change conference, in Buenos Aires in 2004.


Thank you both for being here.
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #1 of 132: the Zen of wooziness and delirium (jacques) Mon 21 Dec 09 20:06
    
Thank you, Lisa. I'm delighted to be here and looking forward to read
Emily's assessment of Copenhagen.

Emily, first of all, can you set the scene for us? Where in Copenhagen
did the conference take place? Did the city make an impact on the
proceedings, or would they have gone on more or less the same
regardless of where they were? Did you get any sense of what it meant
to Danes to have the talks there? Was it difficult to attend a
conference with so many people in the December cold?
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #2 of 132: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Wed 23 Dec 09 05:25
    

Hi all.  Thank you for inviting me on here!

I'd like to mention that my web site coordinates have updated somewhat.  My
web site is www.emilygertz.com; secretmuseum.com is moribund at the moment,
sadly, although I have plans for it.

Also, I recently became a correspondent for OnEarth Magazine, writing
primarily for the website onearth.org.  If you go to
onearth.org/copenhagen, you'll find links to my Copenhagen coverage.  I
have not been writing for Worldchanging for a few years, but was the
founding/lead blogger of globalwarming.change.org for around a year, from
August 2008 to October 2009.

Now on to the first round of questions:

The conference took place in a venue called the Bella Center -- essentially
your typical cavernous trade show space.  It's relatively new, has lots of
daylighting, meeting rooms ranging in size from large to ginormous, as well
as the kinds of spaces you can customize to your needs; for instance, one
huge area was devoted wholly to the press centre.

It is located east-south-east of central Copenhagen; around 15 minutes out
by the city's excellent Metro rail, in an area called Orestad.  I heard it
described as "suburban Copenhagen," and there is a lot of new development
there
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #3 of 132: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Wed 23 Dec 09 05:41
    
It is very hard for me to assess how much of an impact the conference had on
the city, or the reverse, because essentially I just landed in Copenhagen at
the last minute to cover the talks.  Certainly there were a lot of events
going on around town that tied in explicitly or implicitly to COP15 -- a big
two week music festival in the center of the city, for instance.

Denmark has weaned itself off foreign oil since the oil shocks of the 1970s,
and now gets over half its energy from renewables sources; has a kick-ass
wind turbine industry; and has integrated conservation pretty well into
daily life of the citizenry, so it certainly sets an example for other
western nations of what they could do if they had the political will to go
low-carbon.

The most direct impact this had on the conference, or should I say the
attendees, was that we got two-week passes to the entire, greater Copenhagen
mass transit system, which includes intercity trains, the city Metro, a vast
network of train routes on the "S-tog" system, and a lot of buses.  The
entire system is clean, nothing apparently broken that I could see, and can
get you just about everywhere you want to go without ever stepping into a
taxi or a private vehicle for about 20 hours of the day.

It made me wince to compare it to the NYC transit system, which struggles in
the best of times to fulfill its mandates, founders in worse times, and is
chronically starved of resources.  It's always dirty, you can never
understand the announcements, and there's always something, somewhere, under
highly visible and delayed repair.

Copenhagen is much older than NYC, so age is no excuse.  Clearly if it was
important enough to us to have a system like this in NYC, it would be
possible, even comparing the population sizes.

I'm not saying it was weirdly futuristic, by the way -- except maybe by
American standards.  There were plenty of older train cars, and a lot of
exuberant graffiti on the S-tog trains.
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #4 of 132: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Wed 23 Dec 09 05:47
    


As for the cold, I arrived in the area on Dec. 4, and went in to get my
credential on Dec. 5, a couple days before the conference started.  So I
was spared the worst of the line-waits that a lot of people endured to get
in (notably during the start of the second week of the conference).

I like winter, and invested in warm boots before I left, so the cold was
okay with me, until around the last two days, when I was running such a
sleep deficit that I started to shiver if outside for more than 15 minutes
or so!

The lines for credentials struck many of us as a fiasco.  The UNFCCC and
the local Danish team certainly knew how many people had been registered to
attend the talks, and therefore could predict what it would take to move
that many through registration.  So why the six-hour waits in the cold for
so many?
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #5 of 132: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Wed 23 Dec 09 08:34
    


One of my outlets, Oxfam America, did want me to give readers an idea of how
the city looked in re: the conference, so I produced this brief slideshow:

http://actionhub.oxfamamerica.org/index.php/blog/comments/climate-talks-
inspire-happenings-around-copenhagen/
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #6 of 132: Steven McGarity (sundog) Wed 23 Dec 09 09:47
    
I have been reading at OnEarth the last couple weeks. Excellent
coverage there. Looking forward to this discussion. So nice to talk
with someone that was there.
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #7 of 132: Gail Williams (gail) Wed 23 Dec 09 11:25
    
Emily, this is so great having you back to tell your tales and discuss
the next steps!

