Stars of the Summit

Stars of the Summit
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First Published: Thu, Dec 17 2009. 12 41 AM IST

Speaking out: Members of advocacy group Avaaz.org hold a banner for the ‘Fossil of the Day Award’ they gave to the US for the second day in a row in front of the White House in Washington on Tuesday.
Speaking out: Members of advocacy group Avaaz.org hold a banner for the ‘Fossil of the Day Award’ they gave to the US for the second day in a row in front of the White House in Washington on Tuesday.
Updated: Thu, Dec 17 2009. 12 41 AM IST
STAR AWARD | Fossil of the Day
Speaking out: Members of advocacy group Avaaz.org hold a banner for the ‘Fossil of the Day Award’ they gave to the US for the second day in a row in front of the White House in Washington on Tuesday. Nicholas Kamm / AFP
Why: Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh said he was anxious India didn’t get one. Toronto’s mayor sportingly stepped up to receive one on behalf of emission-laggard Canada, which currently leads the standings.
These sarcastic, deeply analytical and immensely popular daily awards ( www.fossiloftheday.com ) are given to countries that—in the organizers’ view—stall progress at Copenhagen.
Organized by Avaaz.org and the Climate Action Network, the daily ceremonies attract a sea of booing young people (they boo the awardees), executives and diplomats weary with the day’s negotiations and a massive online audience.
They have been bang-on. After promising an emission cut, the world has found out that Canadian emissions will actually grow 37% by 2020.
The future: With 3.5 million members— and a name that means “voice” in many languages—Avaaz.org has grown into a truly global advocacy group.
Among its founders are Indian-American Ricken Patel, an Aussie entrepreneur and a US Congressman. With young people streaming towards climate causes, Avaaz will flourish.
Avaaz.org is a new global Web movement with a simple democratic mission: To close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want.”
—Mission Statement
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Click here to read Mint’s complete coverage of the Copenhagen Summit
STAR DIPLOMAT | Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping
Maximum impact: As spokesperson of the Group of 77 developing nations plus China, Sudanese diplomat Lumumba Di-Aping is the negotiator at the climate change negotiations for the most people on earth. Claus Bjoern Larsen / AP
Why: The previously unknown Sudanese diplomat created a sensation by walking out of the climate negotiations, muttering darkly about the summit “being wrecked by the bad intentions of some people”. He meant host Denmark, which had circulated among the Group of Eight rich countries a draft for a new treaty. Aping matters because as spokesman of the G-77 (Group of 77) group of developing nations plus China—a fraying bloc that actually represents 130 countries—he is the negotiator at the talks for the most people on earth. Later, after the European Union announced $10 billion (Rs46,700 crore now) to help poor countries cope with climate change, Aiping wept. His tears did not impress the West. One US expert, refusing to be quoted, said: “Aping weeps for Africa and lives in New York. Give me a break.”
The future: Aping’s dramatics were one reason for a flood of popular sympathy for Africa, which activists from across the globe made a rallying cry. He will continue to keep the pressure on the West as the real negotiations for a treaty get pushed to Mexico in 2010. “Ten billion dollars for climate change may be an inducement for some countries. It is not enough to buy coffins for everyone who will die because of climate change in Africa. I would rather burn myself than accepting these peanuts,” Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping has said.
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STAR STATISTICIAN | Bjorn Lomborg
Bjorn Lomborg. Suzanne Plunkett /Bloomberg
Why: He would have appeared on CNN’s ‘Larry King Live’ by the time you read this. In the run-up to Copenhagen, the professor at the Copenhagen Business School has written for ‘Time’, ‘Newsweek’ and the ‘Hindustan Times’, and his views are sought by everyone from ‘The Economist’ to the government of Mali, which wants him to advise them on how to spend money they might receive to tackle the effects of climate change. When the Danish government hesitated about giving him accreditation to COP15 through his think tank, Copenhagen Consensus Center (he’s the director), CNN stepped in.
So the playstation addict and author of two books (“Have you played Uncharted2?” he asks an ‘HT’ reporter, who hasn’t) roams freely through the highly restricted 1,100-seat media centre, pursued for interviews.
