Will Steger Foundation Expedition Copenhagen 2009

The Expedition Copenhagen team consists of Midwest youth who will travel to the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark, December 5-19, 2009. The expedition will be led in part by internationally renowned polar explorer Will Steger, and designed in collaboration with youth climate partners across the region.

Climate Justice Fast

Posted On Tuesday, December 22, 2009 by Chris | | 0 comments

This past Thursday, one day before the end of the 2009 Conference of Parties (COP 15), I fasted to help call attention to the great injustice of global climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions, which come disproportionately from people in industrialized countries, are imposing serious climate impacts on the rest of the world--droughts and desertification in places like the Horn of Africa, and crop-destroying floods in places like Bangladesh. By emitting like we do, we are depriving people in vulnerable places everywhere of food and other basic means of survival. Forgoing food voluntarily for a day was a small and completely inadequate token of my care for these impacted people. But I was not the only one fasting. I was joined by hundreds of other temporary "solidarity fasters" from around the world, including fellow Will Steger Foundation delegate Holly Jones, and a brave team of eight long-term hunger strikers and organizers, who created the Climate Justice Fast campaign earlier this year. I met one of the co-founders of Climate Justice Fast last year when we were in Poznan, Poland for COP 14. She is a 24 year-old Australian named Anna Keenan. Anna's capacity to sacrifice for just climate solutions was evident then as well--the two of us stayed up together at a print shop until four in the morning one night making placards that read "Survival," which we then handed out to official country negotiators for them to place on their desks during the plenary session. This effort, together with a wider coordinated campaign, yielded enough interest in the principle of "Survival" among the negotiators that the chair of one ministerial roundtable inserted a reference to "safeguarding survival of the most vulnerable countries and people" into her Conference summary. Despite occasional victories like the "Survival" campaign, which originated with a team of youth climate activists and negotiators from small island states, the pace of progress in the UNFCCC has been depressingly slow. The apparent failure of traditional advocacy efforts compelled Anna and Sara Svensson, co-organizer of Climate Justice Fast, to try a more serious approach. At the end of the UNFCCC's Barcelona negotiating round this past November, during which a bloc of African delegates walked out of the conference center in disgust with industrialized countries' unwillingness to commit to adequate mitigation targets, Sara, Anna, and their team stopped eating, drinking only water, and committed to continue their fast until the world agrees on a fair, ambitious, and binding global climate treaty. Sara described her decision to begin the fast in a press release: “I undertook this fast in solidarity with those who are suffering the effects of climate change, but also to show my dedication to the climate movement – to show that there is something that I care about more than myself, more than my own personal comfort and gratification.” Sara and Anna continued their fast for 44 days. They broke it on Saturday morning, drinking juice together with two other long-term strikers at a cafe in Copenhagen. That afternoon I ran into Sara as I entered the Bella Center, where the night before delegates had forged a weak "politically binding" Copenhagen Accord. My mood was grim during much of that day, and my frustration with the shameful outcome of these talks continues. But I felt a new sense of hope after my brief conversation with Sara, who spoke with joy about her first meal since the fast started. “We have decided to end this fast today because we know that we need to keep on working as climate activists for our whole lifetime," she said. "We will keep on pushing on our governments, harder and harder, until we see the necessary political shifts achieved and a global deal sealed.”

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Inspiration from Peers, Not Leaders

Posted On Friday, December 18, 2009 by Jamie R., WI | | 0 comments

As Obama addressed the plenary hall inside the Bella Center, many watched from outside since NGO's had limited to no access to the center today. His speech echoed through the concrete hall while all stared in silence. Furrowed brows headlined the uncertain glances around the hall at friends and strangers. Is this the same President that moved us all so deeply just one year ago? Is this the same President that called for change and the hope of a new future? These questions, among many others, flooded my brain as a straight-faced Obama recited a cold, political speech that lacked his trademark hope, optimism, inspiration and humanity. The very traits that got him elected seemed to be buried underneath political goals and selfish motives. To his defense, his administration has done so much more than the previous. Yet today, a day that we all secretly (or publicly) hoped would bring a silver lining to the difficult and sometime dismal negotiations, we were left with seemingly empty words. The moment that instilled great hope, passion and inspiration came from our peer; Juan Carlos is a native to Peru and is here with the SustainUS US delegation. He has been working hard and spent last night in the Bella Center with the other three youth that obtained access. His speech today, written in collaboration with the International Youth Climate Movement speaks to humanity across the globe, demands action and has moved me to continue forward.

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Why Michigan Needs the U.S. Senate to Act

Posted On Friday, December 18, 2009 by Danielle | | 0 comments

My father has been a union electrician for 30 years in the metro-Detroit area. He has been a committed worker and supporter of his union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) his entire career. He is also a strong supporter of American made goods and jobs. But he had been unemployed for almost two years now because of the recession. He repeatably has said to me that the job market will never again be the same in Michigan and that he is worried that steady work will be difficult to find in the next few years. Through a new comprehensive climate and clean energy bill, we can revive the United States, and Michigan's manufacturing base around this new low carbon, clean energy economy. At the end of Expedition Copenhagen, we wrote this op-ed on behalf Expedition Copenhagen urging the U.S. Senate to Act - it matters to my Dad, to Michigan, to the U.S., and the world: Greetings from the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen! We are the Midwestern youth delegates of Expedition Copenhagen, a partnership between Will Steger Foundation (WSF) and Stonyfield Farm. WSF is a non-profit organization committed to creating local and global climate change solutions through advocacy, education, and outreach. Will Steger, a lifelong arctic explorer, has been an eyewitness to the rapid changes in our climate. He led our delegation of twelve young leaders to Copenhagen to promote Midwestern climate change solutions at the international negotiations. While at the conference, delegates have taken on multiple roles. We attended plenary sessions to observe actual negotiations, conducted press conferences and led educational presentations. We formed working collaborations with our peers from around the world, including China, Canada, Kenya, Denmark, India, Latin America and more. Additionally, we filmed our observations and uploaded high-quality news stories to the web. We wrote blogs and tweets to present our perspective to followers back home. While our days were packed with activities from pre-dawn hours into the night, our mission remains to present the Midwest voice to those here in Copenhagen and, in turn, to be the voice of Copenhagen back in our Midwestern communities. The Midwest is critical to the success or failure of the conference. We contribute 4-5% of total global warming pollutants, but with our natural resources, our educated workforce, and our agriculture and manufacturing capabilities, we could be a much larger part of the solution. America’s heartland has much to gain economically by tackling climate change, because a clean energy economy will be the largest business opportunity of all time. We have a very strong engineering and technology base and an ability to develop innovative clean-tech jobs, renew our economy and put millions of Midwesterners back to work while reducing our reliance on foreign oil. As breadbasket to the world, we have energy solutions on our farms too, such as wind power, carbon offsets, and the next generation of biofuels. Lastly, many of those in our generation are just now graduating from Midwestern universities with degrees that will be essential to restoring economic prosperity to our communities while solving one of the world’s most daunting challenges. The whole world looked to the U.S. to help negotiate a comprehensive climate agreement here. Similarly, the whole world is watching the United States Senate to see that it enacts President Obama’s pledges here in Copenhagen. Midwest U.S. Senators are the critical players in passing a comprehensive jobs and energy bill that is at a standstill on the Senate floor. Our Senators comprise some of the most important votes that will determine the fate of the Earth. They have the opportunity to lead the transition to secure, sustainable societies all around the world, with good jobs and the economic engine powerful enough to solve the problem. Call your U.S. Senate offices today. The message is this: the whole world is waiting on you. Enact a clean energy jobs bill now. Expedition Copenhagen Delegates: Reed Aronow, St. Paul, MN Liana Balinski-Baker, Chicago, IL Aurora Conley, Bad River, WI Megan Constans, Fargo, ND Maia Dedrick, St. Paul, MN Chris Detjen, Detroit, MI Jamie Horter, Bristol, SD Holly Jones, Mt. Pleasant, IA Sarah Mullkoff, Lansing, MI Chalie Nevarez, Milwaukee, WI Danielle Ostafinski, Grand Rapids, MI Jamie Racine, Racine, WI

