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Copenhagen — One Very Long Day

I spent most of the past 230 hours in Copenhagen, as part of the Sierra Club delegation to the COP15 — the United Nations Climate Change Conference. This adds up to 10 days, but in practice, it was more like one very long day with intermittent naps. And I probably got more sleep than many.  

Sierra Club Delegates to COP15

Officially, there were 49 of us, including 18 members of the Sierra Student Coalition. Additional Sierra Club leaders attended who were credentialed through other organizations. (We have lots of information about the process for selecting delegates and the corresponding responsibilities before, during, and after attendance at COP15 available on Clubhouse.)

Daily Briefings

There was too much going on to stay away from the Bella Center, the conference site on the edge of Copenhagen, longer than needed to recharge. For the Club delegation, a typical day consisted of several briefings from Climate Action Network-International, USCAN (the U.S. block of CAN), and the Sierra Club. The student arm had additional briefings for youth. CAN is a global network of over 450 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including the Sierra Club, from more than 80 countries working to promote government and individual action to limit human-induced climate change to ecologically sustainable levels. Every other evening Jonathan Pershing, the U.S. State Department Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change, gave a briefing for U.S. NGOs.  Kudos to Sierra Club D.C. staff, who received a shout out at the first of these briefings.   

The purpose of the briefings ranged from sharing updates on the "state of play" to strategizing how and when to influence the next steps of the informal negotiations process. Information sharing occured all day (and night) long via email.  At 11 p.m. one evening I gave up waiting for one working group to convene (and learned that it had finally reconvened at 4:45 the following morning!). You may have heard the talks at COP15 characterized as a roller coaster and, indeed, the situation often went from better to worse and back again several times throughout the day.


Here's Fred Heutte (right), illustrious head of the Club delegation, with Frank Lorberbaum from the Missouri Chapter.

Here are delegates multi-tasking — certainly they’re all listening to Fred, too! — during one of our daily briefings.

Working Groups, Educational Sessions, and Creative Messaging

Throughout the day there were multiple programs running in parallel at the conference center — working groups focused on specific issues, educational sessions, information booths, side events and exhibits, and any number of ways to get your message out.


Glen Besa (Virginia Chapter Director), Polar Bear, and Joan Saxe (Maine Chapter).

Time to pay the bill!

Impromptu Meetings

Anywhere you could assemble could be a meeting place. A queue (and there were a lot of them) was a really good excuse to talk with your neighbors and find out what brought them to COP15.


...on the floor between booths

...atop a bench in the main hallway.

100,000 Participate in Climate Rally and March on Dec 12

Joan Saxe surrounded by  Friends of the Earth international delegates.

2009.12.12-March copy
The march ended with a candle light vigil at the Bella Center.

Anxiously Waiting

Worldwide interest in COP15 led to accreditation of supposedly 45,000 delegates. Logistics for managing this crowd became overwhelmed and led to limited access (for NGOs beginning on Dec 15 the Bella Center has a maximum capacity for 15,000). The Club delegation had to coordinate shared access, which worked fine on the 15th.  On the 16th, this fell apart when demonstrations inside and outside the Bella Center resulted in further restricted access. Maybe it was just as well that I headed home on the 16th, but it was also hard to leave the team.  

Like so many others, I am anxiously awaiting the outcome of these last couple days of negotiations. You can follow some of this on live webcast


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David Scott

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