Five Days in Copenhagen: Perspectives on Demography and Climate Change

Kasey Rae Jacobs

As pressure to address climate change increases, long-simmering debates on the connections between population and environment have been renewed, debates that implicate women's rights. Kasey Rae Jacobs offers her perspective on her first 5 days in Copenhagen.

As pressure to address climate change increases, long-simmering debates
on the connections between population and environment have been
renewed.  Because population policies historically often have
undermined women’s rights, these issues remain both sensitive and
contentious.  Rewire welcomes open debate on these
issues and encourages both comments on this and other articles as well
as submissions from other authors.

blog is written by Kacey Rae Jacobs – in Copenhagen reporting for the Center
for Environment and Population (CEP) www.cepnet.org
– with CEP staff, on how population factors are being addressed, or not, at the
Copenhagen Climate talks. She is attending the COP 15 as part of a delegation
from Yale University.

Monday, December 15,
Report from Kasey: “This morning I attended the “Climate
and Demography”
breakfast roundtable organized by the UN Foundation on
behalf of CEP. The event was held at the historic and famous Hotel D’Angleterre
in Kongens Nytorv square, Copenhagen. The goal of the invite-only roundtable
was to release a new report by the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA State of the World Population 2009:
Facing a changing world: women, population and climate
. Lead author and
keynote speaker, Robert Engelman of Worldwatch Institute was the main
event.  Other notable guests and
speakers include Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the IPCC; Dr. Gro
HarlemBrundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and Special Envoy on Climate
Change for the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; Mary Robinson, former
President of Ireland; Sir David King, former advisor to Tony Blair and now at
Oxford; and Dianne Dillon-Ridgley, Director at Interface, Inc., noted
environmentalist and human rights activist. In addition to an overview of the
report by the host, UN Foundation President Timothy Wirth, a great discussion
was initiated through the speakers’ improvised speeches and subsequent

Dr. Pachauri discussed the recent University of East Anglia
climate research email leaks and assured everyone that none of the papers mentioned
in the emails were excluded from the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report despite
rumors. He then quickly moved on to the importance of the report and Robert
Engelman’s work. In particular he discussed the need to raise up developing
country peoples through education. He stressed that if we fail to do that the
population will bulge to a level that the ecological footprint outstrips the
ability of systems to deal with pressure of large magnitude. When discussing
human ecological footprints and consumption he countered former President
Bush’s notorious quote that “the American Lifestyle is not negotiable” by
saying, “why not?”  pointing out
that many people around the world want to emulate our lifestyle and therefore
the system cannot sustain the population. He stressed that when discussing
these issues there is a whole range of social and economic indicators and
without looking at realities would point us to a technological fix and “it’s
anything but that.”

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Robert Engelman started his relaxed keynote speech with
responses to Dr. Patchauri’s talk. He started off strong with a statement that
the developed world will realize, while kicking and screaming, that the
atmospheric commons is a right for all people. Climate change is a fundamental
human problem that was caused by human activities and impacts real people.
Because much of the report focuses on the role of women in communities, his
message was that perhaps we should not be looking at population at all but
rather we should look at the lives of women. Women are half of the world’s
population and therefore we have 1.5 billion agents of change for global
warming. Many women are the most vulnerable to climate hazards and already
feeling the changes causes by global warming because their life expectancy
during a natural disaster is less than a man, they are less flexible and less
mobile socially, and they receive less information than men.  Women are also caretakers and  “[they] have to hold many hands where
men often don’t have to hold any hands at all.” At the same time women are the
ones who can build the resilience of communities to climate change best. Women
plant trees, women cultivate soils. Engelman joked that “27 U.S. Senators
should go tell women in these communities that the leaked emails [from the
University of East Anglia] prove climate change is not happening. I think they
would see it in a very different way.”

Lorena Aguilar, global senior gender advisor to
the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN),
took the
floor and appropriately mentioned that “population is almost an invisible topic
in the climate change debate.” She mentioned that she liked the report
specifically because it does not come from the usual suspects, like women’s
organizations, but rather from a man, Robert Engelman. Lorena focused on the
negotiations and the fact that during the Bonn Climate Talks, the
intercessional meetings in Germany that laid the framework for the talks in
Bangkok and Barcelona, there were 39 references to gender and population issues
in the draft text. After all the intercessional meetings and the opening
plenaries last week there is now zero in the draft “shared vision” text. An
interesting point made was the UNFCCC Secretariat, by international law, is
supposed to recognize the UN mandate for gender equality through the Commission
on the Status of Women but that it is not in the text currently. Something to
look for as this week of high-level negotiations start next tomorrow.

