Story

William Wheeler and Anna-Katarina Gravgaard Produce Videos at COP15 for Time.com

Fasting for Climate Change
William Wheeler: Producer/Editor
Anna-Katarina Gravgaard: Producer/Videographer

Behind the Last Minute Climate Deal in Copenhagen
Anna-Katarina Gravgaard: Producer/Camera/Editor
William Wheeler: Producer/Editor


This story was reported for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting as part of the Copenhagen News Collaborative, a cooperative project of several independent news organizations. Check out the feed here from Mother Jones.

Transcript 

Fasting for Food

Anna Keenan, activist with Climate Justice: The climate justice fast started as an idea in about March or April this year. Paul Conner, who is an Australian, who I've never actually met, sent an email out on the Australian climate change email list saying, "I'm really alarmed about the lack of action we're seeing from our governments and I think we really need to do something serious about it. I think that activism as usual isn't working, in the sense that business as usual isn't working. And, therefore I want to go on a hunger strike. Anyone interested contact me".

And it's about taking activism from the sort of head, intellectual debate level to the heart level and the emotional level. And, I think that's what has been missing in activism for last few years. Like, politics has heard all of those reasons, all over again. You know, the mainstream media and the mainstream public have heard these reasons over and over again. And they're sick of hearing the same stuff.

Basically, it's summarized in the phrase, 'climate justice'. And this means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. It means a lot to me; it's a very important phrase. I actually have it tattooed on the back of my neck. You know, we're not going to see that signed into some kind of agreement that all leaders are going to agree to. " I agree to end fossil fuels, deforestation and over-consumption". That's what actually needs to happen. What I would like to see leaders sign on to and agree here at Copenhagen, is to agree to return to 350 parts per million. That's the scientific limit in the atmosphere that says if we're above that, we're unsafe, if we're below that, we are safe. I'd like to see them commit to adequate finance. I mean, we don't know exactly what the figure is, but it's somewhere between 200 billion and 400 billion dollars per year being paid to developing countries.

All ready we've had, like, well over a thousand people fasting with us for at least a day. Um, some people fasted for up to two weeks in solidarity with the long-term fasters, but also in solidarity with all the people all around the world who are suffering the effects of climate change; that's really what our fast is about. We're challenging people's perceptions about what is normal and okay. And that's why we're here at Copenhagen. This is the best opportunity we've ever had to get that decision made, to get what is morally right to happen.

Behind the Last Minute Deal in Copenhagen

Bryan Walsh, TIME Staff Writer: So, this morning around 11 o' clock, Copenhagen time, the head of the NFCC banged the gavel, and effectively closed the deal at Copenhagen on climate change. This was the result of frantic last minute negotiations, led by President Obama from the United States, with Premier Wen Jiabao from China, from heads of Brazil, India and South Africa. Coming together, in one room together, to bang out a compromise, accord on climate change, that hopefully, at the very least, represents the first step to a more legally binding treaty that will actually begin to cut carbon emissions.

Saturday, halfway through the summit, you saw a large-scale protest march being done through Copenhagen; that was fairly peaceful. [It was] really meant to show that there is a large civil society, international, represented from around the world that had come here to say that they care about climate change, and they wanted a strong ambitious deal.

And then you had some more pressure—on Wednesday you had what was a more forceful protest that was met by the police with a lot of force, riot gear, tear gas, truncheons, and hundreds of people [were] arrested.

The U.S. was very certain that, if it wanted China part of a deal, which they did, they wanted to be sure that there could be some international monitoring of whatever China chose to do on climate change. Most likely increasing energy efficiency, trying to reduce carbon based on top of their overall economy growing. China was very much against this. They saw this a matter of national serenity, they didn't want to accept any international monitoring. And, it seemed they were perfectly willing to let the deal fall altogether, rather than let that happen.

And that's the stage when President Obama arrived on Friday, along with Premier Wen Jiabao from China. And, he gave a speech, President Obama did, that was fairly stern, coming from him. He was—I don't know if he was jet lagged, or whether he was very tired—but he seemed very unhappy. He seemed like a college professor whose students have blown the deadline on a term paper. Because negotiators have been spending two weeks. They were supposed to create a text that would effectively allow world leaders to come together, sign it, shake hands, take a photo, go home, and instead they actually had to do work. And what we saw was perhaps, an almost unprecedented amount of direct negotiation between the leaders of the most powerful nations on the planet, all in the same room.

To have a hundred and twelve, a hundred and twenty world leaders all in the same room—by some accounts, it may have been the biggest gathering in recent memory outside the U.N. general assembly every year. They were actually negotiating real issues. Usually when it comes to climate change, effectively what you have is a lot of talk about how important this problem is, a lot of intention to this or to do that. But really, very little is at stake for the major countries. No one's actually talking about binding carbon targets. No one's talking about large amounts of aid. This is not the case. And in many ways, that explains why these negotiations were so contentious. This is how diplomacy works; when things are at stake.

This was, as President Obama himself was very clear about, he said, look I understand that this deal did not have what everyone wants. This deal is not everything that I think even I would want, but it is a first step, a platform from which we can build. And I think that's true. That said, it's going to take a lot of work to fill in the details, and even to get a very basic, very broad, completely unbinding, does not even contain emissions targets for political commitment could prove to be an incredibly difficult act for diplomats. So I could only imagine how hard COP 16 held next year in Mexico City will be. I think book your plane tickets, book your hotels now, because we're going to be there a long time.