Tuesday 15 December 2009
This morning I sprung out of bed at 7.45 when Jasmine informed me I was on the 8-12 shift for the rotating passes. I assumed I hadn't been allocated one because I wasn't listed on the original email. However, not one to miss an opportunity to get into the Bella Centre, I raced downstairs, grabbed roll and a pass, vaguely arranged that I would hand my pass to Marcus and got to the Bella Centre.
It was madness trying to get in. I saw Siri and a couple of my other Swedish friends and I stood in line next to a journalist turned NGO who told me not to get into journalism because "journalism doesn't know where it is going". He said newspapers are a dying industry, particularly in smaller towns and internet is the way it is going. However, he went onto say that even sites like the Huffington Post only have 8 full time employers and everyone else is either voluntary or freelance. It took us about an hour to get into the centre – although the registration line for passes went for literally miles.
The NGOs, etc. seemed to have realised the potential for advertising their products and walked up and down the lines advertising side events, projects, handing out brochures, etc. Although I didn't see it, I heard they were handing out museli bars, etc. after learning from the experience of Monday.
I was cold but time passes much more quickly when you have someone to speak to.
I got inside, popped into an event on children and the role they play in negotiations called "Child-centred climate change adaptation" run by Plan International. I didn't stay for very long as I wanted to do the action of the day but got a couple of pamphlets that look helpful for my assignment.
We did the REDD-it REDD-it protest although Prince Charles didn't appear, as we had hoped. Prince Charles works closely with rainforests and he was arriving today so we thought if we did an action targeted at him, we would at least receive some press. That was an understatement. We sang our little hearts out from 10-11am and I have never seen so much press cover us. I think it was a combination of more press arriving for the second week , us being in a prime location (the walkway between the documents centre and main eating section) and the first day of passes meaning there were less NGOs and thus less for the press to cover.
Prince Charles, this one is for you. The frogs go "REDD-it, REDD-it" and you'll save the forests.
It was exciting because I got interviewed by a Canadian interviewer – I now wish I had gotten her card so I could look up the documentary. It was the first interview I had done as part of the Youth Forest Working Group – she told me I sung the "loudest" so they picked me. It definitely wasn't because I sung the most in tune! The interview definitely tested my knowledge on REDD but it was really satisfying speaking, albeit briefly on the topic, because it proved (at least to myself!) that I had learnt even a little! I spoke about the need for us to protect forests because sequestration is just as important as emissions reductions; protecting forest by having strong safeguards; the problematic definition of forests including plantations; protecting indigenous rights.
It was very overwhelming when we finished the protest because Luke, Alexei, Shaun and I thought we only had one more hour in the Bella Centre – forever! So we didn't really know how to make the most of it – we ended up going to a contact group which never started. We headed to Hans Christen Andersen for the AWG-KP which took ages to begin.
I come from the land down under! And I also very embarassingly come from the land of Steve Fielding.
Phoebe looks on with delight as we prepare to ambush Steve Fielding. Shaun and Luke are in the background listening to our Senator with horror.
I tried to contact Marcus to figure out where to meet him. He very generously wrote back saying the lines were really long and I might as well stay in and make the most of it. I will always be grateful to him for that because I got to see some incredible things following this news!
We looked through the side-program only to see some incredibly high calibre events on with US Governors, Canadian Premiers, other subnational leaders. We decided we would try to see Arnold Schwarzenegger, Al Gore, Ban Ki Moon and Wangari Maathai and try to get into the Opening Ceremony.
Tickets were needed for Al Gore and Arnie and since we hadn't thought we would be inside for their events, we hadn't lined up in the morning. (Also, I hadn't properly read the Daily Program – rookie error. ) Luckily, we got into the Arnie event – the tickets were pink and I had a pink cloak room ticket which I just waved at security who seemed fine with it. Shaun came in in the mad rush – I must admit security has been a bit of a joke in this sense! Very lucky for us though!
We sat next to a journalist who started her own website "The Lone Reporter" who gave us a run down of what it is like being Media at the conference. Check out http://lonereporter.com. She said we should have just walked into the Press Conference room in the first week because they were being much stricter in the second week. I would love to come to the COP as media!
Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would be back!
