- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 9, 2009

COPENHAGEN | The calls for climate action begin at the airport, where the thousands of arriving journalists, negotiators and observers are greeted by billboards showcasing eco-friendly hotels, drowning polar bears and stern warnings of impending climate catastrophe. One features a polar bear alone on an ice floe. “The Arctic cant wait: climate deal now.” Another features aged world leaders in the year 2020, with the words “Im sorry. We could have stopped catastrophic climate change … we didnt.”

But amid the throngs camped out around the entrance to the summit venue, a carnival atmosphere reigns. On Monday, while Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen addressed delegates at the opening ceremony, teenaged activists outside chanted: “It’s hot in here, theres too much carbon in the atmosphere.” Nearby is a 12-foot-tall statue of a grim, hooded figure beside an electronic billboard with a red digital display showing a growing tally of climate refugees and carbon emissions.

Inside the venue, past the metal detectors, delegates from 192 nations are involved in negotiations. Thousands of journalists are there as well, milling around the conference grounds and jockeying for space at computer stations. Most watch the proceedings on closed-circuit television, writing stories from rows of banquet tables lined end to end.

“It is our mission,” Mr. Rasmussen continued, “to come to the aid of those who already suffer and to deliver a long-term solution to the mounting problem of global warming. This is our task. This is why we need a strong and ambitious climate-change agreement here in Copenhagen … . I am painfully aware that you have different perspectives on the framing and precise content of such an agreement. And I am sure that no one in this hall underestimates the difficulty we are facing in finding a common approach in the coming two weeks.”

The hard part

On Tuesday, negotiators, who have been intimately involved in setting the agendas and terms of the various blocs, continued their efforts to find common ground on the issues of who will cut greenhouse gases and by how much, how much it will cost, and who will pick up the tab. Among the subjects of disagreement are appeals from developing countries for money and technology from industrialized nations to help reduce emissions and adapt to the unavoidable impacts of some degree of climate change.

In a press conference Tuesday, Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, urged the conference to produce an agreement that can be put into action immediately.

“That’s what this conference needs to be about - turning words into real action the day the conference is over … negotiators need to come up with, over the following week, solid proposals that can constitute the foundation stones of an agreed outcome in Copenhagen,” he said.

Negotiators have six days, he said, until their government ministers arrive, then two additional days until they are joined by more than 100 heads of state. Some things will undoubtedly have to wait for the ministers’ arrival, he said, including “rich countries targets and how they can be made more ambitious,” as well as the “question of finance.”

But Mr. de Boer said he was “confident” that the summit can produce some agreements, such as more money to help developing countries confront climate change. “My challenge to people is to get the basic work done in the first week,” he said. “Make sure that the foundation stones are in place, make sure that we have clarity on what needs to be done on adaptation, mitigation, technology, finance, capacity building and forests to ensure that action begins once the Copenhagen conference is over.”

The pessimists

But not everyone is optimistic about what lies ahead.

On Saturday, a large demonstration is expected to move from central Copenhagen to the Bella Center. The demonstration is expected to gather tens of thousands of international activists from 60 countries and 400 different organizations, as Climate Justice Action’s spokesman, Knud Vildby, told the Danish daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Danish media report that things may turn violent, which has caused the Danish newspaper Borsen to protect its newsroom.

In a YouTube video called “COP15 - Call For Protest,” the organization NTAC, or Never Trust A COP, shows pictures of burning streets and black-clad activists, which the Danish press has suggested means violence during the summit. Organizers have asked NTAC not to participate in the demonstrations, according to Jyllands-Posten.

Meanwhile, Danish police are getting ready for the biggest standoff in their history. In an abandoned warehouse, 15 minutes outside the city center, the police have made room for 3,500 potential troublemakers. Forces from all over the country have been brought to Copenhagen.

The New York Times reports that Germany and Sweden have contributed vehicles and bomb-sniffing dogs and that the European Union has allowed Denmark to reintroduce border checkpoints, if needed. Last week, the Danish police held a press conference showing off their latest equipment, including a large water cannon that can be used for dispersing crowds.

“Resist the false solutions of the COP15 climate talks! … See you on the streets!” reads a recent statement from Climate Justice Action, which has vowed to “take over the [summit] for one day and transform it into a People’s Assembly.”

On Dec. 16, the group plans to try to take over the Bella Center, according to some media reports. The Jyllands-Posten reported that Climate Justice Action is working with accredited activists and nongovernmental organizations with access to the Bella Center so that the protests would take place within the center, as well as pushing their way in from outside.

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