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ELAW Partners from Kenya, Maurice Odhiambo Makoloo and Benson Ochieng, are in Copenhagen working to ensure that any agreement that is put forth at the COP15 meeting protects the interests of their country and all of Africa.  They were interviewed about the African walkout on Kenyan television.  (click on the screen to watch.)

Makoloo wrote about his experiences:

“Copenhagen generally is quite cold but the negotiations inside the Bella Centre are quite heated and hot.  Just a little update.  After the two texts had been produced the African Group argued that they would tactfully accept the two documents as being part of the working documents for the negotiations.  They soon thereafter equally submitted a document containing the African Group’s position on the issues.  Additionally they called a press conference at which they expressed their concerns at the level of lack of transparency in the process and called for a lot more good faith.  It was however, evident that given the previous leaked Danish document and now coupled with these developments, the African Group had formed the view that their partners from the developed countries were up to no good.  Their position resonated with the G77 Group and China.  It is fair to say that since then there has been a lot of mistrust among the delegates.”

President Obama is scheduled to speak in Copenhagen on Friday.  Everybody is hoping that the delegates can create a document worth all the time and effort that have gone into these talks.

Rachel Kastenberg (left), John Bonine and Svitlana Kravchenko

ELAW Director John Bonine and ELAW Partner Svitlana Kravchenko have been in Copenhagen all week.  They filed a news report/analysis with the Eugene Weekly talking about their experiences there so far.

They write: “Lawyers from the Eugene-based Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide, of which we are also members, are pursuing just such goals. ELAW lawyers from Australia, Bangladesh, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Sri Lanka, Ukraine and the U.K., as well as the U.S. and others, are here trying to make a difference. Our task is to do what we can to nudge the climate change agreement toward what future generations really need.

Following these negotiations, lawyers in the ELAW network will play key roles back in their home countries, ensuring that governments follow up on their Copenhagen commitments.”

Here’s hoping that there is something worthwhile for the ELAW partners – and all others – to follow up on!

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

"Even environmentalists are messy -- and Big Mac is everywhere."

Svitlana and I are in Copenhagen for the climate change negotiations.

We almost did not get into opening session, however.

Governmental delegates had gone in through one door, while non-governmental delegates were routed to another, where we stood in a long line.  When we got to the head of that line, we learned that our NGO credentials were not enough for entrance to the plenary session.

Only those who also had a special yellow tag, issued to some NGO focal points, could enter.  How to solve that?

It happened that we ran into Hemantha Withenage, our good friend (and ELAW Partner) from Sri Lanka.  Then Hemantha disappeared, as we tried to figure out a strategy to use.  In ten minutes Hemantha came back, now wearing a yellow tag and smiling as he held one out to us.  We decided that Svitlana should enter, leaving her laptop behind.  I stuffed her cellphone hidden into her pocket.  Some guards were prohibiting laptops and cell phones, but I wanted to be able to find her later.

I stayed close to the door, holding our two briefcases and looking for another miracle like Hemantha’s.

After some time, the guards decided that the remaining NGO seats should be filled, and so they let a dozen of us standing nearby enter.  Since the guard said nothing about cell phones and laptops, I just innocently carried them all in.

John Bonine, ELAW Board of Directors

John & Svitlana at the entrance of the conference

A number of ELAW partners, including Svitlana Kravchenko and ELAW Board member John Bonine, (photo at left) are joining tens of thousands of activists and government officials in Copenhagen this week as the United Nations Climate Change Conference opens in Denmark.

ELAW Partner Hermantha Withanage of Sri Lanka is blogging from Copenhagen.  His most recent post notes:  “According to the sources, there are more than 30,000 people have got the registration to this land mark conference. Outside the Bella Centre, civil society coming from over 200 countries have also gathered to witness this global deal. They too organise “klimaforum” and bring the voices of the civil society to shape the deal.”

Participants in the Bella Center watched this short film in which a six-year-old girl begs the delegates to “please help the world.”

We will add more information as we hear from ELAW partners “on the ground” in Denmark!

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