Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thursday: 24 Hours To Treaty

The COP15 Conference is about to come to its conclusion tomorrow, and there is still a lot of work that needs to be done for a treaty to rise from the ashes. Today no one from the youth delegation was able to get into the conference; fewer and fewer NGO and youth observers have been allowed in every day (45,000 could get in on Monday and only 300 could get in today, 90 tomorrow).

There were protests yesterday where thousands of activists tried to break through the fence and get into the Bella Center. Unfortunately, the end result of these protests only delayed the negotiations because some of the negotiators, such as IPCC Chairman Rajenda Pachauri, couldn't get past the wall of protestors/ police. As the week as progressed and fewer and fewer observer NGOs have been allowed entrance into the COP15 proceedings, this has increased discontent and probably helped fuel the ill thought out protests.

What happened on the outside was not nearly as effective as some of the events that the media are not covering as well. For example, youth and NGOs have been meeting with high level negotiators throughout the conference, and youth staged a sit-in protest for being shut out of the process, refusing to leave until at 1:30am this morning when police forced them to.

Yesterday evening, members of the delegation along with Will Steger, Michael Noble, and Rep. Kate Knuth gave a Midwest Climate Presentation at Klimaforum, an alternative to COP15 open to the general public. I had a good time M.C-ing where we talked about why it's important that the Midwest prepare for climate change, and what the Midwest has to gain about it. Although the topic might seem obscure here in Denmark, we had a packed house of people from across the world (many from the Midwest!). I was nervous as I went up in front of the packed room, but as soon as I relaxed and just had fun with the presentation, everything went smoothly.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Second Week Opens

It began on December 7th, as delegates and NGOs, youth and press descended upon the Bella Center here in Copenhagen to decide how to deal with the greatest challenge that humanity has ever faced. I trekked here to the fifteenth Conference of Parties with a team of twelve talented youth from across the Midwest, led by polar explorer and educator Will Steger.

Throughout the first week, I joined with fellow youth from across the world to come up with creative ways to engage our representatives here at the COP 15 in Copenhagen. We have been coming up with creative actions to gain media attention, such as standing out in the cold in our underwear to bring attention to the fact that youth had been “left out in the cold” in the negotiations, shouting that we were “in the cold to stop the heat!”

Beyond just a focus on action events, youth have taken the time and read through entire treaty proposals, sorting through sections by group to better understand the text of what is happening at the conference.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Week one in Copenhagen comes to a close

The Expedition Copenhagen team has been making tracks this week, organizing amazing actions and meeting people who can influence our climate future. Earlier this week, I met Rajenda Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, and sat in on sessions with Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, joined by fellow youth asking challenging questions.

The youth are making sure that our voices are heard, echoing throughout Copenhagen and around the world. This past week, I have met informally with country representatives from Swaziland and Niger, I have taken part in creative events, and have helped spread the youth call for a strong, equitable, and legally binding treaty across the world.

Yesterday, five of the Expedition members travelled to the USA Center inside the conference, where we united with NOAA, the EPA, and the US Forest Service to do an interactive video q & a with middle school and elementary school students back in Washington D.C. Their knowledge of climate change was impressive, and they were concerned about how it would effect wildlife such as happy the diamondback turtle. The kids were cute, making sure that the negotiators knew that they were counting on them to keep animals like happy from being wiped out by climate change.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Day Three in Copenhagen: Bike & Dance

This morning I woke before the crack of dawn and hit the streets with Will Steger Foundation's pro videographer Jerry to meet with Mikael Colville-Anderson, Denmark's official ambassador of all things biking. The fog was thick in the air as we met by the bridge with the most bike traffic in all of Europe. There is actually a bicycle rush hour here in Copenhagen and bike riders have their own lane and always get the right of way. When it snows in the winter, the bike trails are plowed before the streets or the sidewalks. "If they didn't plow them first," explained Mikael, "everyone would take the transit system and it would be swamped because SO many people rely on biking to get around."

This afternoon, I met Erick, a lead negotiator from Tanzania while picking up schedules. "Is the United States going to bring real solutions, or is it going to bring problems?" he asked me and then said, "there is a lot that you can do as youth to influence your president and your negotiators. I'm counting on you." As youth who will be living in the results of climate change, this not just a theory, this is reality, this is our future, and we can influence it, and there is a lot of weight riding on our decisions.

This afternoon, the international youth held our first event inside the conference, a "flash dance" where immediately after the opening ceremony, hundreds of youth broke into a song that started with the phrase, "ooooh, it's hot in here. There's too much carbon in the atmosphere." Here is the link if you would like to check it out:

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Day Two in Copenhagen

The anticipation is hanging thick in the air with less than a day left until the conference begins. At the Conference of Youth today, I met many people and learned many things, but what stands out most is the overwhelming feeling of hope that everyone is feeling. We can and we will do everything that we can to put the pressure on for a strong, equitable, and legally binding treaty.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Day One in Copenhagen

I hit the trail early this morning, trekking with my fellow Will Steger delegates to COY, the Conference of Youth. As we were walking, I noticed how many people bike in town. There is actually a separate lane for cyclists, and I’ve heard rumor that there are more bikes than in people in Copenhagen. Whether or not this is true, it’s a far cry from some of the places I biked through earlier this autumn.

Young people from all across the world gathered today for our first day of training in preparation for the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change (COP-15) which begins on Monday.

The air was vibrant with the energy of a thousand young people, ready to call for a strong, fair, and legally binding treaty over the next couple of weeks. Today, I met with youth delegates from India, Sweden, Cameroon, Canada, Australia, Belgium, China, Japan, from all across the world. I ran into fellow 350 organizers from across the world, who were organizing events internationally while I was biking 350 miles around the state of Minnesota to talk to people about climate solutions.

Stay tuned for breaking news from behind the scenes at COP-15!

Until tomorrow,
Reed Aronow