Lomborg’s USP: Using the services of economists and Nobel laureates, he advocates a move from spending money on global warming. “It simply does not make economic sense,” he says to using radical technology-based solutions.
The future: Some of Lomborg’s fixes sound like science fiction — whitening clouds so they reflect more sunlight back into space — but he merely collates and commissions what is done by solid scientists. Some say he understates the risks and costs of climate change and overstates the costs of preventive action. ‘The Guardian’ said he was one of the 50 people who could save the planet. Either way, you’re going to hear a lot from Lomborg.
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STAR INDIAN | RK Pachauri
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
Why: He may not be a big name back home, but in Copenhagen, Pachauri, director of The Energy and Resources Institute, sometimes gets better billing than rock stars and actors. He’s sought after by reporters ahead of Hollywood favourites such as Arnold Schwarznegger and Daryl Hannah, some of big names at COP15 (the official name for the climate talks). He was on CNN and BBC, refuting the mail-hacking scandal, Climategate, that indicated some scientists were trying to hold back studies that didn’t match global-warming theses. He was in and out of the negotiating rooms of the Americans and the Chinese, the two big warring parties at COP15. And as head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Pachauri addresses every gathering of leaders that sits down to talk of climate change. To get Pachauri on your billboard in Copenhagen is to ensure public—and world—attention.
The future: Pachauri took over only last year as earth’s chief climate spokesman. Former US vice president and green campaigner Al Gore once accused him of being soft on the US, a view that Gore later rescinded. Pachauri is going to play a pivotal role at the next climate talks in Mexico and beyond.
“Science has given negotiators the mandate to decide the future of humanity. They cannot fail,” according to Pachauri.
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STAR ISLAND | Tuvalu
Keeping afloat: Activists hold a demonstration in support of the the South Sea island of Tuvalu as delegates arrive for a meeting on 9 December. Bob Strong /Reuters
Why: It’s so small, that if you plonked it into Delhi or Mumbai, it would barely be noticed. It’s barely noticed as it is, this dot of a nation, precariously floating in mid-Pacific isolation. The world’s fourth smallest nation (after the Vatican City, Monaco and Nauru) became a rallying cry for protesters when it managed to stop negotiations in week 1 on behalf of a usually quiet bloc of nations, Aosis (Association of Small Island States). Tuvalu said the Kyoto Protocol—which developing countries swear by—was too weak to keep it afloat. This angered the big daddies of the developing world, particularly India and China. The dragon was particularly irked. Tuvalu is one of 23 countries that recognises Taiwan as the real China.
The future: It may not have one, unless the world quickly agrees on a hardline emission cut. Tuvalu’s 12,000 citizens live on a number of islands, none of which is more than 5m above sea level. Even if the world agrees to hold the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, it may be too late for Tuvalu.
”We are facing an emergency, a planetary emergency that affects everyone but first and foremost the small island states,” said Dessima Williams, chair of Aosis.
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STAR LEADER | Connie Hedegaard
Pushing change: Denmark’s climate minister Connie Hedegaard has urged negotiating teams discard previously held treaties and forge a new deal. Keld Navntoft / Reuters
Why: Many negotiators from developing countries glower at the mention of her name, but as the chairperson of COP15, Denmark’s popular (well, in Denmark at least) climate and energy minister has firmly set the agenda at Copenhagen. A former television news anchor, Hedegaard uses her journalistic skills well in painting the big picture.
It’s a picture that no one can dispute: That global warming and its effects appear to be accelerating. She’s urged that negotiating teams from rich and poor countries discard previously held stands and treaties (including the gold standard, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol), and forge a new deal. In her hurry to push change, and often do it without wide consultation, she has invited deep criticism from the poorest countries and created innumerable fissures in multiple nation blocs. Indian negotiators often express their disquiet with her methods. Team Connie’s defence is that it’s impossible to build an agreement in 12 days by consulting 196 countries individually.
The future: She resigned on Wednesday as formal head of the conference, sending many into a frenzy of speculation if she had stepped down because of criticism. It was only a procedural move to allow her Prime Minister to host heads of state who now take centre stage over the last 48 hours of COP15.
Connie, as the Danes, like to call her, isn’t going anywhere.
