Monday, November 30, 2009

Day 3 – More Workshops, Visiting the Guldberg School, and New Insights

Becca just wrote about the experience we had on Day Two with our interest and working groups, and we moved on to new group workshops about mitigation today. They’re generally great ways to learn a little bit about specific issues (I was at the Production/Consumption working group) and brainstorm any solutions we might have. Tomorrow, we’re going to exhibit what we came up with in the Main Hall so all the delegates can learn what we did as we check out what they’re doing. These working groups tend to be more informative, whereas the interest groups (COP Declaration, Climate Ambassador Programs, Communications, Political Advocacy, Culture, etc.) tend teach real-life, applicable skills.

*A sidenote: Check out “The Story of Stuff” on YouTube for an overview of what we talked about in the P+C group. []*

After a delicious, locally-grown lunch, we headed off in continental groups to Danish schools. Along with Haiti, Bolivia, Brazil, and Canada, we formed the Americas group and visited the Guldberg School. As it turned out, we ended up meeting with fifteen or so selected students from about five different schools in the area who were in the same climate-focused class. Together, we enjoyed cultural presentations from Denmark and the six visiting countries. Did you know that Denmark has more pigs than people? That Bolivia has three climatic zones? That mangoes are the only crop Haiti exports? That the Brazilians had a recycled-materials fashion show? That Canada had a massive ice storm in 1998? It was definitely an informative and very fun session.

After that, we split up to cook dinner or play a version of dodgeball with the Danish kids. It turned out we had a Mexican dinner! At first, we were wondering why we were supposed to cut vegetables to put in a pancake, but realized later that it was actually a tortilla J. It was great seeing everybody trading off the dreaded onion duty, convincing Pulkit that guys could cook too, and talking to the Bolivian delegation about their cultural foods.

We’ll be visiting Guldberg again tomorrow—details to come!


Cool Climate in Copenhagen

Copenhagen puts up a Christmas tree every year in front of city hall, much like cities back home. This year, however, the city wanted to support what’s going on at COP15 and celebrate the greenness of the city by having local politicians use pedal power to provide energy for the lights on the massive tree. As these distinguished officials jumped on bright orange bikes and people inexplicably dressed in panda outfits danced around them, we all crowded downstairs and into windows to see the lighting of the tree. In an explosion of lights and cheers, the square was illuminated by the tree and the rapid pedaling of the politicians. It served as a great close to Day Two at the CCF.

As you can see in the picture, there was a huge crowd. At the base of the tree, you may be able to make out the shape of a row of bicycles.

Interesting Thought from Day 2

In response to a comment that urban populations should reduce populations with something like a mandated one-child policy:

Luke from the UK pointed out that we work against climate change so that there will be a chance for human rights to be preserved and we must try to avoid diminishing certain rights in order to combat climate change.

What was great was that the original proposer of the idea recognized the importance of this statement and admitted that perhaps encouraging contraception would not be as extreme an idea.

The First Day at the Conference - From Becca

Hey All!

In the previous post, Olivia documented our harried arrival and first night, as well as the friendliness and hospitality not only of our roommates but of the other delegates. After some stilted attempts at familiarity, we eventually settled in to work.

After breakfast at 7:30 (!!!), we walked to the City Hall to begin our day. The previous night, the other delegations had split themselves among a variety Program Group “interest groups”. Each interest group focused on a different aspect climate change, including a Climate Ambassador Program group, a COP Message group, an Advocacy and Political Strategy group, an Urbanization group, and others. Since we weren’t assigned, we decided among ourselves who would attend which interest group. There was an immediate internal struggle to determine who would be a part of the COP Message group, the official drafting group for the resolution. Each interest group would report their findings and concerns to the drafting group, and the resolution would be additionally revised by the workshops in the afternoon. My inclination was not the drafting group, but the Advocacy and Political Strategy group.

During the meeting that morning, we first discussed general methods of persuasion, and how they could be utilized most effectively. We ended up with a rudimentary list of essential approaches, including, but not limited to, relating the argument to the opposition in a personal way, utilizing all channels of information to surround the listener, organizing to work together, and the importance of choosing words carefully. This doesn’t seem like much of a result, but the means to the ends, the discussion involved, was really eye opening. Anand of India, Edsón of Bolivia, Toia of Switzerland, and Ragnar of Iceland all told of particularly moving narratives, ranging from the tangible effects of climate change in India (Anand) to Toia’s impassioned opposition of a new law that will appear on the Swiss ballot banning minarets in Switzerland. We then moved on to a demonstration that showcased interdependence, and we discussed further the role each country plays on the global scale and the influence each has over another. We finished up by summarizing the techniques that should be used in the resolution to effectively convey our concerns.

