Today was my third day in wonderful Copenhagen, Denmark for the COP15 UN Climate Change Conference. The conference center is just so overwhelming, in a good way. There is so much awesome going on at once, it’s hard to take it all in.
I started off the day pushing through a mob of hundreds of people trying to get into the Bella Center, where the conference is held. It was crazy... I felt like we were trying to get into the 2012 survival ship or something. Especially with this whole ‘badge’ thing. For the last few days, they are cutting back on the amount of people allowed in, and youth are getting hit the hardest. They’re giving a certain amount of “second badges” to every non profit, and luckily, I got a hold of a second badge. Unfortunately I can’t say the same about most of the other youth. They’re excluding 2/3 of all the people, so the youth are organizing other events off-site.
But anyway, after almost drowning in the river of people, I made it into the conference center and went to see a ‘panel’ with only one person there. The rest of the panelists were stuck in the stampede outside. But for me, this one person made up for it, and it was awesome to hear what he had to say. His name is Mattias Klum, and he’s a National Geographic photographer. He talked about how best to communicate climate change, and it was really helpful, because what I do for a living is communicate climate change.
He mentioned we don’t have time to not be successful in communicating this, and in his eyes, animals like Meerkats, King Cobras, and Orangutans are ambassadors of the natural world. We need to consider their needs, and not just think of them as a luxury of the rich.
If we continue on the rate of deforestation we have now, there would be NO more orangutans in 15 years. And even the ones that survive are killed when they look for food because they’re considered pests. The deforestation is just appalling. Borneo, for example is the 3rd largest island in the world. Its trees are 100 million years old. And yet, an area the size of 3 denmarks is cut down every year. 75% of all of Borneo has been murdered to make way for palm oil plantations, an extremely devastating crop.
The US youth meet every day to strategize. For tomorrow, we’re going to be focused on pressuring the US administration to make real change and lead the way, even though their showing no signs of making any drastic changes. The US actually won the “Fossil of the Day” award today, for being totally silent in this entire process. The Obama Administration is coming on Friday, and the US youth are strategizing how best to address them. So stay tuned for more info about that.
But what I’m most excited about is what’s going on with Tuvalu, a small island nation, which is part of AOSIS. A few days ago, during the negotiations, Tuvalu stood up and said that any temperature rise above 1.5°C is not negotiable because their entire country would be underwater. They set a new target, which was backed by the rest of the AOSIS states. But then the biggest polluters, including the US, China, and India objected to this target. So the Danish president rejected Tuvalu’s proposal.
The African nations also stood by Tuvalu and said that a 2°C rise (which is what the rest of the world is proposing we stop at) is a “suicide deal” because 2° in the rest of the world means 3.5° in Africa. And Africa is already experiencing some of the worst effects of climate change. Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said a few days ago, “If needs be we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threaten to be another rape of our continent.” So, today, they walked out.
So it was decided that the US youth will be standing by Tuvalu and the African nations and demanding a fair, ambitious, and binding treaty to be created at the conference.
The youth were very present and loud today at the conference center. There were at least 4 different actions just in the afternoon, saying that the youth are standing by Africa and standing by Tuvalu. There was a group of people in red outfits, a group with orange shirts, a group in blue, and some people in yellow. It’s been awesome to see the youth movement standing up, raising their voice, and getting active.