Claremont at Copenhagen
By Ashley Scott
Illustrator, CMC ’11
Pomona College seniors Dawn Bickett (left) and Grace Vermeer (right) attended the first week of the Copenhagen Climate Conference to conduct research regarding the role of citizen deliberation in the policy process. They traveled as part of a group called World Wide Views on Global Warming, which gathered people from around the world both to deliberate about how to combat climate change and to deliver a report at COP15. Though Dawn and Grace blogged about their experiences on the Pomona Environmental Analysis website, they also participated in an interview with the Port Side. Here is what they found most striking about the summit:
1. Student participation: Many students, particularly other Americans, attended COP15. Dawn and Grace noted that many of the students did not appear to take the conference very seriously or appreciate being there, as evident in their casual dress and somewhat disrespectful demeanor.
2. Protests: As she expected, Dawn witnessed many protests both inside and outside of the conference center. However, the protesters were geared more towards the media than the delegates and they sent out a very vague message with no real information. The protests appeared to be more theatrical, to show the media that many people cared about the climate crisis.
3. Lack of input: Grace notes that it “seemed like there were two conferences happening at the same time and held in the same venue.” The party members’ deliberations were not open to the NGOs or other advocacy organizations and there was minimal interaction between the two groups. There was no facilitation for input, which proved to be a great failure of the system.
4. Insufficient dialoGUe: During the entire first week of the summit, the party members were “reading prepared statements at each other,” which Grace believes could have been done remotely prior to the summit. Grace never saw “organic interactions between two party members” – the important negotiations were conducted behind closed doors, and the media was later notified. Therefore, there was little room for negotiation and public involvement. Dawn was at the summit during the second week of negotiations, and she noted that NGOs were “entirely shut out starting Wednesday [of that week].” Though the U.S. attempted to be transparent during the first week, no NGOs were present during the crucial talks the second week. This was frustrating, especially since many of the NGOs were working with smaller, less powerful states.
Regarding the future, Grace believes the current schedule of an annual climate change summit doesn’t encourage any real action: “It’s frustrating that a few days into COP15, they were already talking about COP16.” Though the summit’s structure didn’t allow much interaction to occur, Dawn thinks the “huge amount of activism and activity of groups gives hope for action outside of the international policy arena.”