After the interest groups, we each chose a workshop to attend. I was intrigued by Climate Justice. At the workshop, we discussed the disparity between the major polluters and those who are affected most. Axam from the Maldives described how of the 1197 islands, only 200 are inhabited. Tsunamis, like the one in 2004, destroy the fresh water available to the sparse population, and these disasters are increasing in frequency and intensity as global warming affects the water levels and temperature. He explained how the max elevation was only around 1 meter, and how the islands can be rendered uninhabitable. We then split into smaller groups, where my group focused on refining the message about climate justice that would be included in the drafting group. After much debating over minutiae, we categorized our ideas into seven focus points: funding, cooperation, accountability, morality, optimization of energy, a multi-faceted approach, and individual action. Funding incorporated ideas such as a fund to help drastically affected nations recover and the contribution of developed nations both to retrofit their own systems and to help developing nations start off on the right foot towards a greener future. Cooperation, rather simplistically, emphasized the importance of climate change as a global issue and encouraged the collaboration and aid of countries around the world. Accountability established a consistent system for measuring carbon emissions and an enforceable timeline with plausible benchmarks. Morality referred to the idea that climate justice was an ethical issue for individuals, not just a business opportunity for governments. We spent a lot of time discussing optimization of energy, or how technology would have to be adapted to different regions based on their specific needs and resources. “A multi-faceted approach” was championed by Alex from Luxembourg, who emphasized that ending climate change could not be accomplished without helping the destitute escape poverty. Finally, and individual approach merely reiterated that an individual can in fact contribute to the ending of the disparity between developed and developing nations. This workshop was my favorite of the day.

During lunch I talked to Ragnar about the differences in public opinion regarding climate change in his home, Iceland, and in the US. We started talking about how Iceland has a fantastic source of geothermal energy, and how 70% of its total energy consumption comes from renewable sources, yet the public is generally apathetic. I thought this was really intriguing, considering Iceland will be one of the first countries affected by melting ice and rising sea levels. This is the opposite of the situation in the US, where more than half the country understands the dangers of climate change yet is unwilling to act.

During the afternoon, everyone gathered for  a discussion on communication between the delegates, which was hindered by rapid speaking (by those for whom English was their first language) and the delay caused by translations. The delegations from the Maldives, Andorra, Boliva, Brazil, and Haiti all brought along translators, though I was still impressed by EVERYONE’S command of the English language.

After dinner we were treated to a spectacular: outside city hall was a giant Christmas tree covered in lights. We were told to our great amusement that the lights would be powered by politicians riding stationary bikes (!!). Dancing around the tree were people dressed up as pandas with flames coming out of their heads (!!!!). The star on top was lit by Santa, who climbed a fire truck ladder and set off a firework display (intentional). Much to our relief, Santa returned unharmed, and the tree was really beautiful. We then renovated our depressingly empty exhibition board (save for a coming soon sign) and worked on the cultural presentation we would give to our host school the next day (the host schools were all Danish high schools chosen to show us around the city and present workshops during the week). After much frenzied cutting and taping, we headed back to the hostel and socialized for a while, which was great.

Congratulations, reaching the end of this post is a feat in and of itself! I’ll try to keep the others shorter, but I’m really excited about being here and I want to explain everything. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to post tomorrow too, but we’ll see. Stay tuned, and thanks!

Santa lighting the tree

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Intro to the CCF – Transit, Day 2, and the Sense of Camaraderie - From Olivia

Hi All!

We definitely had a long trip over to Copenhagen. It was already tough to coordinate the different flights from all over the U.S., but it turned out that we got delayed for a really long time in New York. Fortunately, we got off the ground after a seven-hour wait to head off to Copenhagen!

Our roommates, Cressi and Katie, are two amazing girls from the UK who were so friendly although we got to the hostel really late at night. Since some of us were missing luggage, they even volunteered some PJs and clothes along with providing us an overview of what we missed the first day. We weren’t able to attend the opening ceremonies and climate “marketplace,” but they definitely helped us out by describing the arrival of the countess (the patroness of UNICEF Denmark), the great cultural dance number, and the display boards of different countries. We were ready for the next day after that!