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LEAKED Document Shocks World Community

Posted On Friday, December 18, 2009 by Jamie R., WI | | 0 comments

PLEASE NOTE: This is a confidential doc that has been leaked, with the Annex 1 countries' pledges...when added up they amount to 550ppm and a 3 degree temp rise. Before the sun hit the streets today, thousands opened their e-mail here in Copenhagen and around the world to read a leaked document from the Secretariat's office. The document outlines draft text from late night meetings at the Bella Center -- text that reflects a dramatically higher number of parts per million (ppm) than the IPCC and hundrescientists around the world agree to be safe for our survival. Numbers have been a part of near every conversation in and outside the Bella Center: 1.5: the amount of inches in sea level rise that are tolerable for human survival in island nations 350: the ppm of carbon we need to stabilize the atmosphere 280: the highest number of ppm in the atmosphere PRE-industrial revolution 390: the ppm currently in the atmosphere 12 million: the number of global citizens for climate action; this number is continuously rising "I was disgusted that after all the discussion around no more than 2 degrees, this comes out," Danielle Ostafinski states in response to the document. "Two degrees is even too high." Danielle is one of 500 youth from the United States and over 2000 youth from around the world. Over the last two weeks, youth have taken a stand behind the numbers 350 and 1.5 online, on the streets and in the Bella Center. One of the leaders of the number campaigns is 350.org's Bill McKibben. His name was scrawled across the top of the leaked document leading many skeptics to believe that there is a conspiracy. They are using this to discredit his powerful global movement. Read McKibben's response to skeptics here. Whatever the intentions of the unknown person that leaked the document (or conspiracy theories behind it), the fact remains that we are in the last 24 hours of the Copenhagen conference; we are down to crunch time and heads of state have flown in from all over the world to make their statements. Hope is lined with anxiety throughout conversations across the city and world today as President Obama arrives. Though hope is focused on him to take strong political action and to do the right thing, the decision(s) he makes today or doesn't make will reflect the round-the-clock work of his negotiators over the past two weeks. As youth, we hope that our voices will continue to ring through the halls and plenary sessions despite our exclusion from the process. See the complete leaked document here.

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Notes From the Trail: Copenhagen: 24 Hours Left

Posted On Thursday, December 17, 2009 by Reed Aronow | | 0 comments

The COP15 Conference is about to come to its conclusion tomorrow, and there is still a lot of work that needs to be done for a treaty to rise from the ashes. Today no one from the youth delegation was able to get into the conference; fewer and fewer NGO and youth observers have been allowed in every day (45,000 could get in on Monday and only 300 could get in today, 90 tomorrow). There were protests yesterday where thousands of activists tried to break through the fence and get into the Bella Center. Unfortunately, the end result of these protests only delayed the negotiations because some of the negotiators, such as IPCC Chairman Rajenda Pachauri, couldn't get past the wall of protestors/ police. As the week as progressed and fewer and fewer observer NGOs have been allowed entrance into the COP15 proceedings, this has increased discontent and probably helped fuel the ill thought out protests. What happened on the outside was not nearly as effective as some of the events that the media are not covering as well. For example, youth and NGOs have been meeting with high level negotiators throughout the conference, and youth staged a sit-in protest for being shut out of the process, refusing to leave until at 1:30am this morning when police forced them to. Yesterday evening, members of the delegation along with Will Steger, Michael Noble, and Rep. Kate Knuth gave a Midwest Climate Presentation at Klimaforum, an alternative to COP15 open to the general public. I had a good time M.C-ing where we talked about why it's important that the Midwest prepare for climate change, and what the Midwest has to gain about it. Although the topic might seem obscure here in Denmark, we had a packed house of people from across the world (many from the Midwest!). I was nervous as I went up in front of the packed room, but as soon as I relaxed and just had fun with the presentation, everything went smoothly.

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Is your mayor in Copenhagen?

Posted On Thursday, December 17, 2009 by Liana.B.Baker | | 0 comments

Protests rocked Copenhagen this week, but I’ll leave them to the mainstream media and instead focus on acting locally. Many municipal mayors are showing up in Copenhagen. At first I thought they were just jumping on the bandwagon, but I soon discovered they're taking part in a parallel summit organized by local and regional governments from around the world. Cities are immensely important to reducing carbon emissions, and I spoke with Hugh Bartling, a public policy professor at Depaul University in Chicago, who explained just what kind of impact they have. "Fifty percent of the world’s population are in cities, and by 2050, it’ll be 80 percent," Bartling says. "If you think about it, most of the actual policy implementation happens at local levels in a lot of places, both in the industrialized world and the developing world." That means that if world leaders ever strike a climate treaty to curb greenhouse gas emissions, it will be cities ensuring the carbon reductions are made and footing the bill to boot. That's why city representatives are here (NYC’s Bloomberg arrived on Tuesday) making sure that their views are heard. But they have their work cut out for them. "It’s heads of states that negotiate treaties, not mayors," Bartling says. Mayors in developing countries have even more incentive to demand that cities are mentioned in any new treaty, since it could help them get the cash they need to implement systems to both adapt to climate change and reduce emissions. "What local officials really want to see is something in the text that acknowledges local authorities and local government," Bartling says. "What that means is that whatever deal is hashed out in the developing world, mayors can go to their national government and say, 'we need to have aid money coming into the cities.'" Cities also have control over buildings, which account for more than 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Cities could slash these by changing zoning codes and ordinances, says Bartling. A recent Finnish study showed that 95 percent of the world’s buildings that will exist in 2050 have already been built. Cities wield the power to put measures in place to save energy in these aging buildings, such as insisting on better insulation, for example. Bartling says he will have his eye on how suburbs will adapt to reducing emissions under a global climate treaty. He has studied how sprawl developed in the U.S. and Canada, written a book about it and was even called on by the Canadian government to work on how to transform suburbs in Toronto. "In Canada and the U.S., most of the population growth happened after World War II and there was no real concern with climate change," Bartling says. "The assumption was limitless amounts of fossil fuels." This has created the toils of suburban life, which Bartling can distill down into a sentence. "You work here, you shop there, you live here and we all crash and there's huge congestion and it screws up air quality." Bartling has also studied sewage and said it's one of his favorite topics, but I declined to follow up. Check back soon for more reports from Copenhagen.

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Walk-outs and sit-ins urge change.

