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Postcard from Copenhagen

Alan Miller's picture
Disappearing polar bear: climate change art work, Copenhagen. Photo ©Alan Miller/ IFC

Having attended all but two of the 15 climate change conferences, I am pretty familiar with the atmosphere, processes, and even many of the attendees.  Nevertheless, much about the Copenhagen Conference has been surprising -- the sheer number and diversity of participants, the large street protests, the media attention, the impressive engagement from the people and city of Copenhagen.  The best comparison I can make is to imagine taking the United Nations, Times Square, and Greenwich Village and put them all together under one roof. 







At the core, at most a few hundred negotiators, often sitting behind closed doors, undertake the difficult task of attempting to reach an agreement.  It is no exaggeration to say that what they do -- or fail to do -- may determine the fate of us all. Swirling all around them are thousands of people from every imaginable (and unimaginable) perspective, traditional environmental groups, indigenous peoples, business organizations, religious and spiritual believers, the media (press interviews pop up randomly in the halls) and of course the international organizations. 

Hopenhagen: central square filled with climate change activities, Copenhagen. Photo ©Alan Miller/IFC

Those of us from IFC (three or four this week) are a small part of the World Bank Group delegation, which numbers more than fifty; the World Bank is in turn only one of many international organizations. World Bank President Zoellick arrives today -- it will be interesting to see his role and impact.

As the senior political level officials enter this week, the process seems to be reaching a breaking point with four days still to go. The registration lines are slowing to a crawl and observer organizations have been told to reduce their numbers by half or more due to the capacity limits of the building (actually, multiple buildings several of which are temporary). Every day the few members of our delegation actually observing the negotiations report little or no progress. Yesterday they were told to leave when the meetings entered the sensitive "informal" stage. 

President  Robert Zoellick (World Bank) with President Mohamed Nasheed (Maldives). Photo ©Alan Miller/IFC


The ultimate hope for a positive outcome remains pending the arrival of an expected 110 plus heads of state.  As the Convention Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer told us in a briefing last week, "they come to celebrate, not to commiserate."  As of today it's difficult to believe that heads of state can do in two days what their ministers and staff have been unable to do in months of meetings. 

We'll all know soon.

  

Africa and climate change: enhancing resilience, seizing opportunities

Raffaello Cervigni's picture

A new page on the World Bank’s web site emphasizes that addressing climate change is first and foremost a development priority for Africa. Even if emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases stopped today, there is wide agreement among scientists that global temperature will increase by 2 degrees Celsius by mid-century. If no action is taken to adapt to climate change, it threatens to dissipate the gains made by many African countries in terms of economic growth and poverty reduction over the past ten years.

  Photo © World Bank 
A major reason is that climate change is expected to increase the frequency and severityof droughts and floods. This will have serious consequences for vulnerable sectors such as agriculture, which now contributes some 30percent of GDP and employs 70 percent of the population in Africa. Climate change is also likely to spread malaria (already the biggest killer in the region) to areas currently less affected by it, particularly those at higher elevations. 

Live webcast today: Earth Journalism Awards Ceremony

Kavita Watsa's picture

The Earth Journalism Awards, which I blogged about earlier with a call to cast your vote for thebest story for Copenhagen, are being given out tonight to honor the world’s best climate change reporting.

The awards ceremony (you can watch the live webcast) will take place at 7 p.m. Copenhagen time, today, December 14th (1 p.m. New York). The ceremony will feature Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, IPCC Chair and Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary, UNFCCC.
About 450 submissions were received from professional and citizen journalists from more than 100 countries. The list is now down to 15 finalists from 10 countries, so stay tuned for the ceremony!

Embracing climate gate

Andrea Liverani's picture

Thoughts on poll results regarding perceptions of the scientific consensus on climate change across countries. 

As with good jokes, timing is key to good scandals. The recent one engulfing a group of climate scientists within and around the University of East Anglia, who have been accused of tweaking data and distorting scientific debate, is no exception. Surfacing a few days ahead of Copenhagen, it allowed for intense and sustained media coverage and delivered a heavy political blow. At any rate, my intention here is not to discuss whether or not the timing of “climate gate” was accidental or whether there is any real substance to the accusations. Rather, this blog post looks at the impact of climate gate, asking whether it might indeed have some positive consequences and improve our chances of getting our act together.

