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EcoChamber in Copenhagen: Are we signing a global suicide pact?

emily hunter

[Editor’s note: Emily Hunter is in Copenhagen, Denmark for the next two weeks covering the Copenhagen Climate Summit, and will be sending us updates about what’s going on. Check back daily for her updates.]

UN Climate Change Summit Opens In Copenhagen

A member of an environmentalist group pretends to be dead during a protest demanding a real climate deal during the first day of United Nations Climate Change Conference on December 7, 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo by Miguel Villagran/Getty Images)

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK — The negotiations have begun over our climate future here in Copenhagen. Global leaders may decide in the next two weeks the most important choice to be made in our lifetime—even, arguably, in the history of the human race: will we change course?

“This is an extremely important moment in history,” said May Boeve from 350.org. For the first time in history all the major world leaders are trying to tackle the issue of climate change. Each of them is offering targets to cutting their greenhouse gas emissions and planning to finance developing nations who will be the most impacted.

Even more importantly in some ways, never before in history has the world paid so much attention to our climate crisis. Here in Copenhagen, thousands have descended on the Danish capital this week to attempt to make change from inside the conference halls—and outside on the streets.

Yet with so many people affected by the decisions made here—all of us in fact—why is it that so few get a say? Despite it being everyone’s issue (nearly seven billion of us) it is essentially eight men and a woman (the G8 and China) who get to deicide. That seems rather risky, especially when it’s questionable whether they truly have our best interests at heart.

There are so many that are voiceless here in the conference and so many that these decisions affect beyond the G8 and China. Like the Maldives, which is losing land to sea level rises every year: at the current rate, the country is in serious danger of disappearing altogether. The Maldives’ President, Mohammad Nasheed, said himself this week that the decision in Copenhagen will either be heroism or suicide: “The choice is that stark.”

In Copenhagen myself, there is an uneasy feeling of powerlessness in the most terrifying and important challenge we face. As a young person, it is my future that is being decided here and now, and I feel muted, despite all my best efforts at trying to make my voice heard.

The reason I care is because by the time I am in my 60s, in the year 2050, I will be living in a vastly reshaped world due to our lack of response to climate change. If nothing happens in Copenhagen, it will be a new geo-political world I will be living in with 150 million climate refugees. The arctic sea ice at the North Pole and much of Greenland will be gone. And we will be well on our way to passing the crucial 2ºC warming threshold.

Even if the deal does happen during the next two weeks, the world will still never be the same as we know it, as a deal in Copenhagen doesn’t mean success. The deal that is likely amounts to a suicide pact for many countries, since the targets aren’t ambitious enough and the funding for mitigation is well below what we need. The U.S. is only offering a 3 percent reduction by 2020 relative to 1990 levels, when scientists now argue that it should be well over 40 percent. The Obama administration said last week that nations will likely offer US$10 billion for a climate aid fund. Meanwhile, the World Bank (hardly a radical source of information), says that Industralized nations need to offer US$75 to US$100 billion annually.

So is this summit Hopenhagen or Flopenhagen? I’m not sure if I see much hope other than greeenwashed hope here on the conference grounds. But I do see hope from the movement that is trying despertly to make the voiceless—young people, Indigenous people, the Global South—heard.

For example, the students that organized the 350 event last October are here in big numbers, working on the inside to get the voiceless heard and holding a global vigil for survival that all of us can take part of. KlimaForum09, the Danish anti-conference, is writing an alternative climate declaration, made by the people, to let the public be heard. They’ve called the COP15 negotiations a “fraud” and are planning civil disobedience actions in the city and around the world to let their displeasure be known.

This deal may be settled in two weeks time, but the battle for a choice that needs to be all of ours is just beginning.

Emily Hunter Emily Hunter is an environmental journalist and This Magazine’s resident eco-blogger. She is currently working on a book about young environmental activism, The Next Eco-Warriors, and is the eco-correspondent to MTV News Canada.

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