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Daily Emerald Feature on UO Students at COP15

January 4, 2010

The Daily Emerald (the University of Oregon student newspaper) had a feature article about UO students who attended the negotiations.

Here is the full article by Anna Helland:

Last month, while stockings were being hung by the chimney with care, those in Copenhagen had hopes that a climate change agreement would soon appear.
From Dec. 7-18, during the two-week United Nations-led summit in the Danish capital, more than 100 world leaders met to discuss and take action on global climate change.

The conference aimed at creating outlines for a new treaty that would succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, which includes a set of binding emissions targets for developed nations that the U.S. never signed.

Numerous University students and faculty also attended the conference in Copenhagen, either to witness international negotiating or to observe the conference on a more
educational level.

University environmental studies student Jeremy Blanchard and political science student Charles Denson attended the convention through their work with the Cascade Climate Network, a network of students at Oregon and Washington universities dedicated to addressing climate change.

Before negotiations began, Blanchard and Denson were hesitant to invest too much hope in the results of the of conference.

“We expected this to be the next commitment period for the Kyoto protocol, and a lot of us had high expectations for this convention,” Blanchard said, so it was “sad to see global leaders setting those expectations even lower and throwing in the towel before negotiations began.”

Denson agreed.

“I hoped the U.S. would step up and meet more significant stands on climate control,”
he said.

During the conference, Blanchard and Denson communicated with youth all over the country to relay information and developments to the U.S. from their base at the conference. Blanchard took part in the rapid response team, encouraging stateside youth to call their representatives to action and to help shape public opinion. Denson worked with U.S. policy at the conference, asking questions to negotiators and department heads and organizing the youth to attend events.

The two listened to presenters such as U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, absorbing and learning everything they saw and heard.

“I had never experienced anything at this level,” Blanchard said. “I took away a great appreciation for the international negotiation process.”

University international studies student Katherine Philipson also attended the conference through the Cascade Climate Network, working closely with the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, a coalition of African organizations that promote and advocate for
climate-related development.

“It was just incredible seeing how so many countries from around the world came together for this movement,” Philipson said.

In the second week of the conference, civil society groups began receiving only limited entry into the Bella Center — the main location for the conference — because of security concerns, and throughout the next week, Danish police arrested many activists they called “protestors.”

Shangrila Joshi Wynn, a University doctoral candidate in environmental studies and geography and a Wayne Morse Center Dissertation Fellow, went to Copenhagen to conduct field work for her doctoral dissertation. Joshi Wynn said that unlike the majority of participants at the conference, her reason for attending was to observe a specific aspect of the conference.

As a representative of the Association of American Geographers and an official observer to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Joshi Wynn conducted research that examined India’s participation in international climate policy negotiations and the debates that will happen in the coming months.

Because she had limited access into the Bella Center in the second half of the conference, Joshi Wynn had to learn about conference outcomes through the media and the UN’s Web site “just like anybody else who had not ventured all the way out there to be present as an
official observer,” she said.

After the two-week conference, negotiators presented the Copenhagen Accord — a 12-paragraph interim treaty — which was met with mixed reviews. Some U.S. legislators praised the accord for its projected future help in assisting the current climate bill pass through the Senate, but for others like Blanchard, Denson and Philipson, it was simply
a disappointment.

“It was far less than what most people would have liked,” Blanchard said.

“The United States didn’t step up,” Denson said. “We needed to be a leader and not wait for China to take action.”

Philipson said the results also disappointed her, but that she would look to future leadership to shape the outcome for climate change.

“I think we need to come home and change domestic politics to create better legs for our country to stand on in the international area,” Philipson said.

Joshi Wynn agreed the accord was an example of the lack of progress the conference achieved.

“The pact … is a sign that although there had been some potential for the climate negotiations to seriously confront the power imbalances between the global North and South, this was thwarted by the co-optation of some of the countries or interest groups of the global South,” Joshi Wynn said.

The Copenhagen Accord recognizes the scientific case for keeping global temperature rise to no more than two degrees Celsius, but it does not contain commitments to reduce emissions and only pledges that countries big and small must limit their emissions to
certain numbers.

Blanchard hoped the U.S. would have signed the second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, setting stronger targets for developing nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Denson had similar hopes for the U.S. to sign a legally-binding treaty with ambitious targets.

Denson said he would come back to promote climate change for the upcoming Senate vote on the climate bill and that although “some people have said that (the Copenhagen Accord) is a stepping stone in securing climate control, the problem with global warming is we won’t have time. We need to take big steps instead of baby steps.”

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