“In the next three days, we have a unique chance. We can choose between fame and shame. We can favour action over stalemate. So, let’s walk those last steps! Let’s get it done! Let’s make history!” says Connie Hedegaard.
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STAR IDEA | The Carbon Budget
Multiplier effect: Smoke rises from an industrial complex in Faenza, northern Italy. Luca Bruno / AP
Why: Multiply 192 countries with multiple pathways to cut emissions and you begin to understand why it’s hard to agree on a common political statement, forget a treaty to save the planet (that’s out; next chance, 2010). The fundamental problem: little common ground between rich and poor—even the poor and not-so-poor—countries because of the complexities. A group of influential German, Chinese and Thai scientists propose a simple idea: Give the world a carbon budget on the basis of every human being on earth. With 1990 as the base year (when climate change became an issue), it proposes carbon quotas based on past and future emissions. The agreement will need nations to agree that global warming cannot rise beyond 2 degrees Celsius by 2050.
The base year is important. If 2009 were to be used as the base year, there are only 23 years left for the world’s carbon budget to run out.
The future: It could work. The lead scientists from Germany and China advise their governments on climate negotiations, and hope the idea can be put on the negotiating table in 2010. It’s too late for Copenhagen.
“We have presented this to the Chinese government, and it gives no preference to us, but it is the only way,” said Pan Jiahua, director, Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies, Beijing.
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STAR SUCCESS | REDD
Stop deforestation: A woman cycles past a tree stump which is part of the Ghost Forest Exhibition in front of the Danish parliament. Pawel Kopczynski/Reuters
Why: It threw up lots of slogans (“Better Redd than Dead”) and attracted the widest hope and attention at the climate summit. It was also the only real positive to emerge from Copenhagen—though there are still disputes between rich and poor on funding details. From carbon market managers to diplomats to idealistic teenagers from across the globe, they all bought into the beguilingly simple idea behind the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) programme: Stop chopping forests and global warming is greatly reduced. First floated in 2007 in Bali, it proposes to pay developing countries if they don’t chop their forests, which currently soak up 17% of global emissions. If REDD works, carbon dioxide equivalent to one-third of humanity’s total output would be saved, one estimate says.
The future: REDD is the best hope to save the world from its relentless pace of deforestation. It was the one thing 192 countries could agree on.
They will probably settle for funding through carbon markets (which the West wants) and through direct transfers (which the developing world wants). By Friday, we should know.
“REDD is not an extra mitigation option. It is an essential strategy to reduce (global) emissions,” according to Stewart Maginnis, International Union for Conservation of Nature.
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STAR CHARITY | Oxfam International
Photo: Heribert Proepper/AP
Why: A well-funded global federation of 14 like-minded NGOs, Oxfam led a year-long series of hearings that gave a voice to 1.5 million victims of climate change and attracted much media attention across the world in the runup to Copenhagen. The final, emotion-packed hearing was chaired by South African Nobel laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. You could argue that these hearings produced much oversimplification of climate change. Well-meaning farmers and village women attributed everything from meningitis and malaria to local droughts to global warming. But as an effort to give voice to the voiceless on a global stage, it was a magnificent effort.
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STAR CAMPAIGNER | Climate Action Network
Why: Little known previously outside advocacy circles, this alliance of nearly 500 non-governmental organizations working on climate change has emerged as a strong, opinionated watchdog. With multiple sources and deep knowledge of economic and political policy, it has provided the world’s media with rare insights into what was happening inside the negotiating rooms in the cavernous Bella Centre in Copenhagen, a former garbage dump turned convention centre. Quick on the newsbreak and faster with lightning-quick protests on contentious moves, CAN, as it is popularly called, was a nettlesome presence at the meet for negotiators (particularly from the West) and the security personnel. Whether you agree on its views or not, on its website (‘www.climatenetwork.org’), you can find all the policy documents and studies you need for a deep understanding of climate change.
The future: CAN has a global spread, and its relentless striving for what it calls a FAB (fair, ambitious and binding) climate deal is only set to increase. Its focus will be what it calls the “gigatonnes gap”, the distance between emission reductions currently on the table and the challenge of holding global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius or lower.
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First Published: Thu, Dec 17 2009. 12 41 AM IST