After much preparation and anticipation, the COP15 United Nations Climate Change Conference began on Monday, December 7th. Several congregations, including The First Unitarian Society of Schenectady in NY and the UU Fellowship of the Peninsula in Newport News, VA, are planning candlelight vigils around climate justice, to show their support halfway through the climate negotiations. More information is available on the UU Ministry for Earth website.
Lynn Dash, a special correspondent for the UU-United Nations Office, is currently in Copenhagen and has kindly shared some of her reflections with us.
Dec. 8, 2009, Copenhagen
If you’ve been to General Assembly you know how intense the experience can be. The Copenhagen conference has the flavor of a giant GA with several times the number of participants. As of this writing, about 15,000 people from 200 countries are here. It is wonderful to see the faces of so many different people from around the world.
The logo is a sphere with thickly interconnecting lines, a web held together in a big blue ball. What a graphic reminder that we are all in this together, in our interconnected web on our one precious planet. So among the multiple offerings on many topics at any given hour, I am reminded that it is all about environmental and social justice for all of us on Earth.
COP is “Conference of Parties” and this is the 15th, and largest, such conference since international negotiations began in 1992 with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
There is an undercurrent of tension between the developed and the developing countries. The major issue seems to be that the developed countries have already put a disproportionate amount of Greenhouse gas Emissions into the atmosphere, while the developing countries have yet to develop infrastructure that would help lift them out of poverty. (The U.S., with 5% of the world’s population, emits 20% of GHG). The “Side Event” panel I attended on the first full day of the conference, “What the Copenhagen Conference must deliver for climate justice,” included speakers from Africa and the Philippines. It was pointed out that developing countries are already dealing with adverse effects of climate change.
“Climate injustice means ignoring that some people somewhere are exposed to danger and yoked to suffering due to climate change.”
There is some fear that the North-South divide that permeates the negotiations may threaten to retard the gains so far achieved ahead of COP15.
Let’s keep posted…and hopeful for a just solution.
And speaking of hope—there is a growing international youth climate movement. Over 1000 youth from 100 countries are here at COP 15 and I’ve been talking with some of them. A young Australian stated simply: “It’s our future.” The Australian Youth Climate coalition sent 20 youth through an application process. They raised their own funds to be able to come here, and to be able to support youth from developing nations. They are peer-organized and meet every morning for strategy sessions. Today they drew a large crowd around them as they sang “Give Peace a Chance” with some added lyrics about climate justice.
Youth from all across the U.S. have come together as SustainUS. They are under 25 years old and were chosen through a competitive application process. There are 1600 members of SustainUS in the US—and their chair is a UU, Kyle Gracey! They trained together in August on how to make presentations, take action, talk with the media and other ways to make a difference. They are expected to go back into their communities and raise awareness of climate change and encourage actions for sustainability. We will be hearing more from these inspiring young people.
If you’re interested in reading the Daily Programme, it’s available at http://unfccc.int/items.
We are grateful to be here at this exciting time.