Summit talk starts to heat up

The madness of mass communication in an age of backdoor negotiation has China seeing red, Tuvalu treading water, Canada holding a fossil, and activists behind bars

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Negotiations are heating up in Copenhagen. Tuvalu has demanded that any agreement coming out of negotiations be legally binding. Their reasoning: they’d prefer not to sink.

Back in 1992, at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, parties signed a treaty called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Signatories agreed to create protocols setting mandatory emissions caps. But because the convention itself was not legally binding, parties like the United States never bothered themselves much with protocols like Kyoto. The tiny island nation of Tuvalu is essentially demanding—-and as a result one plenary session has already been suspended—-that the world walk the walk and meet its commitments, or else.

Or else what, you ask? Well, Canada ratified Kyoto and proceeded to increase its emissions by over 20 percent. Our punishment? George Monbiot is pissed off at us, and we’ve won more fossil awards than any other country.

The Fossil Award is given out daily at all UN climate change conferences by the Climate Action Network, which represents more than 400 environmental groups from around the world. “The fact that the international NGO community, and not just Canadian NGO’s, continually recognizes Canada’s failure to act on climate change is a huge statement,” writes Haligonian Emily Rideout on her Copenhagen blog. Rideout is representing the Sierra Club Atlantic in Copenhagen.

Canada has already won its first Fossil Award in Copenhagen. Yesterday Canada finished second, as part of a group of industrialized non-EU countries proposing to dump more coal and oil into developing countries and call it green. With any luck, they’ll learn something from today’s tour of the “Danish energy revolution” i.e. green heating and cooling facilities.

Meanwhile, The Guardian is reporting a leaked secret agreement by the richest countries. It would force developing nations to agree to specific emissions cuts that were not in the Rio treaty, the UN would be pushed out of the climate equation and poor countries would be held to much higher emissions reduction standards than rich countries.

Funny thing is, no one in Copenhagen seems to know where The Guardian got its information. The Nature Conservancy’s Chrissy Schwinn says the document was probably drafted weeks ago and circulated for feedback among certain countries. “This is common during negotiations,” Schwinn writes on her blog.

Regardless, the story has enraged representatives of poorer countries, who feel they were excluded and duped. The draft document so enraged China that it cancelled its public news conference and held a much smaller, invite-only version.

Outside the negotiations, 200 climate activists from various international groups were arrested in an overnight raid of their downtown Copenhagen sleeping space, a former beer depot. Police confiscated a power drill, an angle grinder, and “wooden props.” Strangely, the office space was provided by the Danish government. Activists say they are baffled by the police action.

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