Greenpeace Southeast Asia

Copenhagen Diary 10 |Leadership Crisis : neither “Seal the Deal” nor “Bend the Trend” by Chuck Baclagon
December 22, 2009, 2:34 am
Filed under: Stop climate change, Thailand | Tags: , , ,

It was super cold on Friday late evening. After the “climate shame” photo shoot I left Oksnehallen Hall in Copenhagen’s Vesterbro district – the alternative venue given to NGOs, civil society and observers by the Danish Foreign Minister in response to the restricted access at the Bella Center. It’s equipped with television links to the Bella Center until the end of COP15.

Walking from Oksnehallen Hall to city hall square (Radhuspladsen) to the end of Kongens Nytorv shopping street – quite a long walk – I was stopping at “100 places to remember before they disappear” – an outdoor photo exhibition hosted by CO+Life and Care Denmark showing 100 places on earth that are in danger of disappearing within the next few generation due to climatic changes and other human influences on the environment.

The backdrop to the photo exhibition was a large billboard on the building of the European Environmental Agency that read “Bend the Trend !”.

The graph on the billboard showed the Copenhagen Climate Summit as a moment in  history. It showed an increase in Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) and average global temperatures from 1970 to 2050. In the middle was marked “COP15 today” then an upward arrow, the result of “Doing Nothing More” which will bring us to climate change havoc and a downward arrow of “Acting Ambitiously Together” that will keep far below 2 degree – the safe level scientists say will prevent dangerous climate change.

I understood why it’s called “Bend the Trend” and was not so sure the outcome from the last day of negotiations will achieve this. I recalled the latest update e-mail from Greenpeace International Political team;

“…The Copenhagen Climate Summit has been on the calendar for two years. That the leaders of the rich world have turned up here with empty rhetoric and even emptier pockets beggars belief. This is particularly reprehensible given the pledges made by developing countries to curb their emissions. There are only a couple of hours left to put this right.
It is not FAIR to expect poor countries to shoulder the burdens created and ignored by the industrialized world.

It is not AMBITIOUS if rich countries refuse to make the deep cuts that science and historical responsibility demands.

It is not LEGALLY BINDING if the final agreement consists of hopes, dreams and wishes rather than commitments under international law.

Time is almost up. Will this day be remembered as the day the rich world took a giant step towards averting climate chaos, or will it go down in history as the day the death warrants of millions were signed…”
At the outdoor photo exhibition I saw a very famous floating market. Yes, Bangkok where I live is one out of a hundred places to remember before they disappear !!! – the photo title read “the Sinking City of Angles”. The photo was not actually of Bangkok, rather either “Samut Sakhon” or “Samut Songkram” – provinces close to Bangkok.

The photo caption read ;

“Home to hundreds of Buddhist temples and tiny canals, a multitude of street vendors, thousands of skyscrapers, an elevated urban sky train and a brand new airport, Bangkok is a tropical metropolis where the traditional East meets the modernity of the West…..”

“…Located in one of Asia’s “mega deltas” and only two meters above sea level, Bangkok is massively exposed to flooding, especially during the monsoon season. This is compounded by the fact that the city is sinking due to the soft soils, heavy urbanization and excessive pumping out of groundwater. Some estimates suggest that the whole city is subsiding by as much as 5 cm a year…”

“All these conditions make the Thai capital particularly vulnerable to climate change and rising sea levels. Any increase in extreme storm surges would erode the coastal area and cause severe flooding. Salt water intrusion could also seriously affect supplied of drinking water…”

“Unless urgent steps are taken, large part of Bangkok could be under water before the end of century” ended the caption.

I was totally freezing. I repeatedly asked myself “how can I make a difference here”. What comes out from the negotiations in the Bella Center is expected to be really disappointing. This is also what I felt in my heart. What I got from Copenhagen is a a feeling of anger. Yes, I was proud of being part of historic global day of climate action. But at this point it might not be enough to “Bend the Trend” or “Seal the Deal”. I was sort of agreeing with Maldives’s President who said “You cannot negotiate with mother nature”. I strongly believe that when we are at the frontier of environmental destruction or in the frontline of climate crisis, we as human beings can turn it into an opportunity.

I have committed myself to take more positive action back at home in Thailand, not only with Greenpeace to which my activist heart belongs, but also as an ordinary citizen, father of two children and a husband. It is where “climate action, solutions and justice” begins.

Tara Buakamsri

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