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The Student News Site of Principia College

The Pilot

The Student News Site of Principia College

The Pilot

COP15: The World’s Last Chance?

There have been few events in recent years with such critical importance to the planet’s future as last month’s United Nations Copenhagen Climate Change Summit in Denmark.

The world paid attention to this decision, noting how it would affect the future in combating the definite threat of climate change.

The summit was surrounded by numerous world players announcing their positions, approaches, and goals. The result of the conference was an agreement that to some was not acceptable but to others signaled a start in the right direction. President Barack Obama claimed that this summit was “a first step” to tackle climate change.

Danish national Bente Morse, Principia’s International Student Coordinator, was in Copenhagen for the whole summit.  She explained that Denmark had been preparing for this event over the last two years and that it was “a great privilege” for them to be hosts. This preparation was very apparent as she arrived at the Copenhagen International Airport, where there were signs related to climate awareness. For instance, “one minute of wind power operates an airport escalator for two hours.”

Discussing the conference itself, Morse sided with the developing countries that had been ignored, according to some.  In her view, it is the “developed countries who should be paying the bill.” Many protestors shared this argument outside the conference center in Copenhagen. Morse was unable to join them but said she felt a great affiliation with them.

It is important to point out that some protesting turned violent, culminating with stones being thrown at arriving delegates, and a few protestors storming into the center attacking guards, according to the British Telegraph. Morse said she did not agree with this behavior since it tarnished the attempts to peacefully demonstrate, which is what the majority of protestors were doing.

According to some delegates, there was great dissatisfaction with the result of this conference. Ian Fry, a negotiator for the Pacific Island Tuvalu, stated that people had attempted to pay him off, but that, as he put it, “our future” (meaning the Tuvalus’ future) is “not for sale.” Morse said she was not aware of any similar deals being made from the outside. It was a common feeling held by delegates from developing nations that they were secondary to developed countries like the US, the UK, and France.

Ed Miliband, the British secretary of climate change, stated that “some wanted [the] summit to fail.” Morse said she believes that this was evident from the uncooperative stance that the Chinese delegation took, and that they were “relatively restrictive” on progress.

Standing outside the political arena of the conference, I asked Morse her opinion on the consequences of this summit for the wider world and for Principia.

For the world, she implied that the summit should be restructured and reorganized by the UN. She said that there needs to be a stronger UN push to turn countries into groups for such events. This would ensure that common views had a voice united against other sets of common views.

For Principia, Morse said that the summit increased our awareness of such issues, and said that we “can certainly do better” as a campus and ask people to better protect the environment.

Morse was keen to stress that she believed that this sort of meeting was, in her mind, “80% political.” An article in the British newspaper, The Guardian, agreed that China “wrecked the Copenhagen deal” by portioning the political blame from themselves to the West by not cooperating in the talks.

The December summit was an opportunity to take action against the growing threat of climate change. Unfortunately, many argue that not enough action was taken. President Barack Obama’s final comment on the summit was that there is “much further to go,” a view with which Morse and many others would agree.

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