Posted On Wednesday, December 16, 2009 by Jamie R., WI | | 0 comments

Demonstrators walk out to join people's forum outside the Bella Center. (photo by Daygot Leeyos) As thousands marched towards the Bella Center this morning, hundreds inside marched out. These actions were sparked by a combination of two things: 1. limited access to NGO's (non-governmental organizations) and 2. stagnant negotiations between Annex I (developed) countries and G77 (developing) countries. The world's media are representing these actions with a variety of headlines. The majority of western (primarily Annex I) countries are telling the stories more from the perspective of the police and their reactions, i.e. Danish Police Brace for Protests and Danish Police Use Tear Gas against Climate Protestors. In contrast, many developing nations' media speak to the less hostile action, i.e. Climate Talks Tense After Walk Out. There are currently about a dozen youth (at least) sitting in or caring for those sitting in at the Bella Center. Stay up-to-date on their stories here. With people walking out of, sitting in and walking many miles in the streets towards the Bella Center amidst police questioning and brutality, it's difficult to tell what action(s) in the city have the ability to make a significant difference on the negotiatiors' positions while also making political change back home.

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John Kerry may not have always been a strong supporter of climate legislation but today he didn't let us down. His speech was concise and well-spoken, harping on the positive impacts of American leadership. Kerry's speech made me bubble-over with hope that when President Obama steps up plate on Friday, we can still make great headway with strong American initiative. Warmly introduced by Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer, Kerry spoke of responsibility the U.S. Government and other developed countries owe to the developing countries, holding fast to the old saying "we have a common but differentiated responsibility." Here at COP15, developed countries are particularly struggling to match the financial needs of developing nations and small island states, to which we owe our support after years of unchecked pollution. Apart from international climate negotiations, Kerry focused on things closer to home as well. He was confident that a climate bill would pass in the Senate early next year while others remain not so sure. But his message today stressed that change would not come quickly. He offered insight to the minds of senators across the U.S. as they approach to climate legislation. Whether the ACES climate bill is passed or not, did not seem to effect Kerry's view of the how the U.S. will progress. "More than 1,000 mayors are taking strict measures to aim towards Kyoto targets--and a number of cities are actually getting close on their own. Across America, grassroots initiatives are sprouting up as citizens lead their leaders," said an enthusiastic Kerry. To the youth in attendance, this was almost as if being called out by name. I personally was thrilled. This news comes as a reason for hope to many whom doubt the U.S. will take the reins and pull the rest of the world in towards a binding climate treaty. Kerry argued that, "If Dick Cheney can argue that even a 1% chance of a terrorist attack is 100% justification for preemptive action—then surely, when scientists tell us that climate change is nearly a 100% certainty, we ought to be able to stand together, all of us, and join in an all out effort to combat a mortal threat to the life of this planet." I think with this quote I will end, allowing you to contemplate the moral and social demands of this statement.

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Last Day at the Bella Center

Posted On Wednesday, December 16, 2009 by Danielle | | 0 comments

What a strange and remarkable day. I'm sure most readers are aware that there were many protests outside of the Bella Center today in which over 200 people were arrested by the Danish Police. The protest organized by Climate Justice Action called "Reclaim Power" was in response to this weeks restrictions of negotiation access for civil society and it's purpose was to put the people's voice back into the climate talks. This week civil society has has access to the Bella Center extremely restricted and today marked the last day in which there was a significant number of NGOs allowed in. Tomorrow there will be about 1,000 NGO representatives and only 90 on Friday which is a sharp decrease from the 35,000 registered individuals. Only 8 Expedition Copenhagen members made it into the negotiations today, including myself. We had planned a time to switch over the required secondary badges to other delegates but the UN Secretariat decided not to let anymore NGO constituencies into the Bella Center after the outside protests. Despite the efforts of the confrontational non-violent protesters outside there was little knowledge of what was going on in the Bella Center. This huge building has acted as a bubble these past two weeks secluding individuals from the outside world. Sometimes it is difficult to remember that not everyone is completely absorbed in the climate negotiations like we have been. People aware of the protests happening outside were most likely connected to twitter, were youth or activists, got stuck in line to get into the center because of the actions or all of the above. It was surreal to know that there were people protesting outside advocating for the voice of the people while I was walking around the center with tons of "suits" (very different from where there were lots of youth in the space) and press whom are so removed civil society that seeks to hold them accountable. Sarah and I spent the day in the Bella Center absorbing as much as we could on our last day. We attended a Blue Green Alliance press conference, and I even asked a question! We also made it into a plenary session where the status of the Kyoto Protocol (KP) was being discussed. We learned more about the status of the KP text, which was not very good. Most G77 countries were calling for one more day to work on the text because the technical aspects of the language had not been completely negotiated. After so much hard work it is important that the text is polished and complete, based on sound science and supports developing nations. We had some difficulties getting out of the plenary session today because there were so many people trying to get in and out at the same time. There were also many upset government delegations because their access was also restricted to only 4 negotiators each and many were stuck outside waiting to get in because of the protests. I put together a video explaining some of our morning excursions. We also had a great chance to see U.S. Senator John Kerry speak (video). U.S. Youth delegates formed a welcoming party for Kerry and handed him a giant postcard from delegates thanking him for his leadership in the states on climate and energy legislation. Kerry's speech was political, yet very uplifting. He is a man who is truly dedicated to this solving this issue and making the U.S. a leader again in the international community. I left the Bella Center in a strange state. I was sad that it was my last time in this huge space where I had so many great experiences and opportunities. But honestly, too much time has been spent in that bubble. After we left we joined the rest of our delegation for a Midwest presentation at Klimaforum, a peoples conference parallel to COP15. Here my spirit was uplifted because these are the people affected by climate change seeking community based solutions to this issue. We will most likely come out of these neogtiations with a political treaty, not a legally binding agreement. But no matter what happens, our work does not/would not have ended in Copenhagen. The people will continue to lead this transition into a clean energy economy and a just and sustainable society. P.S. It snowed tonight in Copenhagen and the city looked BEA-U-TIFUL!

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In Copenhagen, one skier wants to save our snow

Posted On Wednesday, December 16, 2009 by Liana.B.Baker | | 0 comments

At the U.N. climate talks, droves of delegates in suits walk beside young activists in T-shirts, but there’s only one person in the building with a pair of skis strapped to her back. That’s Alison Gannett, an extreme skier who holds World Cup Free-skiing titles and starring roles in Warren Miller films of the '90s. For the past decade, however, she's been a climate change activist in the U.S. "I really felt that for some reason, people weren’t connecting to climate change," Gannett says. "It was too far away, too esoteric, too intangible." So to make the problem more concrete, two years ago, she started the Save Our Snow foundation, which is why she’s attached that message on a glossy paper to her backpack in Copenhagen. It’s a message that many people, especially Canadians, can relate to. Her get-up has been a conversation starter with everyone from the president of Costa Rica to the first president of the UNFCC, who both tapped her on the shoulder when they saw her skis. But the "save our snow" message goes beyond sport, Gannett says, since more than 50 percent of the world’s drinking water comes from snow. Like many skiers, Gannett has spent a lot of time in Canada. Her favorite spot is Rossland, B.C., the home of Red Mountain. She also raves about Whistler (check out CG's Travel article from November), but not because of the powder. "Whistler as a ski area has done amazing things to calculate their carbon emissions, reduce and offset them and produce clean power," she says. Gannett is also a fan of B.C.’s carbon tax, a system that the province introduced in 2008 to make companies pay for their emissions. The tax doesn't create revenue for the province and is given back to taxpayers. If sirens are going off just thinking about the carbon impact of Gannett’s travels — consider this. She lumps together speaking engagements geographically, and often has to break the news to organizations that she might only be able to come speak in two years. On the way to Denmark, she walked from London to Belgium, which took 15 days, before hopping on the climate express train to Copenhagen. But if walking across countries isn't your thing, Gannett has other suggestions for cutting back consumption. Her web site lists some easy ways to be sustainable. "A lot of people say 'oh we have to climb into a cave' to make these reductions, but I show examples of how to reduce your carbon footprint and still retain a very high quality of life," Gannett says. Check back soon for more reports from Copenhagen.

