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If you build it (and wait 17 years), they will come


Day 1: The line of unaccredited COP-15 participants

No treaties yet–actually, we’re not even close–but the COP-15 is already setting records. Never before have so many heads of state agreed to attend the talks. We’re hearing that over 130 heads of government will arrive before the end of next week. 130 out of 192 countries recognized by the UN. It’s unprecedented. Reputations are on the line. With this momentum, we’ll either get a serious deal or serious spin to make it look like a good deal. Any outcome will make history, so participants here are working overtime to get realize their visions.

A group of environmental NGOS have started a “Win it in Oslo. Earn it in Copenhagen” campaign for President Obama, who will receive his Nobel Peace Prize just a few hours north of us tomorrow in Oslo. Obama originally planned to attend the talks just after his Nobel ceremony on the 10th, but later announced he would come on the 17th and 18th when other world leaders are attending to finalize a deal.

Unfortunately for us, heads of government mean super-tight security. Rumors are floating that once the big-shots arrive, Big Bella may close to non-government parties. No doubt this would mean crowds of activists and other frustrated non-governmental attendees outside the conference center. The official list of participants is 30,123-strong as of today, but only 15,000 are allowed inside at once. Even if Big Bella remains open next week, thousands looking to influence heads of government may be denied access.

Maybe the Danish Government and UNFCCC Secretariat will reserve a small, maximum-security area for world leaders only–just enough space that they don’t get anxious about smelling each other’s sweat, but not so much that they forget their stakes in just, sustainable world. It’s not a likely scenario.

In 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The release of An Inconvenient Truth in 2006 aided a (late) tidal shift in public opinion on climate change, but Americans have still lagged behind the rest of the world in accepting the science and social implications of global climate disruption. This year’s COP-15 conference in Copenhagen is the biggest conference in the history of the negotiations.

Enormous crowds bring unique humor for patient observers. For instance, a conference of this size in the winter of Northern Europe means an enormous “cloak room.” Yesterday at 10:30pm, a tired, caffeinated crowd descended on the exit hallway to exchange coat tickets for warmth. I was one of them. Youthful conference workers fast-walked back and forth to the racks with smiles, but some government delegates were done with diplomacy for the day. To the amusement of those in line, this delegate didn’t quite understood the coat hanger numbers…


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