Dec 182009

Did the dam break? Between Japan’s announcement it was providing a new aid package for short term climate mitigation that, on paper, brings the total amount of commitments to $30 billion by 2012, and the U.S. announcement that it will work with other nations to provide 100 billion dollars annually by 2020 for climate change adaptation, developed nations and the UN were putting on a happier public on COP15 than they were 24 hours ago. Negotiations are expected to go all night, and nobody is thinking about leaving either the press room or the hall itself before negotiators finally stumble to the finish line with some sort of a deal.

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Dec 082009
The media hive inside Bella Center

The COP15 media hive inside Bella Center, Copenhagen (Setsuko Kamiya photo)

What a difference a dozen years makes. At the 1997 COP3 conference, which forged the Kyoto Protocol, the science behind global warming and climate change was generally accepted, but not universally believed. Today, those who still insist climate change is a myth or that human beings aren’t responsible for the rise in emissions are pretty much a minority worldwide, although in some countries, such as the U.S., they still enjoy a degree of political and media prominence not seen elsewhere.

In the intervening 12 years since Kyoto, an entire generation of environmental scientists, activists, politicians and bureaucrats who believe the science behind climate change, believe the earth to be in peril, and who deal with a host of green issues, ranging from drafting municipal recycling ordinances to securing funding for new green technologies, has come of age. In 1997, NGOs at the Kyoto International Conference Center in Takaragaike were often older activists who remembered the first Earth Day in 1970. They had a good understanding of the dangers to the environment. But it was rare to find one who also had a good knowledge of finance, economics, or international politics. Nor were they often seen as media savvy by my colleagues in the press room and I remember commiserating with them about how too many NGOs failed to understand basic journalistic realities like deadlines, the importance of being succinct on camera, and of being able to answer questions in a clear, concise manner that did not involve the use of charts, graphs, and (in one case I witnessed at the Kyoto conference) a set of differential calculus equations.

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