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Frustration and Determination: meeting with negotiators Jonathan Pershing and Todd Stern

Posted On Wednesday, December 16, 2009 by Holly {All Things Charming} | | 0 comments

Don't let the smiles fool you, we gave lead negotiator Jonathan Pershing an impassioned piece of our minds!

As I sat last evening looking at the thirteen faces of some of the most remarkable leaders in the US youth climate movement today, I had an incredible rush of emotions ranging from nerves to anticipation in thinking about the task that we were about to take on- in moments, we would be meeting with Jonathan Pershing and Todd Stern, chief negotiators for the United States at COP15. As we walked through the halls of the Bella Center towards the United States Delegation offices a sense of excitement started to build, the fourteen of us would soon take on the fast taking, intelligent, and articulate negotiators as representatives of United States youth both in Copenhagen and at home.

The briefing was off the record, so I cannot blog about explicit content, but I will share the emotions and thoughts that went through my mind as the meeting finished. The immediate feeling that I had once our extensive discussion with both negotiators had commenced was pure exhaustion; exhaustion from hearing excuses and exhaustion from hearing that what we’re doing is not enough. I was so overwhelmed by fear and sorrow I began to cry, but as I looked around at the thirteen faces that had tears in their eyes as well, the faces of my friends and the current and future leaders of my generation, a new sense of hope and determination rose within me.

I can say, without an ounce of doubt in my mind, that I will continue fighting for a just, sustainable, and prosperous future for my generation and all generations to come and the best part about it is, that I know that I’m not alone! As youth from the United States, and around the world, we will work together until our elected officials step up and show the strong leadership and courage that is needed to ensure the survival of peoples and future generations.

Although it is impossible for me to describe the range of sentiment that I felt last evening subsequent to the meeting I believe that my friend, Whit Jones, summed it up quite nicely, “the hard hitting and difficult discussion led to a room full of tears, but the bright side is that people emerged more ready to go than ever.”

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Recent Protests

Posted On Wednesday, December 16, 2009 by Maia | | 0 comments

As COP15 comes to a close, actions at the conference center intensify. Many of you are probably wondering why this is happening or what it is achieving. I thought I could answer this in a very personal way based on my experiences at the conference. While at the conference, I have had conversations with people directly affected by climate change. Specifically, I met a boy from Bangladesh who told me about all the suffering he and his family have faced since a typhoon ruined his town. A boy from the Maldives, Mohamed Maumoon, explained to me that if his negotiators signed a bad deal, they would be signing a “suicide pact”. Clearly, emotions run high about the outcome of these negotiations, and many lives are on the line (Global Humanitarian Forum estimates that at present 300,000 people per year die as a result of climate change). Personally, I feel like I am on a roller coaster in which I waver between hope that we can make positive change and concern that there will never be a strong enough treaty to avoid further destruction.

The stakes are high. And in a youth briefing early this week, Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC, shared that he was losing his faith that nation-states could move quickly enough to solve this problem. I know many people who want desperately to stop climate change. We have various ideas about how solutions will be reached and how to channel our willingness for change. In the end, we want a just and ecologically sound world. Many of us believe the way to achieve that is by building a movement of people who can come together not just to ask for change from state officials but to create the solutions ourselves. While I will not participate in civil disobedience at this conference, I know that those who do seek climate justice.

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Writers, Activists, Politicians Point to Youth and Hope

Posted On Wednesday, December 16, 2009 by Jamie | | 0 comments

As restrictions start to increase at the Bella Center due to the inability for the center to hold a capacity greater than 15,000 (in addition to increased security purposes), our delegation has had to divide up our time in the center as we now only have 8 passes to enter. The change of schedule provided me the opportunity to spend time working with the youth delegation during the morning and hear from Naomi Klein as she made a special visit to share words of inspiration with youth.
Will Steger Foundation, © 2009 Jamie Horter
After swapping badges with delegates who attended the Bella Center in the morning, I was able to attend a presentation with Ban Ki Moon and Wangari Maathai. Today, Wangari Maathai was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace for her work with the Green Belt Movement and dedication to lifelong humanitarian efforts by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon helps UN Messenger of Peace Wangari Maathai with an official pin to wear the title.
Will Steger Foundation, © 2009 Jamie Horter
The audience was offered the chance to ask questions after the presentation, and of the five questions asked, three of them were in regards to youth and their influence on changing the world. When asked how youth could learn to become global leaders, Ban Ki Moon pointed out that the world needs not only politicians but humanitarians, people working on small-scale levels to make big differences. He also commented on the hope he gains from today’s youth in working hard to shape a better world.
If there are two words that have become prevalent throughout the briefings and sessions I’ve attended, they would be “youth” and “hope.” Leaders in the UN have continuously stressed their support for youth in being involved in the UN process in Copenhagen as well as leading movements within their own regions of the world. It’s inspiring to hear that those people who have aspired to create positive change for humanity put their hopes for the future in the capacity of today’s youth to work for a better world.
Will Steger Foundation, © 2009 Jamie Horter

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Eight hours.

Posted On Wednesday, December 16, 2009 by Jamie R., WI | | 0 comments

In eight hours, the heads of states will arrive to begin the final days of work in the confines of the Bella Center as the world continues to roll in contentious debates around them. In eight hours, the work of negotiatiors will largely come to a head. Eight hours ago, as the sun left Copenhagen in darkness, many civil society participants filed out of the Bella Center with the knowledge they would not likely have the opportunity to return. The Secretariat has limited access to civil society, turning away over 30,000 citizens from all across the globe. As night fell, youth continued to gather in what is dubbed their convergence space to meet and collaborate within and across nation lines to strategize how their voice, our voice can continue to be heard from outside the Bella Center walls. Throughout the conference center yesterday, rumors floated through the eerily static hallway like ghosts whispering urgent messages of what may or may not happen. Black suits smiled at cameras where folks in t-shirts once stood, danced and marched for collaboration and change. A groundswell of emotion is stirring outside the seven-foot-tall fences, red rope and grimace-faced armed guards that surround the center. The mid-level officials inside yesterday held little testament in their talks to recognize the realities that have swarmed this center and city for the last 10 days. Their speeches were light and policy talk soft -- Governor Schwarzenegger laughed as he dropped his famous line,"I'll be back" to close his speech. The Governator might be back, but starting tomorrow, most civil society will not.

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Initial Reactions and Reflections from Week One

Posted On Wednesday, December 16, 2009 by Sarah M | | 0 comments

For the past week I have been attending the COP15, or 15th Convention of Parties at the UN Climate Change Conference, hearing from and meeting with people and a variety of perspectives and solutions. While we each came with our own intentions and expectations for the conference, it had been clear that end of this conference could have various outcomes. Despite the speculation of expectations for the outcome, one thing has been overwhelmingly clear.

