Copenhagen: No Ordinary Conference

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Moving with the masses inside the cavernous Bella Center for the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an experience in itself: Buddhist monks in flowing orange robes, young people with more body piercings that one can imagine mingling with UN bureaucrats, and bicycle enthusiasts advocating for pedal power. The “Tck Tck Tck” campaign (get it?  the clock is ticking and time is running out) is the most amusing with cool cartoons and “mini-happenings” along the corridors. 

Shortly after my arrival, I noticed that many of the conference participants were sporting large canvas bags advocating a vegan lifestyle. This initially puzzled me; can it really be that there are so many vegans in the crowd?  Well, not really – the “Copenvegan" advocates do not have badges to the conference and are standing by the metro as participants enter the security zone handing out these very practical bags. Great advertising; their message is everywhere. Then there is the crowd sporting T-shirts and banners calling for “Hopenhagen;” they are also everywhere, on billboards in the Metro station, on posters on the street, and within the Bella Center.

This is no ordinary conference. Rumors have it that some 45,000 people have actually been allowed to register but the conference facility holds far fewer. I cannot attest to the truth of this, but it is a fact that some people have waited for up to five hours to get into the conference facility. In addition, there are possibly as many as 60,000 visitors to Copenhagen these two weeks: to campaign, to participate in unofficial events, and to urge the negotiators toward a good, fair, equitable, and enforceable agreement.


Here is an interesting piece of the story. The so-called “demonstrators” in Saturday’s large 100,000-person demonstration wanted to give courage and strength to the negotiators so that they would deliver a strong deal on climate. This was a celebratory crowd with many children and toddlers participating. People came to empower and embolden the negotiators and the ministers to reach agreement. It was a shame that a relatively small group of anarchists at the very rear of the march were the few who got all the media attention when they started throwing stones. Anyhow, the police quickly detained them and the peaceful march continued.  

Multilateral Banks Day at Copenhagen - Session on Africa
World Bank Group staff have participated in and put on a good number of side events.  I had the pleasure to be part of a wonderful event on Africa that some of my colleagues arranged as part of the Multilateral Banks Day in Copenhagen. The event, which was arranged “talk-show” style, was moderated by Ms. Tumi Makgabo who is a well-known South African broadcaster, and participants included Minister Ulla Toernaes, Minister for Development Cooperation, Denmark; Professor Wangari Maathai, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate; Mr. Jose Endundo, Minister of Environment, DR Congo; Mr. Ken Newcombe, CEO, C-Quest Capital LLC. 

Tumi Makgabo, Inger Anderson and Wangari Maathai in Copenhagen

Of course Tumi did a wonderful job moderating. She is the former anchor for CNN’s “Inside Africa” program and was fantastic.  Professor Maathai was – as always – inspirational. This was matched in equal measure by Minister Endundo’s passion on the one hand and Ken Newcombe’s push for innovation in the soil carbon field on the other.  The Danish minister was great, too, so we were really pleased. And I got to hang out with Wangari and Tumi, which was just wonderful.





Inger Andersen

Former Vice President, Middle East & North Africa

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