Before I arrived in Copenhagen, I had a genuine feeling that real and meaningful action would be agreed at COP15. I was aware that any legally binding process was off the table (at least within the two weeks of the summit) from the outset. I did however think that with all the eyes of the world on the conference, leaders would be able to work together to build a shared vision around the key themes of mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology.
Sadly as the conference has progressed these hopes and expectations have been replaced by a feeding that the current UNFCCC process is undemocratic and lacks the legitimacy it claims in representing the peoples of the world. Why do I feel this? In the last week the UNFCCC, (in concert with the host organisers) has systematically sought to maintain the status quo at the expense of truly grasping the nettle and providing a clear and ambitious way forward. This has been done through some fairly blatant but still nonetheless distasteful exercises in brute power including: Sidelining parties (nations) with a legitimate role in the negotiations Excluding NGOs who have been present in these processes for the last 20 years and provide vital checks and balances and represent civil society
Dividing negotiating blocks such as the LDCs through tactics such as presenting the possibility that current aid flows can be removed, Working with an aggressive police force to suppress public dissent including intimidation and arbitrary arrest Claiming, as new, money that had been promised to reaching the Millennium Development Goals and diverting it to mitigation projects often run by large businesses
To cover all of these and the other tactics that have been deployed in the last few weeks is beyond the scope of this article. I'll leave that process of investigation to yourselves and let you draw your own conclusions. Instead I'd now like to focus on the positives that we can draw from Copenhagen. To do this I'd like to draw a parallel with another recent global political precedent. As George W Bush's time in office developed it became obvious to the rest of the world (and I presume the majority of Americans) that America under Bush was not something the world could rely upon to solve our problems. As a consequence, new networks, grassroots movements, multinational bodies developed with an appetite for something different. My hope and belief is that as these negotiations have progressed, the inadequacy of the UNFCCC as a process that can deal with the threat of climate change will force us all to plan and start acting to develop a new approach.
I have seen signs of this thinking throughout my time in Copenhagen and increasingly it looks like the forum for these changes is local, not national. People's movements, cities/local governments and businesses are demonstrating the agility and energy needed to redefine our approach to tackling climate change and creating a sustainable future for us all.