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Copenhagen Closeups: The Crowd Grows, Hope Dims, A Nation Fights for LifePrint

Clean Energy | December 14, 2009 | By Brian Beauchamp

Maldivian President Mohammed Nasheed is fighting for his country's survival.

It’s week two of the climate talks here at the COP 15 and the intensity is on the rise.  This morning the entrance into the Bella Center was closed off due to massive crowding and overflowing lines. Metro authorities estimated that an additional 7,000 people showed up to the conference center today in addition to the 15,000 who arrived last week.

As a result of the unprecedented numbers rumors are now circulating that access into the complex where negotiations are taking place will be increasingly limited from here on.

Not only are numbers on the rise, but so are the stakes.  Heads of state begin to arrive this week for the final round of talks, which will most certainly increase security and further restrict access.

Today, US Energy Secretary Steven Chu is in the house as is, former Vice President Al Gore.  Both are making presentations and speeches as part of the US efforts to explain to the rest of the world where our commitment falls on solving global warming and paying for the climate debt we hold as the world largest carbon offender.

While access inside the center is limited, news coming from inside is not very encouraging.  Engineers from MIT in Cambridge, Mass. have been crunching the numbers that are currently under consideration in the negotiations that seem to be on the verge of a breakdown.  Even if the talks do proceed after today, the CO2 in the atmosphere in 50 years would be at 770 ppm, over double what the science tells us we need to get back down to-350!

So, as it gets harder and harder to get into the Bella Center, many activists, civil society members, NGO’s, and conference goers are taking to the KlimaForum, an on-going event across town that is running parallel to the official talks.  It’s a meeting place, a sharing venue, and a venue of hope given the likely failure of world leaders to reach a fair, binding, and ambitious goal inside negotiations.

Today’s big ticket item at the Climate Forum was a powerful presentation to a packed house by 350.org leader Bill McKibben,  and President Mohammed Nasheed from the Maldives.  The two spoke to the audience of hundreds of people of all ages and walks of life of the importance of these talks  and the importance of continuing to work together on a climate solution.

The Maldives is a small island nation south of Sri Lanka on the Indian Ocean that sits only a few feet above sea level.  As the oceans rise as a result of climate change  the entire nation is threatened to be completely wiped out in the next fifty years.  As a result, the nation’s President Nasheed is doing everything he can to impact the final agreement and has teamed up with 350.org as part of his mission.

Their message was clear-the science of climate change must be reflected in any agreement to come out of negotiations while countries are together this week.  A treaty that does not get us to 350 ppm C02 is not good enough.

McKibben began with an update from the Bella Center.  “It’s basically chaos over there.  President Nasheed and others are doing everything they can to make sure that 350 stays in the text of the final agreement.  It fell out of the shared vision of the core text over the weekend and it’s back in now thanks to some very hard work.”

“There is not a debate in science in the Bella Center.  There is politics as usual and the US and other countries are imposing their political strength on the rest of the world.  The real debate is between human beings and physics and chemistry.  There cannot be any negotiation in this process-this is not politics as usual.”

We have got to take the world that is based on a fossil fuel economy and transform it to a renewable energy economy.  We need to put on a warlike mentality.”

Mohammed Nasheed, who entered later in the presentation had the crowd on it’s feet chanting 3-5-0, 3-5-0!

Nasheed, a growing hero among global warming activists addressed the spellbound crowd,  “Against many odds I am the first democratically elected president in my country’s history after having spent over five years as a political prisoner of our former dictatorship.  We are here in Copenhagen to save our planet from the invisible enemy that is climate change.  Just as there are those who doubted my country’s ability to form a democracy, there are doubters who think we cannot solve this global problem.  Well, we refuse to give up hope and we refuse to be quite.  I have only three words to say to the doubters and deniers:  Three Five Oh!”

“Three-fifty will save the coral reefs, keep the arctic frozen, and ensure that our country survives.  My country’s leaders are fighting to keep 350 in the negotiating text.  They need all the help they can get.  Please keep supporting them.  This is a growing block of nations and they need your help and support.  The power of peaceful protest has a winning history-continue the  protests despite the odds and together we will reach that crucial number 350!”

It is looking like the rest of this week there might be more hopeful news coming from the KlimaForuma and other venues around town where people are engaged, working together, and fully supportive of solving the climate crisis, unlike inside of the negotiations, where rifts are forming, countries in the G77 are threatening walk outs, and there seems to be very little progress towards reaching a binding agreement before time runs out at the end of this week.