An interesting anecdote on the topic of women and climate
change was brought to the group by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland.
Ms. Robinson met a woman in flood-prone Malawi that mentioned other women in
her community are selling themselves because the floods impact their way of
life and ability to make an income. This woman however cannot do the same to
survive because she is HIV positive. A striking example of how women are
feeling the deep effects of climate change already and these impacts are
projected to only worsen.

The last two speakers were Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland and Sir
David King. Brundtland brought attention to the need to invest in people, in
health and in education. Apparently 37 of the 41 NAPAs (National Adaptation
Programmes of Action) cannot be implemented because of lack of funding, a
reminder of Saturday’s SBI Plenary Session I attended in which Lesotho
requested $2 billion for the Least Developed Country Fund specifically for
implementation of these NAPAs. Sir David King compared Britain and female
fecundity rate trends throughout history to those of South America and China to
draw attention to the fact that these experiences can inform present situations
and that the developing world is not that different from the developed world.

Today’s morning event was a nice reprieve from the Bella
Center but soon after leaving I received an onslaught of emails about the
UNFCCC Secretariat severely restricting access to civil society for Thursday
and Friday this week due to the new number of 110 Heads of State attending the
negotiations this week. The information I received from my Yale delegation is
that the Convention Center was “shutting down” and one thousand people were
waiting outside seeking access, some waiting up to ten hours. Supposedly some
of the plenary sessions were postponed today creating confusion about how
progress could be made with so many interruptions. Mid-way through the day the
COP15 President announced that all plenary sessions will be closed for the rest
of the week and can only be viewed by Civil Society via screens throughout the
conference center.

These security interruptions and constant changing of
logistics for the negotiations is making me wonder how the negotiators could
possibly focus in on the task at hand. That is achieving a new global agreement
that will reduce the magnitude and impacts of global climate change, a goal
that I think the secretariat might be forgetting as more and more attention is
put towards the big names and not the substance of the negotiations. I obtained
a new draft text of the LCA and once again population and gender are still not
included.  Are the issues of
vulnerable populations like women too controversial for the negotiators who are
totally surrounded by uncertainty, both in terms of climate change and in terms
of what the procedure is for them to come to an agreement, or are they just not
able to concentrate due to the brewing chaos? Time is running out, as can be
seen by the UNFCCC stop watch being stuck at zero since the first day of the
conference last week, and I am unclear as to whether having 110 heads of state
in the room will make any difference.

I will make my way back into the Convention Center and if I am not granted
access will report on the status of the negotiations as they come through from
my delegation members inside. Things have been chaotic being the head of the 60
member Yale delegation during all this chaos of protests, heightened security,
rising attendance numbers, and major procedural changes but if I retained any
information this morning from the release of the UNFPA report it is that women
may be more resilient and adaptable than men so I think things are looking
better already for tomorrow and I am confident we will still be able to track
the negotiations closely despite these disruptions and report back to you.
Hopefully more to come…

Saturday-Sunday, December 12-13, 2009:
Kasey reports: “There are
four distinct groups trying to influence talks here in Copenhagen: heads of
state, NGO observers, street protestors, and the “most vulnerable
populations” to climate change – all connected somehow to this tiny city
of Copenhagen for very big reasons.

This weekend heads of state from the delegations start
descending in Copenhagen, and their staff are in a mad frenzy to figure out the
logistics for their arrival and finish their work so the negotiations can be
productive and efficient this week. Amidst the frenzy there was excitement in
the air with the first of the new delegates arriving. Personally I am excited
that the President of the Maldives will be arriving tomorrow.

This morning an announcement was made that we had to limit
the number of people who can be observers. For Yale (and my CEP reporting) that
means we are going down from a delegation of ~60 to a delegation of 22 per day.
We will be assigning days and times to these passes so we can rotate them
amongst us. Last week facilities were overwhelmed with long lines, so this week
I am sure would have been a nightmare if they did not cap the amount of
observers allowed access. Inconvenient and disappointing for those attending
but completely understandable. The UNFCCC website shows that they have
suspended the press accreditation process indefinitely while weeks before they
were saying press accreditation could be done up until the last day of the