Your slideshow at 
<http://actionhub.oxfamamerica.org/index.php/blog/comments/climate-talks-inspir
e-happenings-around-copenhagen/>
has some interesting images of big black and white photo posters in
the town.  What were those?
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #8 of 132: descend into a fractal hell of meta-truthiness (jmcarlin) Wed 23 Dec 09 11:27
    

The conference is assumed by many to be a failure with only a fig-leaf
agreement brokered by President Obama at the last minute to salvage
something. Was that your impression?
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #9 of 132: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Wed 23 Dec 09 11:35
    

"interesting images of big black and white photo posters in
 the town..."

Those were posters based on photographs made by Helena Christensen.  Oxfam
took her to Peru to see the impacts of climate change.

I was a "reporter-in-residence" for Oxfam America's climate hub blog, and in
my reporting, I was assigned to cover the humanitarian angles on global
warming.  So not coincidentally, Oxfam's activities at the conference crop
up a lot in my reporting.

It was an interesting way to do reporting; I tried to maintain a balance of
not being "ooh, awesome" for Oxfam while still taking advantage of such
access as working for them gave me.

Brave new world of journalism, part the 39th.
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #10 of 132: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Wed 23 Dec 09 11:56
    

> The conference is assumed by many to be a failure with only a fig-leaf
 agreement brokered by President Obama at the last minute to salvage
 something. Was that your impression?

I certainly had an impression of failure during and immediately after the
final two days of the talks.

Some of the coverage and analysis I've been reading since has calmed me
down a bit, but only in the sense that the world is not locked out of
getting this right, or at least better, next year.  The Obama administration
didn't even come out of it too badly in terms of the Senate's probable vote
on climate and energy policy reform next year.

Getting China, India, and Brazil to accept in principle that they'll allow
some external monitoring of their emissions cuts ("mitigation activities")
was a useful development, from the US domestic politics POV.

One of the things that being right there revealed to me is that these
processes are more multilateral than we realize.  China and the US are the
major actors -- where they go, the world will go, it seems.  But Lula of
Brazil played a big part in shifting the dynamics away from total failure at
the end, it seemed to me.  And I think the small island states have made
progress at shifting the ultimate goal toward 1.5 deg. C mean temperature
rise, instead of 2.0 deg.

Then again, if you believe this article in today's Guardian, China called
the shots at the end and ruined things for everybody while masterfully shifting the blame to the West:


http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/22/copenhagen-climate-change-
mark-lynas
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #11 of 132: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Wed 23 Dec 09 11:59
    


How do you read the failure/fig leaf version of the outcome, jmcarlin?
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #12 of 132: descend into a fractal hell of meta-truthiness (jmcarlin) Wed 23 Dec 09 13:25
    

I got the impression of failure from various radio, print and internet
media reports, not from one cogent analysis.
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #13 of 132: Jacques Leslie (jacques) Wed 23 Dec 09 13:52
    
Am I correct in inferring from your comments that you think the world
is one tiny step closer to meaningful action on climate change than it
was before the conference?

And did the conference, despite its obvious failure to produce a
binding agreement on significant cuts in emissions, provide some
momentum for carbon markets and technological innovators to find other
means of reducing climate change? That's more or less the
Schwarzenegger line, and I wonder if you think there's any merit to it.
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #14 of 132: Julie Sherman (julieswn) Wed 23 Dec 09 15:15
    
A quick note to our offsite readers...You may ask your questions of
Emily by emailing them to <inkwell@well.com>
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #15 of 132: Julie Sherman (julieswn) Wed 23 Dec 09 15:50
    
To add to the conversation:

Five common mistakes in the coverage of the Copenhagen Accord 

The Copenhagen Accords on climate change were big news. Too bad so
much of the reporting was wrong 
By Sam Hummel

With the exception of a few hours of shut-eye, I stayed up all Friday
night to watch the last hours of the COP15 negotiations. It was
absolutely gripping, shocking, heart-wrenching, inspiring and in the
end came with some measure of relief. (By the way -- for anyone who
would like to watch any part of Friday night’s negotiations it is all
online here. I have found this partial transcript useful for skipping
around in the many hours of footage.)

I have not seen a single news article that has done justice to what
happened overnight. In fact, I’ve seen many that I feel misunderstand
or mischaracterize what happened. Watching the questions journalists
asked during the final press conferences, I kept saying to my computer
screen, “Were you not watching!?” so I suppose it should come as little
surprise that I, as someone who watched the entire thing, feel a
number of the articles written thus far leave readers with
misimpressions.

