Reflections on COP15, Looking Ahead to COP16

Publisher's Note: I asked our guest writer, Alex Carlin, to send along a wrap-up piece reflecting on his experience at COP15, and looking ahead to COP16 later this year. He graciously agreed, and here are his reflections on the conference and climate change. --Lisa Graves, Executive Director

Copenhagen Out of the Frying Pan, Part 8

COP 15 marchCOP15 was amazing: so many intelligent and soulful characters from all over the world, cooperating shoulder to shoulder, all on the same quest--and on a level of importance never seen before in human history. I felt lucky to be there, and the buzz of history-in-the-making was palpable.

While the general world opinion of COP15 is that it was a failure, there is the caveat, recognized by many, that a world-wide grassroots movement was galvanized there.

And, in addition, this movement is in a much better position to move on to the next phase of this planetary life-and-death drama, because in Copenhagen we arrived at a crucial clarification: the events of COP15 demonstrated that the governments of the largest and richest nations are all too willing to lose the climate game, as they irresponsibly lead us over the cliff into climate disaster.

Therefore, the focus should now be on solutions coming from the bottom up. These rational ideas proposed at COP15 by individuals, NGOs and grassroots organizations--plus those from the governments of the smaller nations, such as Bolivia, Maldives, and Tuvalu (countries that shined brilliantly with their strong statements at the Conference)--must now be thrust onto the agendas of those who are most destroying the climate: the larger, richer countries. Copenhagen took away the last hope that the U.S., Chinese, Indian and wealthy European governments will act responsibly, absent extreme pressure from outside and inside their societies.

The dark side of the coin is that many of the rich countries' leaders took the opposite lesson from COP15, as they propose to move even further in the wrong direction, arguing that there are too many people at the negotiating table already, and that the future climate deals must be struck by the largest and richest nations alone. This January 14, 2010 story on "DemocracyNow!" perfectly describes this Orwellian reversal of the facts:

US Climate Envoy Blames ALBA for Copenhagen Failure, Backs Sidelining UN

A top U.S. climate negotiator has said he hopes to see the United Nations sidelined at future talks on global warming. On Wednesday, U.S. Deputy Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Pershing said the scale of the climate talks called for a rethinking of the UN's role. Pershing cited the objections of the ALBA bloc, which he said had blocked an agreement in Copenhagen.

Jonathan Pershing: "Who were they? Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba. These are countries that are part of the ALBA group, a group that sees this process not so much as a solution to climate change, but in fact as a mechanism to redistribute global wealth. And they don't like the fact that this did not do that. It didn't do that, and they objected to that fact. Well, surprise, surprise, surprise, the rest of the world doesn't want to do it that way. But they couldn't get an agreement, because this group, this narrow group, was blocking it."

Pershing says future talks should center around the world's largest polluters instead of trying to go through the UN process.

He said, "It is...impossible to imagine a negotiation of enormous complexity where you have a table of 192 countries involved in all the detail."

To blame the ALBA bloc for the failure of COP15 is the height of smug hypocrisy, while viciously blaming the victims. And for Pershing to say that "the rest of the world" agrees with him is pathetic and not true. The truth is that countries like Bolivia are already losing their water supply that formerly came from glaciers now severely melted from global warming. These folks who Pershing derides (and I met some of them personally--see blog #5) came to Copenhagen to forge a deal that would save their societies from catastrophe. Sadly, those whose action precipitated the crisis are now castigating some of the countries most affected as beggars and grifters, scamming for spare change.

But the good news is that with the blinders off--it's now plain as day that the governments of the top nations are selling us down the river--the movement is now galvanized with eyes wide open. We the people of the planet are up against the wall, but more united than before COP15, and ready for action.

What is still missing is a practical demand that the movement can rally behind. This goal can not be a general proposition like "Make a Good Deal" or "Save the Planet." These were the types of demands on the placards at the many demonstrations at COP15, and these phrases proved too easy for the large nations to heartily agree with without producing a "Good Deal" at the conference. Who doesn't want to save the planet? Rather, we need a demand that is simple, but actually deals pragmatically with the problem at hand--something that the rich countries can actually DO, in the short term, to mitigate the mess that they created, and give the rest of the planet some kind of margin of time to plot out a successful long-term course.

Alex CarlinOnce we get some consensus on this sufficiently simple and specific demand, there are many actions that can be taken--including general strikes, boycotts, embargoes and other actions. Smaller countries and the citizens in the rich countries can act together to achieve their simple demand. The potential economic and political leverage does exist, but it requires a critical mass of solidarity. As a result of COP15, we are closer to this goal. But what should this new and improved demand be?

As my blog readers already know, I have my own suggestion for this demand: "100 Miles of Mirrors." I ask my readers to email me at what their idea for such a demand would be. Copenhagen showed us that this is the next logical step, and therefore it was a very valuable moment in history.

Your Man in the Pan, Alex Carlin.

See you in December in Mexico City at COP16!

Alex Carlin is guest blogging from Copenhagen for the Center for Media and Democracy. He serves as a Director of The Leo J. and Celia Carlin Fund. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, he lives in Krakow, Poland. He is the organizer of 100 Miles of Mirrors and his writings include 100 Miles of Mirrors: A Simple, Feasible Plan for Averting Global Climatic Disaster, In These Times (December 1, 2009).

100 miles of solar thermal mirrors


I can't stand this any more. I've done my due diligence, there is no consensus, the debate is not over, and what is being propagated by IPCC is pure nonsense. It is all falling apart - you should make plans to avoid future embarrassment.

I'm following Alex since last year, and I really enjoy his comments about COP. I'm from Mexico and I'm very excited about COP 16, I think it was a bad idea to change COP to Cancun but actually it's great, cause people from all over the world will be able to see how authorities corruption is destroying the mangroves and how "compromised" is Mexico on environmental issues. I'll be so glad to meet Alex in Cancun, I hope I could. My NGO will participate in the forum with our experiences in Transition Culture Mexico. See you in Cancun :D