December 8, 2009

1st Day at COP15

Despite the jet lag and exhaustion from travelling, our delegation has made it to the city fast becoming the focus of the world over. Copenhagen is brimming, seemingly with people from every global nation and organisation. I found myself crammed to the side of a Metro carriage with a delegate from Guyana – South America, who is representing thousands who happily live self-sustainably without jobs or money under the forest canopy with no comprehension of the monstrosity of the current talks that concern their lands. Then after hours in line in the 2degree celcius cold we stood beside a cheery Australian negotiator retaking his photo pass for the scrupulous UN security. Coffees and sandwiches are consumed alongside some of the world’s most incredible people and you realise the strange consciousness of sharing the same spaces as these creatures we call delegates – those with the power to save the world or to watch it disintegrate in front of us.

It’s not all doom and gloom. The chances seem higher with each announcement. World leaders are changing plans to make sure they are here for the deal of deals – the treaty to replace all treaties.

Today I attended an inspiring talk by the Scandinavian countries who seem to blitz our efforts back home. While we argue about the amount of research we might put in, and whimper about the costs that might befall our companies, Sweden has reduced it’s emissions by 18.7% and increased it’s GDP by 40%. The Nordic countries had differing targets but a similar message about the opportunities to be found within climate protection strategies. All had dirty washing to air… but also remarkable success stories, which are only growing in their number. Changes from carbon-heavy vehicle fleets to bio-diesel driven and eco-friendly transport systems. Overhauls from fossil fuel derived energy and heating to nearly complete reliance on renewable energy sources and legislation to support companies to use better energy sources. Building codes changed to support all future houses becoming passive – without the requirement for heating. Meanwhile, given that these countries have viewed their obligations as opportunities, their economies haven’t suffered.

And New Zealand. How do we compare. I found myself wondering about what our governments could present to show our journey from the post-ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in the 1990s. What indeed. Perhaps a smattering of research that needs years more work. Possibly the legislation that will allow the 15 electric cars we can import over the next 10 years to pay less Road User Charges. John Key’s bicycle lane maybe. National’s weakened support for biofuels possibly. Fair enough – the 180,000 insulated houses are a start. But while it’s a start at home, it’s nothing to laud about here.

How embarrassing. Facing people from the nations that are enduring droughts and floods, increasing threat of refugee status or worse death, it’s hard to hold our heads up high here.

We do need to be positive and we do need to be supportive of our government to make a call that is fair and just and necessary. But it’s difficult to swallow the disgust, the embarrassment and the shame.

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