Today was all about politicians. On my way to the conference by public transit I bumped into Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak and her team in Copenhagen. “Why are you at COP15?” I asked.
“Tomake sure the Canadian government understands what climate warming isalready doing to us in the North”, she replied. It was a snowy day inCopenhagen and those seal fur jackets looked mighty warm.
Anumber of Canadian Premiers are in Copenhagen showcasing their programsand targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, filling the federalleadership void. This morning a consortium of environmental groupsawarded five provinces (BC, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia)recognition for their efforts. Several of the environmental reps lookeddistinctly uncomfortable praising the provincial politicians I am surethey have spent many an hour criticizing!
Quebec Premier Jean Charest’s remarkswere unequivocal, “Canada led other countries at the Rio Summit in1992, we led other countries in Montreal with the ozone accord, and weled other countries with the climate framework agreement and KyotoProtocol. We need leadership on the environment today and that’s whythe provinces are the ones receiving awards.”
At a session later in the day to discuss the “avoided deforestation” initiative named Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), attending were a number of Heads of State and some even larger personalities.
Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg committed $150 million to helping protect rainforests, and was acknowledged by Primatologist Jane Goodallfor the Norwegian funds that helped restore and protect large swaths offorest surrounding the Gombe National Park’s critical chimpanzeehabitat. Norway’s largesse is compliments of the Norwegian taxpayers’$5 per barrel tax on oil dedicated to saving rainforests. According tothe Norwegian PM, this is “the largest, fastest, and cheapest solutionto climate change.”
Sir Richard Branson, a politician inall but technical terms, spoke about the importance of involving theprivate sector. He is leading an initiative The Carbon War Room, “to develop strategies with leaders in aviation, shipping and other industries to attack the enemy, carbon.”
President of Guyana Bharrat Jagdeobelieves “forests are a bridge between developing and develop countriesbut there must be enough money on the table so the value of a livingrainforest is greater than the value of a dead forest.”
And Eduardo Braga, Governor of the largest province in Brazil, Amazonas,commented on the difficult COP15 negotiations and the importance ofsuccess, “this is no longer the practice, this is the ChampionshipGame.”
COP15 has some hurdles to jump during the last two days ofthe climate conference, but many in today’s meetings were optimisticthat whatever else takes place, a major turning point in protecting theplanet’s precious forest ecosystems will be achieved.