Copenhagen is a gorgeous city with amazing canals, buildings, and culture. The CCF is being held in the City Hall, which was described by one of our roommates as “sort of like a Victorian hospital.” Its high ceilings and intricate tiling gave us a sense of wonder and history even as the stately rooms we were working in gave our task more gravity.

Before the serious business, however, we had a great time playing what I’m going to call “World-Ball.” We arrived in the main exhibition hall, a little dazed and worried about our own naked exhibition board, to find a circle of delegates from Italy, Malawi, Indonesia, and elsewhere tossing/kicking/volleying around a humongous inflatable globe. We were invited to play and happily joined in. What really struck me was fact that we’d all applaud a particularly impressive kick or when someone saved the ball before it got precariously close to one of the vibrant display boards. I suppose you could say we tried to really ‘get on the ball’ and ‘rolled’ with it. Aside from the bad puns, the circle and friendliness of “World-Ball” was a great way to start the day.

We were then directed to interest groups and, after that, working groups, where the sense of openness and cooperation only grew. In my working group (Urbanization), there was a particularly touching moment when Jovita, of Hong Kong, started crying as we were discussing how to implement green spaces in urban areas. She felt a sense of desperation because Hong Kong was so urbanized that there was absolutely no room for green spaces—something the rest of us had never even considered. We tried to come together and develop alternatives that could be applied in Jovita’s community, including increasing potted plants and balcony gardens. I think the important takeaway message here is that we really needed to consider the differences inherent in the various countries of the world, no matter how small they may seem.

Throughout lunch and the plenary sessions of the afternoon, we were able to socialize with and meet many more delegates. I got to talk to Jesús, of Spain, about our shared love of Spanish food. With the group of Chinese delegates, I broke out my stilted Mandarin. Haitian delegate Coralie worked with Fergal, of Ireland, and me on finalizing our subsection of the Urbanization group’s presentation. There were so many amazing people that we met throughout the day and so many different countries represented! I’m so excited to go back tomorrow and meet even more.

Over lunch, I had an interesting conversation with Daniel of Denmark and Anand of India about the climate policies of our respective countries. We discussed President Obama’s promises and work as well as future directions of the U.S. I think this conversation really highlighted how respectful everyone has been at this conference. Despite differing views, we’re working towards a common goal while cooperating and seeing eye-to-eye after debating a variety of contentious issues.

The end of the day was a bit frantic, as we needed to set up the exhibition board and prepare for tomorrow’s cultural presentation. Luckily, we had the amazing Ragnar, from Iceland, who helped us out so, so much. As he pinned a picture to the very top of the exhibition board, we talked about the differences between Iceland and America as well as how the plights of other countries are so compelling and important to address. With his help, we finished the exhibition board and headed back to the hostel.

Day Two (AKA our first day) at the CCF was a whirlwind of different meetings and planning sessions, but in the midst of all that frantic working and debating, we found common ground with the other delegates. There’s a spirit of openness here that has helped me, for one, better appreciate different viewpoints and the need to consider everyone with regard to this global issue. Hopefully, we can maintain this sense of community not only here at the Forum, but when we return to our home countries.

Having another session of “World-Ball” tomorrow is definitely something I’m looking forward to. More soon!


Just a Note

From now on, we'll be posting individually to give a better description of what's going on at the CCF.

Friday, November 20, 2009

An Introduction

Hi Everyone!
Climate change is a global problem stemming from the past and present. However, it is most definitely going to impact the future—specifically the youth of today. That’s precisely why UNICEF’s Children’s Climate Forum, a precursor to the COP15 climate change conference, is being held.

We’re the four delegates representing the United States at the CCF, and we’re planning on blogging about our experience there as part of increasing the youth voice and presence in this all-important topic. Hailing from all around our nation, we are:

Pulkit Agrawal, from Miami, FL,
Becca Arbacher, from Silver Spring, MD,
Chloe Songer, from Menlo Park, CA, and
Olivia Zhu, from Saratoga, CA

Coached by Rachael Swanson from UNICEF, we’re all very excited and passionate about mitigating the effects of climate change while empowering our fellow youth. As we engage in discussions with youth from all over the world, please join us on our journey as we discuss our experiences from before, during, and after the CCF!

We’ll also have a few posts on the UNICEF website, Check us out there!

-The Environmental Eagles