Demonstrators shouting "1.5"

“1.5!” “One point five!” The rhythm picked up.  The shouts got louder.

“Legally binding text!  Legally binding text!”

What?  These are not your grandfather’s demonstrators.  Instead of making general political statements, the protesters were chanting details of their demands for a climate change agreement.  This is clearly a sophisticated crowd.

As we tried to enter a meeting room where negotiations were proceeding here in the convention center in Copenhagen, the security guards refused us entrance.  “NGOs are not allowed for the moment,” said the guard.  “Why?” we asked. “Unauthorized demonstration,” the guard replied.

Then we ran into Hemantha Withenage from ELAW Sri Lanka, just emerging from the meeting.  He explained more. “People from Tuvalu launched an unauthorized demonstration at the entrance to the room,” he reported.  “So they shut down the entry.”  We walked with Hemantha toward the chants and shouts.  It was not the Tuvalu demonstration but another one – this one consisting of NGO delegates from Africa and the Middle East.  “But we support Tuvalu also,” a young woman from South Africa told one of us.

The delegation from Tuvalu’s government had made a dramatic demand of its own in the morning of this third day of negotiations.  They asked for a “contact group” to be set up, which would discuss the possibility of a new, legally binding protocol being drawn up, alongside the Kyoto Protocol.  Their request was blocked by China and India, as well as oil-rich Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.

Tuvalu has thus become a symbolic rallying point for some who fear that the Copenhagen meetings will end in a weak, political statement and little more.

At the same time, their request revealed divisions among the developing countries.  The caucuses calling themselves the Least Developed Countries (LDC) and the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) are supporting an open and transparent discussion, while some others are opposing that.  The United States stayed out of the fight.

What will actually happen is anyone’s guess.

To clarify — “one point five” refers to the number of degrees Celsius that the demonstrators want to use as a target for increased temperature from greenhouse gas emissions.  Most of the governments negotiating in Copenhagen are talking about 2 degrees, and not even managing to create a plan to achieve that.  Meanwhile, Tony Oposa, famed environmental lawyer (and ELAW partner) from the Philippines, told us tonight that he wants zero increases!

by ELAW Partners John Bonine and Svitlana Kravchenko