Our recent multi-country poll questioned respondents on their belief in the scientific consensus on climate change. All participants were asked whether they thought that a) “most scientists think climate change is an urgent problem and enough is known to take action”; or b) “most think the problem is not urgent, and not enough is known to take action”; or c) “views are pretty evenly divided”.  At first glance the results might seem positive (see chart). 

Multicountry climate poll: Don’t wait until tomorrow

Andrea Liverani's picture

So how long do we have to wait to see climate impacts? We know that scientists, economists, and politicians confront this question routinely, giving rise to much debate. Our recent multicountry poll shows that people around the world already have their own answer. Particularly in developing countries, ordinary people believe that climate change is damaging them—now.

 
Urgency: how soon will the effects of climate change be felt?

In 8 of the 15 countries, a majority of the public thinks climate change is substantially harming their fellow citizens now. Some of the largest majorities on this question appeared among people in the low-income countries: in Kenya 88 percent think people in their country are being harmed now, in Vietnam 86 percent, and in Senegal 75 percent. In both China (71 percent) and India (59 percent) large majorities believe that impacts are being felt now.

On the other hand, in five countries, less than half the public thinks that climate change is affecting their country negatively now: Russia (27 percent), the US (34 percent), Indonesia (39 percent), Iran (42 percent), and France (47 percent).

Who on earth cares about climate change?

Andrea Liverani's picture

Answers from a multi-country opinion poll  

Does anyone really know what world leaders are thinking about climate change? Well, at least their public statements are covered on TV.  Knowing what common people think is another ball game entirely. Some opinion polls on climate change shed light on public attitudes, but most pay little or no attention to developing countries.

With this in mind, the team working on the World Bank’s World Development Report 2010: Development and Climate Change commissioned a multi-country poll of public attitudes to climate change, which for the first time targeted developing countries with a comprehensive set of questions regarding climate policy.

Our aim was to a) give the public in developing countries voice in a debate often dominated by developed countries’ views, and b) provide decision makers with a tool to assess the state of public views on climate change in their countries. Countries polled include: Kenya, Senegal, India, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, Turkey, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, France, Japan, and the USA.

Thoughts on Senator Kerry’s Speech

Kseniya Lvovsky's picture

Senator John Kerry’s recent speech to World Bank staff, which a colleague reported on earlier, was clear and powerful. He said that the development challenges of the 21st century cannot be delivered by international financial institutions with 20th century structures and priorities. He could have not have started his speech better that he did—with a call for the governance of these institutions to reflect today’s transformed global economic landscape and a merit-based staff selection system from bottom to top.  

In our work and experience at the World Bank, we see significant links between the three main challenges that Kerry outlined (empowering women, enhancing food security, and addressing climate change). Even as my agriculture colleagues focus on the nexus between climate change and food security, there is mounting evidence of a disproportionate burden on women from climate-related risks. 

Senator Kerry delivers pre-Copenhagen messages at the World Bank

Kavita Watsa's picture

Photo ©Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank 
Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered a noteworthy speech this afternoon at the World Bank in Washington DC. Introduced by World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick as a “strong internationalist,” Kerry called upon the institution to use its funds to support what he called “21st century priorities.” These, according to the senator, include adapting to and mitigating climate change, enhancing food security, and empowering women.

Just eighteen days before Copenhagen, climate change was, not surprisingly, the central theme of Kerry’s remarks. While Kerry is a relatively recent advocate of climate action, his commitment to pushing climate change legislation in the U.S. was very evident, as was his grasp of the complexities of global action on the climate front.

“America needs to signal to the world that it is serious,” he said, in step with one of the main messages of the World Bank’s World Development Report 2010: Development and Climate Change, which calls upon rich countries to take the lead in reducing their carbon footprints and providing the funds for low-carbon technologies to be deployed in developing countries. Listing recent US achievements, he said that the country was committed to progress and that Copenhagen was vital. 

Kerry referred to “energy poverty”— the lack of access to electricity faced by millions in the developing world—as a challenge interlocked with climate change. “No citizen of the developing world should be held back by lack of access to electricity,” he said, acknowledging, however, that the world was hurtling toward what he described as catastrophic and irreversible climate change.

“Solving energy poverty using old paradigms is a short-term bargain and a dangerous one,” Kerry said, stressing the need to find solutions that address both goals. “With its funding and intellectual leadership, the Bank can play a profoundly important role in shifting the balance toward climate solutions,” he said, listing several actions as critical for the Bank. 

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