In particular, I would like to address five things that I’ve seen
reported or opined in various media (primarily on the left) over the
last two days that I believe are fallacies, based on what I witnessed.


More at:
http://www.salon.com/news/global_warming/index.html?story=/news/2009/12/22/5_c
ommon_mistakes_in_the_coverage_of_the_copenhagen_accord
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #16 of 132: Steven McGarity (sundog) Wed 23 Dec 09 16:20
    
Were you able to get out among the people in the streets. I had the
feeling there were some interesting things going on out there. As well
as some heavy handed reaction by the police based on reports read and
the number of arrests. Also, do you feel like NGOs made a significant
impact on the process or were they merely in the way?
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #17 of 132: Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Wed 23 Dec 09 21:59
    
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2009/dec/21/copenhagen-failu
re-obama-climate-change

Naomi Klein on Copenhagen.    

And from a blog by a climate scientist, one of of IPCC,
http://www.desmogblog.com/cop15-deal-not-fair-not-ambitious-not-binding

COP15 "Deal"--Not Fair, Not Ambitious, Not Binding, Richard
Littlemore, 12/19/09. (and it's in fact NOT a deal!!)
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #18 of 132: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Thu 24 Dec 09 10:55
    
Well, Naomi Klein is not a journalist, she's a social critic.  So I
feel comfortable saying that while I have admired her insights into the
ills of consumer-driven, late-stage-capitalist culture, her analysis
of Copenhagen and climate politics is just flat out incorrect.

Saying in 2009 that only the US possessed the "unique power to change
the game" is just another flavor of myopic US exceptionalism.  

That might have been true 10 years ago, when the Soviet Union expired
and the US was THE superpower, and the world's leading polluter. We
were also at or near resolution of the national debt, weren't we? 

When the  Senate made clear to the Clinton administration that it
would not ratify the Kyoto accord, that deal was fatally weakened.  The
Bush administration then poisoned regard for the US in global
politics, including climate and environmental arenas.

Today, in 2009, China is a major economic power; it's surpassed the US
as the world's leading emitter of greenhouse gases; and it more or
less owns the bulk of America's considerable national debt. (If I
understand things correctly.)  

Even if you believe only half the things being claimed about China's
role in torpedoing Copenhagen, clearly it's got tons of influence over
the outcome of any now-and-future climate deal.

To skewer Klein's position a bit more:

The Senate will make or break any chance at really effective climate
action.  The entire freaking world seems to understand this, judging
from a number of off-the-record convos I had in Copenhagen. Everyone
gets that Obama can't promise more in terms of binding, deep emissions
cuts and a carbon market than Congress will deliver.

But not some US activists/political analysts.  They  believe that
Obama has (or ought to use) just the sort of executive power in climate
policy that they decried when the Bush administration made just such
grabs to expand executive branch power. 

Under the circumstances, and again Klein's analysis really falls short
here, the Obama admin. has done wonders so far.  There are literally
billions pouring through the DOE for every level of energy action --
from basic to advanced research, to updating the grid, to accelerating
the progress of new, clean energy technologies to market, to really
effective basics like home energy efficiency, aka state-based
weatherization programs for low-income families.

Klein writes:

"Sure, he spent some money on weatherproofing, but public transport
was inexplicably short-changed while highways that perpetuate car
culture won big."

It's funny to me -- ha ha ha! -- that a populist like Klein should
make so little of "weatherproofing" (which is not the same as
"weatherization," by the way, she's setting up a straw man here).
Because it is one of the easiest, fastest, best-proven ways to help
low-income Americans save money and live more comfortably, while also
cutting greenhouse gas pollution.

I can't speak to every facet of the stim's mass transportation
funding, but I know that there's $8bn in there to spark additional
state funding for several intercity high-speed rail corridors.

People who think that the stim wouldn't have funded highway projects
must live in a very pretty-colored world full of magic ponies frisking
thru glitter.  One of the biggest barrels of state pork there is.
(Sorry to mix metaphors there.)

I don't know where Klein comes up with her take on the auto industry
bailouts; perhaps someone here knows more.  But getting the first
significant hike in fuel economy standards in at least two or three
presidential terms was no small thing.  This probably isn't sexy enough
stuff for the "system change" crowd, but it was a major move against
pollution, and a major story in 2009 for enviro beat reporters.

I could go on and on about the many good things EPA's been doing since
O took office, but you get the idea. 
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #19 of 132: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Thu 24 Dec 09 10:57
    
O has done an incredible amount in a short time to repair the damage
to our international relations and standing, but the divisions within
the established climate treaty process run deep. 