This is a moment in which the entire world is watching, and really, the entire world is watching the United States in particular. At this conference, a wide array of fascinating people from various spectrums, have joined. Representatives from non-governmental organizations, students, academic professionals, scientists, politicians, generally portraying the same consensus, that action on confronting climate change has to be taken now. The world has high expectations of us, and we hold a uniquely influential role on the rest of the countries.

After working hard over the last six months through domestic grassroots efforts organizing members of Congress to develop and pass a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill, I must admit that I was disappointed at their inability to pass a bill before the COP. I had expected it would be almost embarrassing to indentify as being American, considering our historical inability to take responsibilities for our disproportionate contribution to this global issue. Yet, I am joined with a movement of fellow Americans through the incredibly powerful Youth delegation. Hopefully, our solidarity and persistence will be inspirational to leaders here, and to those back home.

We have been working long days to make sure that all ends are covered with our participation in the activity. Our delegates have been involved with media- both traditional and social by doing video recording of interviews of notable attendees, our local actions, and writing to various journals. Through social media you can follow our twitter accounts, blogs, youtube, and flickr videos all through this website. Also, we have each taken on specific policy focuses and have formed position statements on each of the main tracks of the negotiations. Additionally, we’ve been a part of incredible partnership building through forging relations within the youth delegation, we are officially accredited as the YOUNGOS, and also honing in on our domestic relations with other partners organizations. Looking forward to

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Posted On Tuesday, December 15, 2009 by Sarah M | | 0 comments

The Bella Conference is quite a busy, noisy scene. Throughout last week you could observe all the buzz of policy wonks stepping in and out of presentations and press conferences, the negotiators attending plenary sessions and side meetings, and the conglomeration of voices chattering discussing delegation specific strategies. Yet amidst all the noise of the people that comprise the conference, the excitement is evident throughout the city, and evident through an overarching theme of Hope.

The city square has a large stage set up for the events for Hopenhagen, which originally started just as the website. During the last months prior to the conference, people regularly updated statuses of messages of hope in their daily lives, and their overall hopes of the U.N. Climate Conference. This week, the messages have been live streamed over a large globe in the city square, illustrating the unique perspectives coming in from all over the globe, a unifying message of hope.

It is also evident through p messages also. Archbishop Desmond Tutu delivers a message on his inspiration at the conference, link to video.

In Michigan also, people united their voices with messages of hope of supporting an international climate bill. Last Saturday we connected to a group of youth activists through a conference call in back to Lansing, MI inspiring messages linking the actions at home to the relevance of passing an international treaty in Copenhagen.

Additionally, President Obama delivered much of his campaign last fall on a message of hope, coining the phrase, “Yes, we can”.

While messages such as these are incredibly inspiring, it is obvious that significant decisions are still need to be made. In the meanwhile, awaiting President Obama’s arrival, the negotiations are lagging.

What’s important to recognize above and beyond all the chaos associated within Copenhagen, inside and outside of the Bella Center, is that there still seems to be an underlying tone of hope. The youth voice is omnipresent, both inside the walls of the conference center as well as throughout the city. While the future of the negotiations are still undetermined, hopefully the youth can stand strong as the moral imperative of the conference.

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In Case of Emergency-You CANNOT Dial 911!!

Posted On Tuesday, December 15, 2009 by Aurora C | | 0 comments

In Copenhagen Denmark you must dial 112! The purpose of an emergency plan is to prepare, prevent and protect in case of circumstances or situations considered an emergency. A plan promotes awareness and preparation to a possible hazardous situation. You can only prepare so much, but can never really prepare for unforeseen circumstances. The lack of a plan could result in serious and devastating loss. The Climate Change negotiations are in preparation and preservation of what is left on and in Mother Earth and how to protect it, from various perspectives. There is no detailed indication of what is to come as a result of climate change, although there are models and probabilities, we will never really know the devastation that could be caused. I have encountered a level of circumstances you would consider an emergency this week having lost my passport, debit cards and all identifications while abroad. There was some planning prior to my departure, in case of emergency, including photocopying my passport, which helped tremendously when it became missing. -You should always stash some currency-at least $200 minimum, in case of emergency, so that if your cards and money are misplaced, you can have some funds to keep on. -First place to go-the police department, file a report with them so you have documentation -Call and cancel all cards, and head to the Embassy. -The Embassy does have assistance if you need money, they can help set up a wire transferable account for you if necessary. The Embassy will also cancel your passport and reissue a temporary one at cost. Most people were extremely helpful, but the stress was a lot to deal with. It's a lot of work and a lot of stress, in any extreme case, but when I worked through it, I realized more about my potential, to deal with stress, work through it and have an outcome. I dealt with a stressful situation and it turned out alright. It is hopeful that with all the stress levels and concerns at the conference, that leaders and negotiators will be able to have an outcome fair to the world. Because in the future, as Anishinabe children and other children look at the world we leave behind, we wonder where will they turn to? Who will they be able to call upon? Who will they call in case of emergency?

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Secretary Chu snubs Canada's environment minister

Posted On Tuesday, December 15, 2009 by Liana.B.Baker | | 0 comments

The Toronto Star "Summit Insider" blog reports that U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu's snubbed Canada's Environment Minister Jim Prentice out of a photo op on Monday at the Copenhagen climate talks. On Monday, Toby Heaps, a Canadian magazine editor, was handed a Canadian delegation press release about a photo-op to occur with the two officials outside one of the briefing rooms. When Heaps showed up, he saw Prentice's chief of staff arguing with Chu's entourage about the photo-op. "The problem was the U.S. delegation hadn't given the green light for a photo-op, just for closed bilateral meeting between the two," Heaps writes. More from Heaps:
Over the course of 10 minutes, Kelly repeatedly asked the U.S. delegation official to reconsider, to which the U.S. delegation official replied, negative. When Kelly asked for this to be taken up the chain of command, the U.S. delegation official replied "it came from pretty high up. It's not going to happen." The U.S. official said he didn't understand why the photograph was so important, to which Kelly replied "we were carpetbagged this morning by (environmental non-governmental organizations) with a false press release, I gotta change the story."
The carpetbagging Heaps is referring to is the stunt by the Yes Men where a mirror image of a Wall Street Journal blog article reported about the Canadian delegation had suddenly changed its emissions targets and strategy at the talks. (Andy Bichlbaum of The Yes Men told HuffPo Green Editor Katherine Goldstein "I think Stephen Harper is so mad that he will personally sue us. And yes, so will the Wall Street Journal.") Heaps said eventually another U.S. official came by saying with a compromise: The photo could be taken, but it could not be used for promotional purposes. I verified the story with Liberal Member of Parliament David McGuinty who confirmed that indeed the "the minister's chief of staff got into a very heated exchange with Steven Chu's officials yesterday," and that the Canadian delegation has been "positively despondent" ever since. Keep in mind, McGuinty is not an official member of the Canadian delegation as a elected member of the Liberal party, the official opposition to the Conservative Party that heads the Canadian negotiating team. Members of the Canadian youth delegation I spoke with said that Canadian circles have been a-buzz with rumors about the snub. "Basically Prentice showed up to speak to Chu and the Canadians said "now for the photo-op!" and the staff said 'whoa whoa whoa, we didn't talk about this,' Thea Witman, a Canadian youth leader says. But what's bad for Prentice's P.R. has been a boon to Canadian youth delegation. "Even the Americans don't want to be associated with Canada," Witman says. "We're trying to capitalize it and further push action at home and sway public opinion."

