Direct from Copenhagen, Denmark - 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference - (8 – 18 December '09)

Acting as the official High Tide COP15 envoy, distinguished ecological artist Aviva Rahmani will be immersing herself in the burgeoning eco-political activism in the city and sharing her experiences with us via this daily blog.

Why not get involved and join in dialogue with her? Log-on to share your views! This is the gathering storm…

Produced in association with FACT

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

How to Be an Effective Part of COP

After the exhileration of demonstrations and the Fossil Awards, I met with Marilyn Averil and Gillian Bowser. Marilyn is a COP veteran. She explained to me how things work. How China didn't offer to cut emissions but rather a percentage of their emissions in relation to their Gross National Product, meaning they can increase their emissions by three times or more. She broke down what each country had offered based on knowing the language and history. It sounded bleak for Tuvalu and Kiribati and all the rest of us.

In the evening I went to dinner with the folks from the Ethics committee and asked them how artists could be part of COP. They asked me back why I thought artists deserved a place at the table? I replied because we are the glue that holds society together. They asked me why it was a COP issue? I answered because culture dissolves in disruption such as global warming will cause. They asked me why artists should be treated as any more disproportionately affected than any other group. I said, because we are the most marginalized and disenfranchised part of society now, but all of human life depends upon us. It is just unaknowledged, as slaves once were and women still are in many countries.

They clarified the legal, polticial and economic arguments to me that had to be made to prove that what I argued about art/the humanities is actually the case, because the United Nations is a legal entity. Artists/ humanists have all the pieces, we just need to put them together. Tomorrow, they invited me to their meeting and I will go and learn more.

Meanwhile, COP is slowly being closed off to NGOs, as we feared, because they permitted too many of us to register (and maybe they didn't enjoy the demonstrations as much as I did?). 34,000 are registered for a 15,000 capacity space. They have instructed us to only shown up if we have essential business. This week is the only week NGOs can participate in meetings. Next week is heads of state and then the meetings will be sealed off, altho side events will continue.

Day 4 Copenhagen, Day 3 COP15 NEWS FLASH!!!!!

To wild applause, from about 250 people who all seemed to have cameras, Tuvalu won the first ever "Ray" Fossil award for being a ray of light and insisting on a specific and binding agreement.

At the end, the Fossil folks did a cancan with the Tuvelo representative.

Haves and have Nots: Due Process at COP15

The African Theatre group last night told a story of a reindeer migrating to Africa because of the changing climate. Along the way, women are encountered, who manage the world very well despite difficulties, inc the difficulty of men who appear as gullible buffoons when offered money by slick corporations.

As I listen to the conference of parties (COP) negotiating about projects that will be jointly supported, I am thinking about a question Suzanne asked me a couple nights ago: how do they decide and negotiate? As I write, they are discussing how to protect forests and that hinges on the definition of forests. I had answered that it was a combination of human relationship, mandates from thier countries, rules and the mood of political opinion. There is no question in my mond that this group is being affected in it's procedures by the latter. The tenor of the conversations ahve changed since the morning. There seems a more conciliatory tone. Presumably it is no accident that delegates haven't yet returned at 5:PM.

Now, the first observer representative is addressing the conference. It is a business group representing, oil, gas, etc. They are asking for representation equivalent to nations. That was something predicted about ten years ago: that corporations would demand and take power equivalent to nations, which covertly, obviously, they already have. So maybe this is about "making (that power) things transparent." One of the interesting side political positioning stories is how various entities are using COP15 to extend individual agendas that have no direct bearing on the rule or issue under consideration but will ultimately have enormous impacts on global warming mitigation.

This is a good description of the financial issues at stake. But I have to say the overall mood from poorer countries is anything but calmly accepting of the limited funds suggested. Their dignity, lives and lands are at stake.

Day 3 COP15 atmospherics

It's like being at an enormous party, with many different clusters of types of people and events. There is the feeling of constantly shifting mood overall, as tho the conference were one large animal. Right now, the mood seems to be alert and high energy. Partly it's the demonstrations I think, partly the consensus building that it's haves vs have nots with major moral loading.

I haven't had a chance for lunch today, but there was someone with a huge cart of wonderful organic apples in the hall going into the plenary at 3:, selling them for 5 kroners (about $1.) and I sat down on a low wall between one of the open restaurants (there are many & most are organic) and the walkway, near someone from Africa working on his computer and numbers of others talking and eating.

I'm sitting in the front row towards the center of in front of the division between obervers and the delegates- about 30' away. The President and other main people are seated at a white covered table about another 100' ahead. People are constantly going back & forth with various devices, media equipment, etc. behind them are two enormous screens projecting the speakers. To my far left, there is a bank of about 15 translators with little reading lamps in presumably soundproofed gray framed cells.

From time to time, a lot of people put on their ear phones to hear proceedings in their own language. I haven't done that yet, but probably should have so I wouldn't miss anything. Each of us has our little cluster of stuff around us: water bottles, back packs, notebooks- paper and mechanical and of course cell phones. Generally, people are extremely courteous and friendly..

Earlier there were some passionate objections to proceedings without sufficient transparency. Now they are discussing projects for clean energy.

Saudi Arabia, which has been interrupting at every turn, just said, in a somewhat whiny tone, that all they have is oil and that's why they are asking for reparations. That was the first time I heard what sounded like a sincere statement from them. Maybe it's getting to them that at the conference they have become a laughing stock and something of a pariah- well, of course except for the countries that support them.