Under the Kyoto accord, you're either an industrialized nation that is
bound to cut its emissions, and under a certain moral cloud for
getting so rich while causing human-propelled global warming.

Or, you're a developing nation not required to cut emissions, innocent
of ruining the climate, plus you can expect lots of unsupervised money
from the rich nations for mitigation projects that generate carbon
credits.

This doesn't reflect the more multivalent realities of who's now
polluting the most, who'll be polluting the most in the future, or
rampant corruption in the aid and development system as it currently
exists.
 
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #20 of 132: descend into a fractal hell of meta-truthiness (jmcarlin) Thu 24 Dec 09 11:13
    

> Even if you believe only half the things being claimed about China's
> role in torpedoing Copenhagen

There was a story on PBS/NPR from someone who had been on the inside
and saw all the world's leaders at the table except for the Chinese who
had sent a lower level bureaucrat. That said volumes and then some.
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #21 of 132: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Thu 24 Dec 09 11:20
    
> Am I correct in inferring from your comments that you think the
world is one tiny step closer to meaningful action on climate change
than it was before the conference?

I don't know yet. 

If the US political agreement with the BASIC nations (Brazil, South
Africa, India and China) helps get the climate and energy bill through
the Senate, then yes, we probably are one tiny step closer to
meaningful action.  It's the most meaningful action that could come out
of the US government, anyway. 


>And did the conference, despite its obvious failure to produce a
binding agreement on significant cuts in emissions, provide some
momentum for carbon markets and technological innovators to find other
means of reducing climate change? That's more or less the
Schwarzenegger line, and I wonder if you think there's any merit to
it.

Uuuuuh.  Hm.  I'd need to know the full context for his comments.

The global carbon market took a dive this week as the results of
Copenhagen sank in.  If the Governator was referring there to momentum
to get the US market going, then yeah, so far I agree with that.

Once there's a price for carbon on the American markets, it should end
a lot of uncertainty in the business community, and spur investment.
(I've been hearing this for years at biz forums, by the way; the suits
never seemed to buy the Bush administration/GOP line that curbing
carbon would destroy the economy.) 

Right now may be the worst of several worlds from the technology
perspective: Copenhagen was a dud.  No bill through Congress yet, and
the EPA homing in on regulating greenhouse gas emissions like other air
pollutants.   
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #22 of 132: Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Thu 24 Dec 09 11:47
    
Emily, could you address the fact that there were actually two
parallel negotiatin tracks at Copenhagen? As I understand it, one track
was for previous signatories of the Kyoto Treaty (ie, mostly wealthy
industrialized nations) and the other was for nations that were not
signatories of Kyoto. It appears that this set-up could have created an
automatic tension between wealthier nations and developing nations at
the conference. 
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #23 of 132: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Thu 24 Dec 09 15:48
    
Nearly every nation in the world ratified the Kyoto accord, rich and
not-so-rich.  

What I think you're referring to is how that accord divides the world
into groups. Annex I nations, the industrialized nations are the ones
that are legally bound by Kyoto to hit certain emissions reductions
targets. I think there are around 40 of these now.

A subsection of Annex I countries are Annex II countries -- nations
that subsidize the costs for developing nations to cut emissions.

All the rest of the countries are "non-Annex I", or developing
nations.

Dozing off yet?


The two track approach arose at the Bali talks in 2007.  Essentially
it was devised to give the US (the world's largest economy and at that
time the world's greatest polluter) a way to participate in the
process, since it had not ratified Kyoto.
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #24 of 132: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Thu 24 Dec 09 15:53
    

One track was working on a new accord based on the Kyoto framework. 
This would maintain existing definitions for Annex I nations vs other
nations -- including letting China, India, Brazil and the other major
developing economies off the hook for mandatory emissions cuts. 

The other track, the one including the US, has been known as the LCA
track, for "Long-term Cooperative Action."  This track supported
bringing the accord's rules up to date to demand of major developing
economies "measurable, reportable, verifiable" emissions cuts.  The
Bush administration advocated this approach

One of the major ironies of Copenhagen is that while Obama came in to
world climate politics professing respect for past agreements, the
"Copenhagen Accord" puts us on a path to arriving at what the Bush
administration wanted: junking the Kyoto framework.
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #25 of 132: Jacques Leslie (jacques) Thu 24 Dec 09 23:12
    
Emily, to what degree did climate change deniers make their presence
known in Copenhagen. Judging by the coverage they get in the U.S., one
might assume that they're a substantial force, but my impression is
that in Copenhagen they hardly registered. True?
  

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