Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Morning After

(by Sara Wolcott)

The morning after COP 15 dawned a brilliant blue sky. Leonard and I have enjoyed a lazy morning talking with our hosts about their perceptions of Denmark and COP and China and globalization. These 'regular' danes (if our hosts, all of whom are young and well educated and compassionate and curious are 'regular') love to sit and talk over tea, glogg (mulled wine), beer, or whatever other beverage is appropriate, and that has been a real delight amidst what has, in many ways, been a confusing, frustrating, disappointing, but not-as-bad-as-it-could have been week with some extraordinary highlights.

A few notes for this morning: I will write more later.

Yesterday, the last day, when all the NGOs were locked out of the Bella Center, we spent the entire day in an extended meeting/worship/conversation with our fellow Quakers with QEW (with the exception of Rachel who was dealing with medical emergencies, negotiations, and other challenges that can come at the end of an event.) It was the first time we have gathered together as such a large group (an entire 6 people!) representing US, UK, and Asia Pacific/FWCC. We would frequently pause in our extended conversation about ourselves, quakerism, COP, our experiences here and what we hoped for the future with worship and prayers for the 'leaders' of the world, gathering and working and talking even as we were.

From that gathering, several things emerged.

1) We agreed it was important to have a stronger Quaker presence in the overall climate change process. We also agreed that one's first COP was very much a learning experience - trial by fire. Much needs to be done to make this better/more effective for future Quakers at COPs. We were in many ways the guinea pigs (though individual Quakers have been involved in COP since its inception, as a body we have no real knowledge). Much time was 'wasted' in getting lost. I take responsibility for much of that - I had contacts I did not use effectively.

2) I would like to see more young quakers involved - mostly because the youth activism here has been INSPIRING and AMAZING, and I feel is one of the best places I have seen for young people to learn and make a difference at an international level. Not to mention the networking opportunities.

3) It would be possible to set up an ongoing space for worship/prayer/mutual care at the COP, which didn't really happen this time around. Several church organizations I've met are willing to work with us on this. The next COP is in Mexico, and it would be good to start thinking about it now.

4) There was strong resonance at the importance/value of having a QUNO-type body at Bonn, the headquarters of UNFCCC. More on this later.

5) We Quakers are in many ways behind the curve on this climate change and the COP process (with the exception of many individual Quakers). Other faith groups are much more organized. That said, FWCC is about to launch a major international consultation looking at Climate Change. This is an excellent initiative. Julian reminded us that it took Quakers 80 years to abolish slavery - movements rarely happen quickly.

I went home relatively early, opting out of the Christmas carols sing along at one of the local churches, in favor of a quiet night in to nurse the cold I have managed to develop in recent days. There, I watched some Danish television, which is disturbingly similar to British and American television. (ie, we watched 'the Gladiator', which was somehow not as far-away as I had thought it would be). In between scenes of gladiators killing one another, we switched to Danish news - which focused on Obama's Air Force One taking off (at least an hour of prime time given to this clearly momentous event - I was shocked, and our host was disgusted and slightly embarassed). But we did get to listen to Obama's press statement.

My initial reaction: a mixture of hope and disappointment. Disappointment in that a legally binding treaty that forced the US to reduce emissions was not signed. However during my time here I never saw that as a real possibility. What I am grateful for is that they did not sign a bad deal. No deal is better than a bad deal. And while Obama side stepped many important factors (not least, US responsibility), he did emphasize that we can not negotiate with science, and that we need to pay careful attention to the 2 degrees of global warming. It was satisfying to know that so many global leaders spent what is for them a great deal of time discussing this issue - it is now clearly on the global agenda in a way it had not been before.

But the work has just begun, and none of us can escape the momentous tasks before us. For the first time in my lifetime, I feel some kind of global movement around climate is possible - and necessary. Civil society must work together very closely in the next few years - and that includes working with business. And while Climate Change is a relatively new force on the global agenda, what it requires is not new - peace, cooperation, building capacity for planning, good governance, greater democracy, human rights, public engagement with science and finance, education, enhancing economic well being and human dignity - all of these 'old' fights remain necessary and imperative. And that old commandment to love one another remains as prevalent and imperative as ever. Indeed, the question, what is it that love can do, rises to the fore again and again in these climate conversations.

1 comment:

  1. I want to remind Friends that a climate treaty was ratified by the US in 1992 concerning financial help to developing nations and emmission targets. Nothing has been done by any administration or the congress since that time. The past 8 years was spent with Bush denying that climate change exists and if it did, man had nothing to do with it. In my mind, the world, other than the nations thats being consumed by water feels the immediency of effectuating timely meaningful change in order impact climate change in a significant way. It is still about economic development and business as usual. As weather conditions and other climatic changes take place, I truly feel, it is going to take a crisis where most of the powers that be are affected in a significant way before the world, not just the US gets it.