Hell Breaks Loose at COP15: “Ambitious Legal Treaty Now!”

cop15_logo_img“All hell is breaking loose.” That’s what Sea Change Climate Correspondent Cimbria Badenhausen skype texted to Executive Producer/Host Bill Baue from Copenhagen at 3:27 pm there on Wednesday December 9, the third day of the UN Climate Conference, or COP15.  At that point, protest erupted in support of an “ambitious legal treaty now,” as requested by the so-called Tuvalu Proposal.  The tiny island nation is calling for an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol to create a complimentary treaty that would limits global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celcius above preindustrial levels, and reduce carbon concentrations in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million.


The World Wide Web was abuzz with news of the so-called “Danish textleaked by the Guardian in the UK, drafted in secret by developed countries such as the US, UK, and Denmark.  The text generated significant controversy by proposing carbon emissions limits for people in poor countries almost half of the allowances for rich country residents: 1.44 tonnes for poorer folks, 2.67 tonnes for richer folks.  In a press conference on Wednesday, Lumumba Stanislas Dia Ping, the Sudanese head of the G77 group of developing nations, condemned the draft treaty for being written outside the official protocols of the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change, or UNFCCC – among many other affronts.

ConnieHedegaardFor the afternoon sessions, UNFCCC officials called for the negotiations to continue behind closed doors, allowing only delegates and official observers in, and barring all others – including press. A guard allowed our Climate Correspondent back in to retrieve her belongings, where she recorded the official explanation by COP15 President Connie Hedegaard of Denmark.  She explained that that the UNFCCC was not at that time accepting the Tuvalu Proposal.

As this news filtered out of the meeting rooms, tensions erupted in the halls, where 350.org members and developing nation supporters rallied behind the Tuvalu Proposal.  Protesters shouted slogans:

  • “They all exist,” referring to those living in developing countries;
  • “350,” the number representing the upper limit of acceptable atmospheric carbon concentration, according to an increasing scientific consensus;
  • “Survival – Tu-va-lu,” a rallying cry for the fate of island nations with unchecked climate change leading to sea level rise;
  • “Annex One Stand Up,” urging the 37 industrialized countries to set significant emissions reductions goals;
  • “Open Plenary,” calling for an end to closed-door negotiations;
  • And “Ambitious Legal Treaty Now,” a cry of support for the Tuvalu Proposal.

However, not all developing countries support the Tuvalu Proposal.  The biggest – and richest – of these countries oppose the measure.  This divide within developing countries is not altogether new.  In negotiations earlier in the day on carbon capture and storage – or the practice of trapping carbon dioxide and sequestering it underground and elsewhere – developing countries split on their support for CCS.  At the session, Brazil, Granada, and Jamaica all spoke out against CCS, while Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and Nigeria all favor CCS, in allegiance with developed countries such as Australia and Japan.  The show includes the blow-by-blow account.  But don’t let the dry UN tone fool you – this is high drama, with the fate of our climate hanging in the balance.

After these deliberations – and before the protests erupted – Cimbria and Bill got a chance to chat about developments up until the middle of Wednesday.  The day before, much attention had been paid to REDD, or “reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries.”  According to delegates from Bangladesh, Brazil, the Philippines, and Sierra Leone, forests store more than carbon; they also hold historical, cultural, and biological value, as well as ownership and tenure rights.  These delegates focused on the importance of indigenous peoples’ voices informing the development of REDD policies, as well as in deliberations on many other issues, according to Cimbria.

Sea Change Media, the nonprofit that produces Sea Change Radio, just launched its own separate website.  Sea Change Media recently produced a panel discussion entitled Future Scenarios: Energy & Economy that Audubon hosted and Shell sponsored.  These discussions focused extensively on COP15  To watch the videos of the presentations and hear the fascinating question and answer session, check out the Audubon page on SeaChangeMedia.org.

Thanks to our COP15 Series Sponsor The Cloud Institute, as well as financial support from The ManKind Project and the Institute for Nature and Leadership, as well as other individuals.

About Bill Baue

Bill Baue is Co-Director of Sea Change Media, a non-profit that makes connections in the shift to social, environmental, and economic sustainability. He co-hosts/produces Sea Change Radio, a nationally syndicated show that podcasts globally.