On the streets demonstrators literally inundated the city.
Protestor estimates range from 30,000 to 100,000. Overall I have heard that the
4 mile climate change march was peaceful and sought to bring about positive
change, but slight blemishes have been the attention of media and conversations
in the halls. Hundreds of protestors were arrested for throwing bricks and
using flammable materials supposedly setting a few cars on fire. Throughout the
conference center the monitors that usually show the daily schedule were
showing the marchers as they made their way to the center. Beautiful aerial
shots of the island were shown and occasionally up-close footage of the wave of
activists coming to bring their message and their energy to the stale
negotiations. Was their message heard? I think so. A friend simply stated,
“I’ve never been in a building before that was surrounded”. I sincerely hope
that feeling of being surrounded while the whole world is watching remains
radiating through the halls and especially in the plenary session rooms when
the heads of state begin the real negotiations on Monday.

On population: In the
texts being debated this week “vulnerable populations” (such as small
island states, low-lying countries, LDCs, women and children) seemed to be
caught in the middle. The Chair’s negotiating text so far is lacking in the
reference to these vulnerable populations specifically, or listing them out
(which gives them more weight), as was done in the AOSIS text. The AWG LCA text
does include women and youth as a placeholder under the capacity building
section, and the enhanced action on adaptation emphasizes “that adaptation is
an additional burden on developing countries, and that those particularly
vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change [and the impact of the
implementation of response measures] will suffer disproportionately and bear
unavoidable loss and damage]” (bracketed text means those words are points of
contention). Many here would argue that this text is not enough and in later
text brackets show that some populations are fighting for their lives to stay
in the text. The placement of brackets show that some negotiators (identities
unknown) do not agree that small island developing states should be listed with
the least developed countries as vulnerable. A simple deletion would mean less
access to global funds, less access to adaptation assistance, and therefore
perhaps a less chance of survival.

Today was exciting and things are only just getting started.
I will spend all of tonight and into tomorrow going through the most current
text in detail and trying to get a grasp of  how population is being treated, what parts are being
threatened and what parts still will be added. The plenary sessions next week
will be intense and the first real insight into what the final text will look
like. More to come…

December 11, 2009:
 Kacey reports: “I acquired the new
negotiating text proposal by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) titled
Proposal by the Alliance of Small Island
States (AOSIS) for the Survival of the Kyoto Protocol and a Copenhagen Protocol
to Enhance the Implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change
. Big news today – an impromptu press conference was held by
the AOSIS Chair, Prime Minister of Grenada, Madam Dessima Williams. She had a
large circle of reporters and observers surrounding her anxious to hear about
the text since a copy was not released until the evening. As I received an
advanced copy I was able to skim over the text so far and some interesting
points included, in addition to Mitigation, Adaptation, Finance, and Technology
Transfer, “Capacity Building” is added to the priorities. Additionally a new
term is used throughout the text – “Particularly Vulnerable Developing Countries”
–  that “refers to least developed
countries, small island developing states and countries in Africa affected by
drought, desertification and floods.”

In the past during informal talks there has
been debate about whether or not when mentioning “vulnerable” countries it
should be scaled down to the population level and specifically mention the
types of vulnerable populations. The AOSIS proposal only mentions vulnerable
developing countries.

For mitigation the text, if left as proposed,
would commit developed countries to a collective reduction of emissions to “at
least 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, while actions by developing
countries should in aggregate aim to achieve significant deviations from
baselines by 2020…” The beginning of the text also clearly spells out a
long-term global goal for emission reductions. “The Parties shall be guided by
a shared vision to limit global average temperatures to well below 1.5 degrees
Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to long term stabilization of
greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere well below 350 parts per
million of carbon dioxide equivalent in order to prevent additional dangerous
anthropogenic interference with the climate system. To this end, the Parties
agree that global emissions should peak by no later than 2015 and will need to
be reduced by at least 85 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.”

Relevance to Population?
Quite surprising, the word “population” still does not appear in the text at
all, but because of the many linkages inherent to the issue of global warming
the issues of adaptation, mitigation, and capacity-building, are directly
related to global and country-specific population. As populations grow or
urbanization and migration arises to a greater extent in hazard-prone areas the
necessity for adaptation is exacerbated. Because global fossil fuel emissions
desperately need to be reduced, actions that are taken need to take into
account future population and development. Capacity-building is needed for
local and national-level staff to institutionalize the mitigation and
adaptation strategies of the Convention and Protocol. Large vulnerable
populations can easily overwhelm government staff if they are not given proper
capacity-building assistance. To deal with these issues proper funding is
required and numbers are not being thrown around publicly just yet by most
developed countries (the European Union being an exception). Most notably is
the lack of funding amounts from the United States of America.