Arnie spoke a lot about doing things at a sub-national level. He said he would never have just waited for the national government to act. He spoke about the power of the scientists, the local government, the individuals and the activists. He said no matter what, this COP was not a failure because it has brought the focus onto climate change. I thought it was saccharine sweet. Also, I think it is soft when you talk about the success of "bringing the focus onto climate change". I mean, countries are going under water, people are dying and yet no meaningful agreement still makes for a successful conference. Please. He even ended with his trademark "I'll be back".
Wangari Maathai Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Ban Ki Moon UN Secretary General, Achim Steiner UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program on stage for the UN Messenger of Peace Ceremony.
We stayed in the vicinity to see Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai become a UN Messenger of Peace. There were brief speeches from Ban Ki Moon, Wangari and the other (famous) guy. There were some q&a although the moderator was very firm to say that the questions could only pertain to Wangari Maathia becoming a Messenger of Peace. It quickly became about the COP and whether a meaningful agreement could be met. Some guy from Brazil did a massive plug for his NGO which related to forests which I guess has a strong link to Wangari. He even was bold enough to offer the UN SG a pamphlet which one of his assistants took. I was appalled by his audacity and his lack of respect for everyone else's time.
There was a question to Wangari about what message you would give to the world's youth. My pen was poised. I was ready. And then she didn't really answer the question. I wanted to ask Ban Ki-Moon a similar question but I didn't have the guts to. Instead, some guy in front of me asked an obscure question about how Korean youth can become world leaders. I was so angry because it seemed like a wasted opportunity, particularly when Ban Ki-Moon replied about the world's youth becoming world leaders which led to a very generic, open answer.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon presents Wangari Maathai with her UN Messenger of Peace Certificate.
We made our way to the Al Gore event which had an enormous queue. We almost gave up – I even went to check my email – only to hear that one of the lines was for people without tickets.
Whenever we had a minute or so to kill, we'd head to one of the enormous computer sections of COP15. You could always find a computer.
We patiently stood in line and our perseverance paid off. We got in and even got reasonably good seats. I was pretty inspired. I would say he was one of the most memorable speakers from the COP – and I had the opportunity to hear some unforgettable stories from inspirational speakers (as clichéd as that sounds!) He spoke about the importance of the next three days and the need for a meaningful outcome. He announced that we cannot allow COP15 to be Doha. He compared climate change to tackling the problem of the ozone layer (although I would have to disagree with his analogy. I think climate change is far more complicated.) There was less candyfloss in his speech than in Arnie's speech.
Al Gore tells us more inconvenient truths.
We were getting pretty cocky and thought we'd be able to push our way into the Welcome session which was the event of the ceremony. The Danish PM, Prince Charles, Connie Hedergaard, Yvo de Boer, Ban Ki-Moon and Wangari Mathai all spoke. I was really surprised that every single one of them spoke well and added something new to the ceremony. I LOVE Connie Hedergaard – I think she has been doing such a brilliant job. The only person I didn't really enjoy was Prince Charles – not only did he speak for a really long time, I thought he was the least legitimate (although that may just be because he was the least prominent at the COP).
We watched the whole ceremony on screen and made friends with the security guard who wouldn't let us in in the first place. He spoke about how his son had gone on exchange to Perth. Shaun and Luke and I grabbed dinner. Luke was someone Shaun had met at the Al Gore event the day before. He came with a US college although he goes to UTS. He said he managed to get accredited by them but was doing his own thing. I was pretty impressed at his tenacity.
After dinner we went into the Plenary session in Tycho Brahe. It was my first time in there. I was a little disappointed it was the first time I had gone in, particularly as it was so cool and surreal to be in there, listening to the negotiations with the multiple translations on the headphones. There were so many countries and observers – you could feel the buzz of the place. The session ended with the President saying it would move to another room – he was very funny because he said he didn't exactly know where the room was, except that it would be on the screens outside.
Shaun and me inside Tycho Brahe which is the enormous plenary. Oh to one day work here!
We went to Karen Blixen to watch the other negotiations but they were delayed for such a long time that we ended up going home. It was unexpectedly one of the coolest days I had inside the COP. There wasn't much that had related specifically to my topic but I saw enough high-level speakers to last me a decade and I heard some inspirational stuff.