Craziness in Copenhagen

By Gareth Renowden 18/12/2009

coplogoOur second guest blog from a member of the NZ Youth Delegation comes from Louis Chambers — a 20-year-old student studying in Otago. He grew up on a farm in Hawke’s Bay, where he developed a passion about the outdoors. With the rest of the twelve young New Zealanders in Copenhagen, he’s doing his best to ensure that the youth perspective is heard at this critical time.

It is impossible to capture the diversity of the Copenhagen negotiations in one article. There is a city packed full of climate change seminars, events and displays. There are hundreds of businesses, NGO’s and universities offering regular talks and lectures. Even if you make it to the negotiations, they are so formal and detached that the human lives behind climate change are forgotten. The challenge is to stay focussed in the face of masses of information, numerous distractions and a negotiating process which reduces a critical moral issue down to numbers and data.

The first thing to realise is that the term ’Copenhagen negotiations’ is misleading. There is so much more going on other than just negotiations. For example, there have been incredible speeches from the likes of Desmond Tutu and Bill McKibben (the founder of 350). Unfortunately I did not see either of these speakers: I was too busy at the host of other events available. There are events looking at climate change in almost every context, from human rights to business, local government to youth.

If these events and speakers do not capture your imagination, then the negotiations themselves should. The negotiations bring together 192 countries from every corner of the world. When I first sat in the ’plenary session’, the sheer number of countries blew my mind. The discussions took me on a tour of the globe as my geography was tested by the numerous countries awaiting their turn to speak.

However, in the excitement of the negotiations, I realised that what is important is to keep focussed on the reality of climate change. That reality is that behind all awe and the fun, all the men in suits, there are human lives being negotiated. As the International Youth Climate Movement often says: ’Survival is not negotiable’. This realisation symbolises a process which occurs here. We are blown away by the information, the glamour and the opportunity. Yet in the same instant we realise that the magnitude of the challenge faced is incredible.

People power can still drive political change here in Copenhagen
The difficulty I have had in these negotiations is that Governments themselves lose this perspective. They become lost in all the numbers and the data. They also become lost in the world of politics. As different countries try to ’win’ the political game, they forget why we are all here.

Why are we all here? As young people, we have been able to remind Governments that we are here to negotiate our future. Behind all the numbers and all the politics is a stark choice. If we cannot keep global warming below 2 degrees, we are effectively choosing to erase any hope of a safe, not to say prosperous, future.

Of course, even simple goals like keeping warming below 2 degrees are not easy. In order to reach this goal, you do need the economic models and the complex data. You do need politicians who can negotiate.

The problem is that so far in these negotiations politicians seem to have become so immersed in how to reach the goal that they have forgotten why the goal itself is so important. As the New Zealand Youth Delegation, we have been working hard to keep the importance of the goal fresh in their minds. As we run out of time to reach an agreement, you can do this too.

Send a love letter to John Key at We are currently delivering letters from this site in person to John Key. Or join 12.5 million other people from around the world in calling for a fair, ambitious and binding agreement here in Copenhagen — click here.

After all, we are the ones who give leaders the power to lead. Currently, the draft text is confused and complicated. It is no surprise given the complexity of issues here in Copenhagen. However, Kyoto was negotiated at the last minute. With over 110 leaders here in Copenhagen now, we certainly have enough political will to produce the result the world wants and which our future generations need.