A more formal press conference on the new
text was organized by 350.org, AOSIS, and Avaaz at 4:30 (see picture below).
This press conference was open to civil society and therefore a sea of youth
carrying signs that read “350” and “We Stand with AOSIS” inundated the press briefing
room. In closing, Ambassador Antonio Lima of Cape Verde, Vice-President of
AOSIS, stated in response to a financing question, “Is it possible to finance
this? I think it is possible. But we have to have political will. If we don’t
have political will we can’t do nothing. This political will is building
amongst those who are going to help us.”

We will find out by December 18 if this
political will builds enough for the vulnerable countries to get the assistance
they need in terms of mitigation actions and adaptation support. If predictions
and statements by Parties are correct we will have to wait until December 2010
in Mexico City. But I am not giving up hope just yet. Perhaps financial
assistance will at least be worked out so these countries can start more
rigorous adaptation measures. The next week will be gut-wrenching for all here,
especially the small island states, to see how this new text and the others due
to come out shortly will be combined, deleted, pulled, twisted, shredded,
watered down and eventually made into international law that will govern
current and future populations around the world.

to come…

Population side events: Two
population-related side events are coming up next week – first, on Monday,
December 14, is a United Nations Foundation event, “Climate and Demography”, to
discuss the new report from the United Nations
Population Fund (UNFPA), The State of
World Population 2009: Facing a changing world: women, population and climate which
looks at the connections among population dynamics, reproductive health,
women’s lives, and climate change as they relate to greenhouse gas emissions
and societies’ resilience to climate impacts. Robert Engelman, Worldwatch
Institute’s Vice President for Programs and lead author of the report, will
present its key findings, with discussion to follow. Then on Friday
December 18, International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) will hold a
side event on how “efforts to strengthen coping capacity and resilience of
most vulnerable populations are likely to be impacted by rapid population
growth and other population dynamics. Can we reduce vulnerability and support
adaptation by making comprehensive contraceptive services available to all who
want them?” The event will feature Dr. Kelly
Culwell, IPPF Sr.
Advisor, Dr. Zhao Balge, Chair of the International Council on Management of
Population, Negash Teklu, Ethiopia Consortium for the Integration of
Population, Health and the Environment, and, Robert Engelman (as above).

December 9, 2009:
  From Copenhagen Kasey reports: “Some
of the Yale group are attending Copenhagen in the capacity of official
delegates for small island developing states such as the Maldives and Grenada
since they have just one or two negotiators (whereas the US has scores of
representatives). Others are conducting research for countries or NGOs from
outside the official negotiation team, or here for their academic research.
Over the next two weeks my “CEP” blogs will provide live updates on
the COP 15 negotiations with respect to “population
and climate change”
: how/if it is being addressed, what is/isn’t being
said, who the major players are; what the major issues will/should be.

In the COP 15 plenary session Monday the main
“youth” speaker pointed out powerfully that since she was born in
1992, countries have been negotiating this treaty for her entire life. Being
present during the next two weeks will be both unbearable and exhilarating as
the world’s leaders decide our collective future on climate change.

During the opening session, to my knowledge,
population was not mentioned at all. Considering it is such a well documented,
central driver of climate change which plays out differently in each country,
this is an interesting gap.

It is being addressed, however, in the
current negotiating text, which was developed from intercessional climate
negotiations since COP14 last December in Poland.  It is covered in relation to vulnerable populations,
adaptation, or the displacement and relocation of vulnerable populations. For
example, the negotiating text, in part, centers on the implementation of
adaptation to climate change, saying (paraphrase) “the adverse effects of
climate change will be felt most acutely in vulnerable/developing countries,
particularly in low-lying and other small island countries, countries with
low-lying coastal, arid and semi-arid areas or areas liable to floods, drought
and desertification, and developing countries with fragile mountainous ecosystems,
and by those segments of the population that are already in vulnerable
situations, owing to factors such as geography, poverty, gender, age,
indigenous or minority status and disability”.

New text is expected on this soon from
Denmark, the European Union, and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS)
(which includes some non-islands like Belize but overall is comprised of
islands in the Atlantic/Caribbean and the Pacific) which represent some of the most
acutely climate change-affected populations on earth.  Have to run to go
to an “Adaptation” event…more later”. JRJ for CEP

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