Tuvalu Heros

Tuvalu representing island states and making coalition with These folks were just a few feet from the doors into the plenary, made a LOT of noise and had a big crowd around them. Island states and indigenous groups, inc Canadian Tar Sands folk seem to be making coalitions. It's very easy here because s many as we all are, the builing is still relatively small & everyone is passing the same places.

Kiribati dancer performing at COP15 to packed and enthusiastic audience (with apologies for poor lighting).

COP15, Kiribati, Tuvalo & Tar Sands

The attendance at the Kiribati event was packed with standing room only. The islnders gave out shell necklaces, danced, pled, sang an incredible song about a lost frigate bird looking for her island, vanished beneath the sea. the said they were proud but had limited resources and spoke for all island nations: they want to stay on their land and not burden the world as refugees but they need millions of dollars they don't have.

There are demonstrators everywhere today in the conference. In the morning going into the Plenary All along there have been events and lots of people in costume, but today, they are everywhere. Major events include press conference about indigenous peoples and the Canadian Tar Sands. Major demonstration in support of Tuvalo with as you enter the Plenary.

President announcing COP15 consideration of the island states report. Still under way with no agreement. CMP continues. the unspoken agenda is now being shreiked: the developed countries are destroying the small nations, young people of the world and countless non-human species with impunity. Will they get away with it?

Day 3 COP15 Binding Agreements Issues Confrontation

Came in on the Plenary discussion of whther or not to have a binding decision on agreements to emerge from this COP. Islands nations testifying. Barbados saying that the most most vulnerable countries are at the mercy of the largest, developed countries. (audience applause) declaration that COP should be suspended unless we agree on this point.

Saudia Arabia predictably "strongly objecting" and switching to English to make this point, asking the President to rule against them. India standing by absolute protocol, apparently in tandem with Saudi Arabia. Reminding me of an off the record aside Monday from one of the carbon scientist laughing dismissively at some "concession" from India. Someone speaking now from Burkine Fasso in French- too busy trying to read the credit (small on the screen) and thinking I don't know if that's a country and haven't heard of it- to catch the content. India replying that they have lots of islands and that's why they want to move forward (and apparently disregard all the other islands and have no restrictions on their own behavior).

President ruling in favor of Tuvalu, etc island states to consult with all the island states to get consensus. Kuwait saying they belive in the President's wisdom. Confusing whether some of these statements from the more secure states are about face or content. The are saying "not to waste time" which I take to mean they are in the camp with India & Saudia Arabia. Venezuela speaking in Spanish saying no paper will save us it's a matter of political will. (Applause again but I think the audience missed the point that Venezuela is also in the Saudi Arabia camp.) Tuvalu asserting the morality of addressing the issues seriously (this time I clapped hard enuf - with others- to hurt the ears of the person (Japanese?) next to me. Algeria, in French, taking dissent with Venezuela. Chad, also in French. I couldn't understand their position because it sounded so equivocal (alliance issues or my misunderstanding his heavily accented French?). China now speaking in Chinese. Apparently choice of language has become a political statement. I can't understand a word: 50% of the world can. Finally a phrase in English: "at least 40% (carbon emissions reduction- confirmed by the man next to me, apparently Chinese not Japanese)." A radical position compared to the USA but by when? Culture Futures yesterday was saying 80%. Saudi Arabia in Arabic looking complacent, belligerent and tired.

President looking very tired. Barbados, in English, speaking again to the need for attention to the island states. Saudi Arabia, et al are argeuing that the island states want to hold things up with new proposals. Barbados, Marshall Islands, clarifying they want tranparency and serious discussion, not delay. Clearly this has become a legal battle of terms that could be the turnign point of the conference. Tuvalu again: clarifying formal consideration of an amendment under existing protocol. Kenya speaking but like Chad, they sound neutral. United Arab Emirates also sounding neutral. President announcing the consultation will begin & they must report back at 3:. Tuvalu again refusing the ruling because it will be informal and not transparent and demanding suspension of COP. Big murmurs in audience. Silence on screen and obviously heavy conversation at the podium. President ruling to suspend consideration and revert to 3: plan.

Progressing forward to CMP. The island nations have apparently lost this battle.No? Yes? Tuvalu asks for floor again asking for clarification. President confirming suspension of COP till 3:.

Now considering joint implementation. I'm confused about the legal implications of this ruling and move and will have to clarify the implications. But it seems to imply that that the country delegates are now excused and the committees are now addressing the Plenary about how to deal with stakeholders and initiate and monitor projects.

Day 4 Copenhagen- other blogs on COP15

Ed Morris of Canary Project is doing...
all about art at COP 15
Also this story of the 15 year old from the Maldives.

You can find Sacha Kagan's diary at the Webmagazine of Cultura21:
events he will cover are:
On Sunday 6th and Monday 7th: the ASEF (Asia Europe Foundation) workshop on Arts, Culture and Sustainability: Building Synergies between Asia and Europe (18 invited experts + ASEF staff)
Monday to Wednesday: the conference Culture|Futures: The Transition to an Ecological Age 2050, organized by the Danish Cultural Institute with the help of other organizations including Cultura21 Nordic (about 200 participants from the cultural sector and eco-design/engineers)
Thursday 10th to Saturda

- ASEF blog in Copenhagen (
- Official blog of the Culture|Futures organizers (