18 December, 2009

Pushmi-pullyu politics

The pushmi-pullyu is a mythical animal that features in Hugh Loftus's children's stories.

It is a gazelle-unicorn cross with two heads (one of each) at opposite ends of its body. When it tries to move, both heads try to go in opposite directions. That's not unlike the negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference Conference here in Copenhagen. COP15 stands for the fifteenth Conference of the Parties Parties, and the next twenty-four hours will make or break a deal.

At the Plenary this evening there were signs of optomism that may result in negotiations through the night that would push the texts along for the final work by national leaders in the morning. 

Fingers crossed.

Today I attended two sessions hosted by the Bellona Foundation, a Norwegian Environmental research body. The worhshops should have taken place in the Bella Centre, but because most NGOs haven't been able to gain access, they had moved into the basement of a cafe in central Copenhagen, which gave me a chance for a brief but enjoyable walk through the city centre where I You-Tubed a few bikes.

The first session was on clean jobs - what we used to call green jobs. The speakers from India, South Africa, India and the UK showcased a report 'Low-Carbon jobs in an Inter-Connected World' published by the Global Climate Network.

The second workshop was entitled Fair Climate: US Constituencies perspectives. Gloria Reuben (aka Jeanie Boulet of ER) gave an emotional account of her visit to the coal-mining areas of West Virginia, and spoke about the lobbying power of Big Coal. Jacqueline Patterson from Women of Color United for Climate Justice ticked all the boxes, and spoke well about issues ranging from gender vulnerability to community gardening programmes in the United States. She's just back from an eight week, fifteen state  'Road Tour and Mobilization' where she heard the views and experiences of U.S. women of color in this pivotal era of climate change.  

Jerome Ringo from the Apollo Alliance spoke in words that seemed inspired by Dr. King as he stated:

"Today must be the beginning of the answer to your grandchildren when they ask you in fifteen or twenty years time,'what did you do in Copenhagen?'"

 It loses something when written down, but he spoke beautifully, and from the heart. 

John Grant from an organisation with  brilliant name - '100 Black Men of Atlanta' spoke about empowering young people and wanting his kids to be able to see the stars in a sky free from light pollution when they grew up. The speakers were strong on rhetoric, but they were a great counter-point to the dry research and turgid negotiating texts that dominate the Conference.

We went back to the Bella Centre and met Niamh Garvey from Trócaire (blogging here), John Sweeney from NUI Maynooth, Colin Roche from Oxfam and Pat Finnegan from Grian. Niamh talked about how a seventeen year old at the opening session last week talked about how negotiations had started in 1992, the year she was born, and that it was about time negotiations concluded.

We left for our train back across the bridge to Sweden where we're staying at around 11.30pm, leaving John Gormley and his staff from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to burn the midnight oil and prepare for his speech to the Environment Ministers' Plenary around 1 O'Clock in the morning. It had started snowing on the way back, and there were some very Christmassy looking bikes outside the railway Station in Malmo.  

Hopefully there'll be progress in the talks overnight. 

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