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Cow Power! How the U.S. Can Decrease GHG Emissions by Using Cows

Posted On Tuesday, December 15, 2009 by Danielle | | 0 comments

Hmm....the above sentence may sound a bit crazy and nonsensical. How can we reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by using cows? As a vegetarian I am an advocate for reducing meat consumption in the U.S. and abroad because of the high levels of GHGs emitted into the atmosphere from the industry. But there is a smart way to harness some of those gases and turn them into energy.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced today an new measure in the states to do just that. It's a way to capture the huge amounts of methane that cows emit through their (ahem) manure. Methane is 21 times more potent than CO2 and is a key GHG to rapidly reduce. Vilsack's new plan is to reduce GHG emissions from the dairy industry 25% by 2020. A main component of this plan is to convince farmers to invest in an anaerobic digester, which will capture the methane and turn it into energy.
Agriculture accounts for 7% of the U.S. GHG emissions, and 15-22% of world emissions. Investing in clean energy technologies to decrease agriculture emissions will be a great step forward to stopping climate change. Vilsack, former Governor of Iowa stated in a press release today that "Rural economies will benefit from the incentives in comprehensive energy legislation that reward production of renewable energy and sequestration of greenhouse gases."
The midwest has a great opportunity to lead the U.S. in transitioning to a clean energy economy, and investing in farmers is a great first step.

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One degree really does matter

Posted On Tuesday, December 15, 2009 by Megan | | 2 comments

Today was a day that for me, topped all days. It was the official first day of the second week of the climate negotiations and the ministers and presidents of most countries have arrived. Access to the Bella Center here in Copenhagen will be severely restricted tomorrow with over 25,000 people registered to attend. Today was sort of like the pre-game before the Superbowl. The king of kings, MVP all-star flew in on a plane and arrived at the conference today; climate champion Al Gore made his first appearance at the negotiations to supporters and doubters alike. His first presentation came this afternoon at a side event on the melting of the Greenland ice cap. The Arctic Council put together an analysis of the melting in Greenland led by Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, called Greenland Ice Sheet in a Changing Climate which was presented at COP15. This report was unveiled by Al Gore himself with a team of panelists including Dorthe, the Danish Foreign Minister, Bob Correll, and the Norwegian Foreign Minister. The report will also be released to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change later in the conference. I attended this side event with Will Steger, the founder of THE Will Steger Foundation and leader of our expedition, who is well acquainted with Gore. Steger worked closely with Gore in the 1980's as he was preparing to embark on his arctic journey but found he didn't have a method of relaying scientific information back to the community. Gore connected Will with the white papers about the internet, providing the opportunity for Steger's expeditions to reach millions of people across the globe. Gore invited Will to testify in 1991 on the melting to the of permafrost that he had witnessed, something scientists didn't believe was possible at the time. They continued to stay in touch throughout the 90's working on various educational opportunities but ran into each other again in 2007 when Al Gore received the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway. Throughout the years, Steger and Gore have both worked towards advancing scientific research and education about the effects of global warming on the arctic. Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Per Stig Møller, opened the event by stating that he hoped this report would be the "basis for a strong, forceful message to the decision makers at this conference. The message is that the time for collective and immediate action in response to climate change is now." Much of the rest of the event delved into disturbing details on how rapidly the sea ice is melting. The Greenland ice sheet, an ice cube three million cubic kilometers in volume, has the potential to affect the global sea level. If that all were to melt, the sea would rise 7meters. Gore emphasized that unless we reduce our emissions, the rise in temperature will only melt the glaciers faster. One degree really does make a difference.

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Will talks about the Canadian Arctic

Posted On Tuesday, December 15, 2009 by Liana.B.Baker | | 0 comments

Polar explorer Will Steger is famous for his world record traverses of the North and South Poles. Right now I’m in Copenhagen with his foundation, a non-profit based in Minnesota, that promotes climate change education. Over the past week, I’ve had a chance to spend time with Steger and hear his eyewitness account of drastic changes in the Arctic. He has crossed shelves of sea ice in Antarctica that no longer exist. Recent expeditions in Canada brought him to Ellesmere Island in 2008 and to Baffin Island in 2007. On the Baffin expedition, he was joined by billionaire Richard Branson and three Inuit hunters. Steger has recorded a special message for Canadian Geographic readers, which starts at 3:18 in the video above. The beginning and end of the clip give background on his Arctic expeditions. Will Steger: Hello Canadian Geographic. I’m Will Steger and Happy International Polar Year. I’ve traveled in the Canadian Arctic for over 45 years. I’ve traveled over tens of thousands of miles by dogsled and here in Copenhagen there is a lot at stake for the Canadian Arctic. What’s at stake is your sea ice and your glaciers. It’s very serious that we reduce our carbon levels very quickly and the carbon levels are going to be determined here in Copenhagen, so Canada has a lot at stake here along with the rest of the world, but especially your native Dene and Inuit population. That’s what it’s all about here in Copenhagen. Check back soon for more reports from Copenhagen.

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The Second Week Opens

Posted On Monday, December 14, 2009 by Reed Aronow | | 0 comments

Today the Bella Center was bursting at the seems as hordes of observers tried to get into the conference for the first time. This week, things are going to heat up as we try to turn down the heat. Starting tomorrow, presidents and national leaders will begin to arrive, and fewer and fewer youth delegates will be able to get into the conference. On Friday, President Barack Obama will arrive. As the head of the Norwegian Labor Party told me on Friday, "We are skeptical of President Obama after the weak proposal that the United States has put forward, but it is a hopeful sign that he is coming on Friday instead of last week, because that is when there will be the greatest chance of a treaty being forged." Today, I caught part of a side event about artists and scientists collaborating together to create climate solutions, and then I ran to a meeting with youth delegates from China and India to try to come up with ways of working together, of collaborating together on events and meetings with our representatives here at COP. Then, I caught the rail to the Danish Film Institute where Chris and I got tickets for four people to go to the observation room while Al Gore spoke tonight. Tonight, I went with Will, Nicole, and Jerry to see Al Gore speak about the negotiations. Gore asked, "Is there any message that you'd like me to bring with me to my meeting with the negotiators tomorrow?" This is my chance, I thought to myself. He called on me and time stopped for a second as I realized that I was about to ask Vice President Al Gore a question, but what would I ask? I started out by explaining that I am here in Copenhagen at COP-15 with Expedition Copenhagen and a United States youth delegation of 500, and that he needs to bring up the fact that this is our lives we are talking about, this not just a theory, but something that will impact us and future generations personally. I hit the train running (again!). This time I had to be back at my apartment in time to do a video conference with my HECUA class back in Minnesota. I swept open the door and flipped on my laptop Skype just in time to get the call from Julia. It was so wonderful to see all of their beautiful faces back in the heartland, doing the important work that needs to be done back at home before we've taken our last stand here at the COP15.

