Today has been an extraordinary day. Starting at 8:00 am, I attendedthe Canadian delegation briefing at COP15’s Bella Centre – “No, Canadais not blocking progress at this conference”. It is now 11:oo pm and weare listening to “high level statements” from Heads of State and headsof delegation from countries around the globe.
The level ofanxiety and intense hope from hundreds of countries and thousands ofinternational delegates is palpable. We in British Columbia see andfeel the evidence of climate change when we drive through the BC’sInterior past vast tracts of dead pine trees (of which cover an areatwice the size of Belgium). Yet, the damage from a warming climate isstill theoretical (or nonsensical, right Rex Murphy?) to many Canadians.
COP15is the marketplace of climate change ideas and concerns, but for scoresof countries – large and small – the prospect of a changing andvolatile climate and extreme weather is a matter of life and death.
InPakistan, the fast-melting glaciers in the North already create deadlyfloods in the South where 50 percent of the people are at risk.
InGuinea-Bissau where most people depend directly on nature to providesustenance and life, the availability of rains and crops is becomingless secure.
In Barbados, a small island nation watching sea levels creep up, Her Excellency Maxine McLean’seloquent plea that “a weak agreement is worse than no agreement at all”was well worth hearing. She followed, “we need an agreement that willprotect the future of people in the most vulnerable countries…”
Philippines President Arroyoreminded us that “at 1.6 Tonne per capita footprint, compared with a 6Tonne world average, we are a climate taker, not a climate maker. Weare among the countries most exposed to typhoons and rain, with 70% ofour cities and town on the coast. We can’t afford to leave Copenhagen without a deal”
Parallelto the sequence of national positioning and appeals, negotiators aredigging in for a caffeine-fuelled night untangling multipleinter-connected Gordian knots. This morning saw a breakthrough in thepreviously stuck pieces that must one-by-one be released and puzzledtogether to reach a consensus agreement.
The host Danish Prime Ministerstated, “our job is to build bridges between very strong views”. NowPresident of the COP15, the Danish PM laid out a new process for makingprogress and brought back a glimmer of hope to “Hopenhagen”. Sincethen, a score of small “contact groups” have been grinding through textfrom subset issues of the two negotiation tracks, solving smallermatters and red-lining the ones needing ministerial or primeministerial resolution.
Despite the competence and hard work ofits civil servants here in Copenhagen, Canada has been irrelevant. Oncethe influential “honest broker” that could be counted on to breaknegotiation log-jams, trusted to shuttle from group to group and findsolutions, Canada has lost its credibility and its mojo. Our governmentis without a plan and is not even trying. Its targets are vacant of allcredibility, cited for non-compliance with legal reporting obligations,and alas, the butt of jokes and hoaxes.
Australia has now steppedinto a former Canada’s role as trusted statesman securing results.Today’s Canada is mutely hiding behind America’s skirts.
Standingin the hallway line-up for lunch, a ripple of movement and surge ofelectricity caught my attention. Turning, I watch the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozyside-by-side, surrounded by their entourage of staff, media andadmirers, surging past my elbow on their way to the Plenary Hall todeliver their 5 minute addresses.
In Copenhagen, both largeinfluential countries and small troubled nations get their turn in thelimelight in a comforting exercise of meta-democracy.