Behind the scenes in Copenhagen: Oxfam’s view

By Gareth Renowden 13/12/2009

This is another guest blog, this time from Oxfam NZ’s executive director Barry Coates in Copenhagen who gives us an insight to what’s going on behind the scenes at this huge conference. Regular updates from Barry are posted at Oxfam’s web site and also at Pacific Scoop.

Day 5: Friday 11th December

It is 1 am (again!) and exhaustion is setting in. The last two days have been extremely volatile. After the morning coordination meetings with Oxfam colleagues and the New Zealand delegation, I gave a presentation at a panel on migration and climate change at the Klimaforum venue in the centre of Copenhagen. It was good to see so many committed activists learning, networking and planning campaigns.

There were many people on the panel, including Tim Jones from the World Development Movement (the organisation in the UK that I used to head) and friend Kumi Naidoo formerly of Civicus and the Global Campaign Against Poverty. I talked about the perspectives of many of our Pacific partners and allies who are reluctant to discuss migration because it implies acceptance of the injustice of climate change. It is wrenching that people have to leave their homes, their livelihoods, their land and their culture. We must challenge the assumption that emissions cannot be slashed. Migration must not be seen to be a feasible option that takes the pressure off the rich nations to step up to the challenges of stabilising greenhouse gas emissions at safe levels.

Later in the afternoon I visited with another old friend, Danny Nelson, now with the OneClimate channel. I did an interview with him on the state of the negotiations, then several other journalist briefings and interviews.

The main story today was that the chairs of the negotiating groups prepared drafts of the outcome, far shorter than the huge documents they have been painstakingly working through. This is a welcome process, even if the draft on the negotiating track ‘Long term Cooperative Action’ is painfully vague and empty of content. It is hugely disappointing that two years of negotiations have yielded so little in terms of an outcome. My role was to work through the details of each of the documents, preparing briefing notes for government officials and lobbyists.

And, although it sounds a really policy-wonk-thing to say, I had the pleasure of analysing the draft prepared by the group of small island states (AOSIS). They have continued to be courageous in standing up for their principles in negotiations, despite pressure from the rich nations and large developing countries. In doing so, they have received huge support from NGOs and activists around the world. Their draft for a final agreement is along the lines we have been calling for — fair, ambitious and binding. Perhaps there is yet hope for a strong outcome from this frustrating process. Power to the Pacific!!