Reflections on Copenhagen

Well in the late hours of last night the leaders finally came to an “agreement” that basically says a whole lot of nothing. It’s hard to come away from here thinking that the conference was anything other than a failure.

It was very striking to me when I spoke to people and they found out I was from Canada. In the past when I’ve traveled abroad I’ve never heard anything but good things when people find out I’m Canadian, here it was a mark of shame. All week I heard variations on the phrase, “why isn’t Canada doing anything to fix climate change, I though you guys cared?”. Over and over I had to explain that most of us did care, but the problem was our Prime Minister didn’t.

Canada also received the title of Colossal Fossil for receiving the most fossil awards throughout the conference. Here’s a photo I took of the Fossil of the Day leaders board on my last day in the Bella Centre (Wednesday):

As far as the conference went, I have to leave disappointed in the UN’s organization and communication skills. The fact that they changed their minds on who would get in the Bella Centre for the last two important days on the Friday of the first week of the conference was ridiculous. If I (and many others) had known they were going to do that we would have arrived earlier and not even stayed for the last two days as we could have followed it just as well from home. The fact that the UN constantly talks about the importance of the involvement of civil society and then restricted access of NGOs as much as they possibly could was atrocious. There was a gentleman who worked for the UN staying at the same bed and breakfast as me and he couldn’t believe how they treated those of us from NGOs either. He told me how in the hall where the negotiations were taking place (that NGOs weren’t allowed into to observe) there was a table with a sign saying it was for NGOs with only two seats, and those were empty because we were bared from the room. It’s something I wish I had a photo of.

Finally, if you ever get the chance to visit the city of Copenhagen I recommend it. Besides being a beautiful city it has a public transit system you really have to experience to fully understand what we’re missing out on here in Canada. The metro runs 24-7, and even in the middle of the night I never waited more than 6 minutes for a train. Most buses run from 5am to 1am, though some on major routes run 24 hours, and their trains run from 5am to 3am. Also, over half the city uses bikes as their main mode of transportation, and there’s bike lanes on literally every road vs Toronto where people scream and cry when you even suggest adding bike lanes. It is certainly worth seeing as a model for some of the things we should be implementing if we really want to get serious about tackling climate change.