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The Real Story of the Youth Climate Movement

Posted On Monday, December 14, 2009 by Jamie | | 0 comments

If you have recently seen in the news large-scale, high visibility actions staged by youth in and around the Bella Center, I would like to provide another perspective on what's really happening when the media isn't watching. The "front page worthy" photos the media chooses to portray are not truly representational of all the work that's actually being done by youth around the world during the conference. I want to provide some insight into the intensity of the projects youth are working on as they propose global solutions to the climate crisis. All youth are part of an official provisional constituency called the YOUNGOs, thus the group now has the opportunity to propose amendments to policy during certain official UN sessions. After the Conference of Youth during the first weekend we arrived in Copenhagen, a global movement has erupted among youth to push for policy that will not neglect those who suffer most from climate change. The YOUNGO group, now known as IYCM (International Youth Climate Movement-- and yes, everything at the UNFCCC is in acronyms), has mobilized to work in specific policy groups focused on areas of mitigation, adaptation, finance, and tech transfer in order to propose amendments to the bracketed papers released by different delegations. (The goal is to make the bracketed language unbracketed and put into permanent context. Before any legislation is passed through the UNFCCC, entire papers are bracketed and part of the negotiations entails deciding what language will stay and what will have to be amended for countries to agree on the legislation put forth.) Each of the delegates from our Expedition Copenhagen has been involved with some sort of policy focus and/or other more regionalized groups. The opportunity for US youth has also been to be involved in the US youth delegation to support the US to make strong climate legislation to be passed through the Senate. Underneath the US delegation are many non-governmental organizations that are all collaborating through policy work as well as planning interventions (think of them as registered visual displays/actions -like what the news is covering) and scheduling meetings with top negotiators as they arrive in Copenhagen. Our WSF delegation has been involved in many of these arenas, and we've been working almost round the clock while bringing a Midwest perspective to the table. The decisions made at COP15 will directly affect ALL countries, including the US, so it's important to show the world that youth are connecting and collaborating, not only through the US but as a global unit, to promote a strong, just, and equitable treaty that will reach a binding agreement. Just remember that for each photo that depicts an action, there are many photos that could have been taken depicting the many youth huddled in circles around the Bella Center for regional and international meetings occurring throughout the day, briefings with heads of state where youth pack the rooms to capacity, and youth sifting through stacks of policy papers to understand, interpret and write amendments to legislation. We're living on coffee and adrenaline inside this Bella Center bubble, but the real force driving us is not the energy we have through the visual actions but the underlying hope we collectively share for the future we wish to have and will create.
Our very own Sarah Mullkoff speaks before an audience at the Bella Center as part of a Midwest panel with Rep. Kate Knuth (D-MN). Will Steger Foundation, © 2009 Jamie Horter

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Framing Week 2 at COP15

Posted On Monday, December 14, 2009 by Danielle | | 0 comments

The international climate negotiations in Copenhagen are winding down to an end. With just four more days of talks left, and over 110 heads joining in the next few days, you can feel the restlessness of the Bella Center and even the world around the world. Will there be a deal, or not? Is it going to be legally binding? What will developing nations do it developed countries only sign a political treaty? Expedition Copenhagen delegates are still advocating for the same three things in a new treaty that we always have been. We want a FAB deal- that is, a Fair, Ambitious and Binding treaty based on sound science. Why? Because the science is clear, and so it the history. Developed nations have an ecological debt to pay to the rest of the world. We have contributed most to climate change in the form of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Since there is not bubble over developed countries, then we have polluted the entire world. Developing nations, most specifically small island states, polar regions and coastal areas are already experiencing the many effects of climate change now. For them this deal means survival. So we need to be fair in what we ask from all countries. Common but differentiated responsibilities is the phrase most often used to describe the fact that everyone needs to work to stop GHG emissions from rising, but that heavily industrialized and developed nations must work to pay off their ecological debt first. Requiring countries that have contributed little (if at all) to the problem is not fair. We also need to be ambitious. We do not have to be dividing up the atmosphere into sections, and as so many bright yellow signs read during the march past Saturday, "There is No Planet B." So our reduction targets must be based on the sound science of 350ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere with no more than a 1.5*C rise in temperature. The money we put our on the table to help countries adapt to climate changes that are already happening, and the money for new technologies needs to be significant. Developing countries are asking for $200+ billion each year to help deal with climate change happening back home. And we need a legally binding treaty to hold countries accountable to reducing their emissions. A political deal is merely symbolic. Many developed countries, such as the U.S. argue that they need more time to create a legally binding treaty so that they can pass domestic climate legislation. But we have had time to discuss this problem for 20+ years, and the science and world are in agreement that action needs to be taken now. So this treaty must be legally binding, because again, we are dealing with the survival of people and the planet. This week access to the Bella Center is severely limited to civil society. While this is very frustrating, I choose to look on the positive side. In Copenhagen there has been another "conference" happening alongside of the negotiations. Klimaforum is the people's conference, and the list of events happening here in endless. While the negotiations can boast "celebrities" in a policy wonk's book, Klimaforum has people like Vandana Shiva and Archbishop Desmond Tutu as speakers. These people have worked with the people most directly affected by climate change. Some of them are direct victims to business as usual practices from developed countries. I would much rather relay the message of these people back home to inspire people to get involved, than to work extra hard to weed through the web of politics created by top negotiators. We also have a great challenge and opportunity to be effectively pressuring the U.S. and other developed countries to take bold action this week. We need to be strategically planning our actions, drafting up our policy positions, setting up meetings outside of the Bella Center and working with friends and family back home to apply pressure from the domestic side to negotiators. That way we will be in the Bella Center without having to physically be in the center. Only four more days of negotiating left. Will there be a deal, or not?What will it look like? I do not know. But what I do know is that there are thousands (literally 35,000) of people working day and night to ensure that negotiators are feeling the heat. No matter what, the work does not end here. But I have hope that we will come out of these negotiations with something substantial and which will put us on the path to survival.

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Why the walkout?

Posted On Monday, December 14, 2009 by Liana.B.Baker | | 0 comments

Cross-posted on the Huffington Post Media has been reporting all day on a walkout by developing countries that have sent the whole negotiations into disarray. These countries are worried that the Kyoto protocol will be thrown into the compost bin, as developed countries don't want to agree on providing the financing or technology for a new scheme. One Canadian official observer at the climate talks in Copenhagen explained why talks suspended on Monday. "It was not a physical walkout," says Caroline Lee, who is attending the talks as a delegate from Simon Fraser University outside Vancouver. "The African group and G77 are boycotting the negotiations today because they believe that the talks are getting biased towards becoming a single track - which means the Kyoto protocol is killed, and one treaty will cover all countries." While one treaty may sound like a neat idea, it could be problematic for developing nations since it lets richer countries off the hook if they break their Kyoto commitments. Developing countries wouldl also need to make their emissions cuts faster than they would under Kyoto. "A single treaty also makes it more likely for developing nations to be forced to make more ambitious reductions," Lee says. "It will make it more difficult to distinguish between industrialized and non-industrialized nations." Lee, who is writing her thesis on creating economic models based on climate legislation (think: what would the world economy look like if every country had a carbon tax), wants the treaty that comes out of Copenhagen to have two tracks--which is what was originally intended when the U.N. talks kicked off last Monday. "There should be a clear distinction - where industrialized nations take on legally-binding ambitious commitments, while developing nations take on less ambitious ones," Lee says. --Liana B. Baker

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New announcement from Secretary Chu

Posted On Monday, December 14, 2009 by Chalie | | 0 comments

The Bella Center in Copenhagen is semi-chaotic currently, with long lines to get into the center, thousands of people gathered inside and major discussions occurring in the plenary sessions between the developed and developing countries. As tensions continue to increase as we come close to the end of the COP15 negotiations, Secretary of Energy for the United States Steven Chu announced the launch of a new initiative to promote clean energy technologies in developing countries. This announcement seemed to surprise many of those standing close to me because finances seem to be completely off from what developing countries are asking in the negotiations. Although, on the positive side the United States is taking a step forward in helping developing countries to get cleaner energy. This program is called Climate REDI and it composes of the following four main areas - Solar and LED Energy Access Program -Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment Program - The Clean Energy Information Platform - The Scaling-up Renewable Energy Program (S-REP) In addition to these four main areas the program will be working closely with other world leaders in renewable energy technologies and clean technologies in order to disseminate them around the world. You can check out more information by clicking here.

