Monday, December 14, 2009

The Copenhagen Paradox

45.000 people (according to new information) from around the world gather these days in Copenhagen in order to fight climate change. Politicians, researchers, specialists, lobbyists, realists and idealists. While the conference centre got more and more crowded during this second week, the discrepancy between message and reality increasingly imposed itself to the attentive observer. We denounce global warming, CO2 emissions, energy waste, deforestation and unsustainable development - and every group prints its denunciations on paper just as are being printed the hundreds of pages of draft texts, participants lists, daily programmes, and all kinds of information materials. From a total of 900 organizations present at COP15, probably about 400 - mostly NGOs - have their stands in the big conference hall where they promote their vision, work and projects - through tons of paper material and take-away gifts with logos. A big amount of the material lands in the garbage bins, once the participants who have served themselves so generously realize that they took more pamphlets, booklets and papers than they can actually carry and than they would ever be able to read. Garbage bins in the area are overloaded with paper.
While walking through the Conference centre during this week, I was shocked by the mess I saw. Formerly empty tables were flooded with all kinds of papers and booklets. Papers laying on the ground in every corner, around every table, occupying chairs and sitting areas, oozing out of the delegations' pigeon holes.
In the meantime outside the conference center, during the entire conference, an activist group has been distributing huge paper bags displaying the message to "Become a vegan" and containing a book with the promising title "The birds in my life". A book hilariously ridiculous, but not funny enough to be taken home. Therefore, exemplars of this masterpiece could soon be found all over the conference centre next to garbage bins (people didn't actually dare to throw a hard cover book into the garbage), on tables, on the ground...
The reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) is expected to become the big, special and maybe the only outcome of this Conference. All the more it seems to me paradoxical and incompatible with these efforts that resources - and especially forest resources - are being wasted in such an unconscious and irresponsible way. Information material beyond any interest and importance, books below any level of intelligence...
I would wish for many changes in future COPs, from organizational matters such as restricting registration for everybody since the beginning (e.g. NGOs no more than 10 participants each, countries no more than 100 delegates each,...) to environmental issues such as a strong encouragement to publish all issues online and produce less paper material, and to limit the distribution of campaigning articles.

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