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The gloves are off

Posted On Monday, December 14, 2009 by Jamie R., WI | | 0 comments

On the brink of chaos and swarmed in confusion, the masses take in all they can on the last day of total admittance to the Bella Center, the conference facility housing the COP15 negotiations.

Admittance badges for civil society will be limited to 30% tomorrow, down to just 1000 on Thursday and only 90 on Friday. The conversation, pace and spirit is uneasy and fast-paced. Groups are trying to strategically place themselves in and around the center to ensure the greatest impact and coverage.

To thicken the plot, the G77 (developing) nations have just walked out of the negotiations due to a deadlock in conversation with developed countries (aka Annex I). The G77 group is "a loose coalition of developing nations, designed to promote its members' collective economic interests and create an enhanced joint negotiating capacity in the United Nations" (Wikipedia) and includes the majority of African and South American nations, many in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

The AP reports:

"U.N. climate talks have been thrown into disarray as developing countries blocked negotiations, demanding that rich countries raise their pledges for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Representatives from developing countries said they refused to participate in any working groups Monday at the 192-nation summit until the issue was resolved.

The move was a setback for the Copenhagen talks, which were already faltering over long-running disputes between rich and poor nations over emissions cuts and financing for developing countries to deal with climate change."

So it's a debate of responsibility and equity in regards to carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. And although this walkout is a set back and the tension is high, many still talk with hope in their hearts, minds and voices.

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Meeting youth from the Middle East

Posted On Monday, December 14, 2009 by Liana.B.Baker | | 0 comments

In Copenhagen, our delegation tries to create international partnerships with youth groups from around the world. During my first week here, I followed around youth activists from Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt, Lebanon and Oman. These youth hail from countries where activism is rare and climate activism even rarer. Many of these young people are building a grassroots movement from scratch, in countries that produce most of the world’s oil. The youth I met were enthusiastic in teaming up with Midwest youth for future projects. While no members of our delegation are Arab-American or of the Muslim faith, the Midwest is one of the regions of the U.S. with the largest populations of Muslims living in the U.S. In Illinois and Indiana, Muslims make up just under 4 percent of the population and just under 2 percent of Michigan’s population according to Census data from the 1990s. Those numbers are only growing. Here’s the article I wrote about some of these youth from the Middle East, for The Media Line, an American non-profit news agency based in the Middle East. Picture: (Left to right) Hussein Hariri, 19, Sarah Rafeet, 25 and Tarak Tayara, 28, are part of the tiny fraction of Arab youth organizing against climate change in Copenhagen.

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Waabi Makwa (White Bear)

Posted On Sunday, December 13, 2009 by Aurora C | | 0 comments

All throughout Copenhagen there are numerous locations and events relating to the Climate Change Conference, outside of the main Bella Center negotiations. The World Wildlife Fund has an awesome set up in Copenhagen's Nytorv square dubbed the Arctic Tent. Outside of the Arctic tent are beautiful art exhibitions in the form of photographs and a main attraction seen completed above. The attraction is an ice sculpture of a polar bear, created by Mark Coreth-a renowned wildlife sculptor, and team. I've been "watching" and internally named him "WaabiMakwa"-White Bear. He represents not only his own dying and endangered race in the Arctic, but the Indigenous and human race of the world. He was completed December 5th, standing 1.8 meters high-representing the average height of floating sea ice in the Arctic. The ice at that height is too thin to remain frozen throughout the year, resulting in melting, just as WaabiMakwa has begun to do, and rising of sea levels. Eventually only his bronze skeleton will remain and only his story and spirit will live on. It is important that we remember Waabi Makwa's reality, as we are brothers, and what happens to our brothers it is said, will eventually happen to us as well.

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Indigenous Dayze

Posted On Sunday, December 13, 2009 by Aurora C | | 0 comments

The call from and for Indigenous Peoples here at the U.N. Climate Change conference is critical and we're making sure that we are heard, from Day 1 to the day after the last. With so many brothers and sisters from different lands of the Earth, we unite here in Copenhagen to make a difference. Not only do we have a diverse U.S. front, as far as Alaska with our sisters fighting to keep industries from drilling on the lands, and as far south as the Navajo nations fighting uranium, we span across the North American continent and every piece of land on this Aki (Earth). There are our Canadian brothers and sisters fighting the Tar Sands, Kenyan brothers and South American Natives fighting deforestation of their rain forests and forcible removal. It is imperative that we stand together and ensure our voice be not only heard but acknowledged, because it is us, as traditional and cultural people who are the sacrifice for the energy produced and consumed in the world. Indigenous Peoples of the world have united here at Copenhagen to be sure that our rights regarding the land and our culture because of our ties to the land are acknowledged in a treaty. Although we have world appreciation for our cultures and traditions, we would rather be negotiating than negotiated. In appreciation,the World Wildlife Funds Arctic Tent centered in a Copenhagen town square dedicated a days events as Indigenous Day, featuring the Inuit Cirque youth above. Ms. Sheila Watt-Cloutier, a Canadian Inuit activist was a featured speaker, with whom I had a brief introduction to. Saturday December 12th was focused as Indigenous Day at the Climate Summit, the same day as the Climate Change rally and march. Indigenous Peoples led 10,000 supporters through the streets of Copenhagen to the Summit location. As Indigenous Peoples were on the front lines of the largest climate change rally in history, it is indicative that Indigenous Peoples are also on the front lines of the Climate Change movement. Power to the People.

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Get out the popcorn--it's video time!

Posted On Sunday, December 13, 2009 by Jamie | | 0 comments

Here's a look at what it's like to be at the Bella Center for the UN Climate Change Conference:
I previously had the chance to meet National Geographic photographer James Balog. Here's the interview I had with him:
For move videos, check out WillSteger1 channel on Youtube!

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More from the March

Posted On Sunday, December 13, 2009 by Maia | | 0 comments

Yesterday's march was thrilling. An estimated 100,000 people participated in the demonstration, and as someone who was there, my brain could not comprehend the scale of this massive call for climate action. While my camera is not shooting very defined pictures, I wanted to share what I have as we continue to write the story of what happened yesterday and what it means for the global climate movement.
The march consisted of 30 blocs with hundreds of people each. Expedition Copenhagen marched in bloc 5, which included youth constituents to the negotiations, 350.org, and the Tcktcktck campaign. Leading the march was the bloc of indigenous peoples. Our delegate Aurora participated in this bloc. Please see this video, from the UpTake, about why it was so important that indigenous peoples led this march.
At the end of the march there was a candle light vigil. A vigil was also held inside the Bella Center with Archbishop Desmond Tutu from 4-4:45 p.m., before the conclusion to the march.
I feel so lucky to have been able to take part in this day of action and feel energized to make the most I can of this next and final week of negotiations. Stay tuned.

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