Questions from Copenhagen

On Wednesday evening we met a large group of what the British Council is calling ‘climate change champions’. They’re from all over the world and are sleeping a series of large rooms in a college in central Copenhagen. Below are some issues they suggested that we talk about. In the spirit of the summit, we agreed these wouldn’t be binging until we’d run them by everyone on the blog, but it’s a really useful start…

1. Is democracy getting in the way of responding to climate change?
Can leaders worried about the next election take long-term decisions? Is China an example of how a strong leadership group unconcerned by voters can take strong decisive decisions?

2. Does the market hold the key to stopping climate change?
Some argued yes, more argued on the contrary the market needs to have its role in our economies scaled back if we’re to be able to respond properly.

3. Are we too selfish (as individuals and / or countries) to find a communal solution?

4. What should the world do with its fossil fuel resources?
Should we stop taking any oil or coal out of the ground? Might sound radical but several of the group supported this.

5. Must we accept that some people must fall into poverty for us to respond to climate change?
The measures suggested by some may lead to a rise in the cost of living which in turn will push some below the poverty line. If that’s the short-term cost, is it worth it if the long-term benefit is that our natural world can continue to function as it is?

6. Has the negotitiation process fundamentally failed?
COP15 has been in the diary for 2 years and yet with two ays to go a deal of any sort looks a way off. The gorup were frustrated with how these two weeks have gone. Doese the way these deals are cut need to change?

Plenty to get your teeth into. Thanks for the BC CC Champs (that’s as catchy as I could make it) for their ideas. they’ll make up a whopping audience of 900 later on.


The BBC Trust, BBC World News and the British Council all of whom have doen a great deal to make this show happen.

26 Responses to “Questions from Copenhagen”

  1. December 17, 2009 at 12:18

    Just like over 2000 years ago Jesus was sacrificed to save the world according to christians,i think it’s another time for the same to happen.This time however, we need someone who will save us not from sins but from drought and other problems associated with climate change.We need leaders who are ready to sacrifice their political ambitions for the sake of our future generations and i think that is what sustainable development is all about.The greatest gift that we poor nations need from our bigger brothers this christmas is a practicable resolution on how they will help us counter this menace.

  2. 2 vijay pillai
    December 17, 2009 at 12:32

    They all look like champions and all questions are very relevant and it really goes on im my mind all the time but dont put it into writing.For instance will the chinese reduce use of coal? will the money hungry oil owners reduce the price of oil and reduce the extraction of oil and there is no doubt many in the west will be pushed below poverty not just in developing nations after climate deal and there is no doubt there is uncertainity of how political deal can actually translate into reality of more tax and less income in the west.Hope they can be leaders of sustainable development in the future.

  3. 3 Mike Faulkner
    December 17, 2009 at 13:15

    Regarding vested interests represented by politicians looking at their next re-election bid and corporations concerned about returns to investors, I believe a third group is the age of the decision-makers: old men and women are too timorous to take on these momentous decisions. Worse still, leaving it for the next generation leaves it far too late. (I am 63 years old, by the way.)

    • 4 Gary Paudler
      December 17, 2009 at 16:31

      Excellent point Mike! There’s just not much personal at stake for us old guys and politicians are used to compromise and have an instinctive attraction to incrementalism that can be fatal.

  4. 6 Jeremy
    December 17, 2009 at 14:45

    I hope that the UN Climate Change Convention falls flat on its duff!

    Governments love unseen enemies; Terrorism and Climate Change are perfect issues for them to use against the peoples that they govern.

    There are far greater issues at hand than just Carbon Dioxide. How about taking the $10 Billion or whatever that has been pledged by these misguided fools in Denmark, and actually use it to feed the hungry instead?

    The whole thing stinks of hypocrasy and extremism!

    • 7 zizi
      December 17, 2009 at 15:20

      In full agreement. The United Nations is a farce, our governments are useless and the scientists are full of wishy-washy mumbo-jumbo. All they want to do is over-exaggerate everything so that they can get more of the taxpayers money to fund their own individual pockets, i.e. pensions, etc., etc. If we think they are working for the planet and the peoples of this world we are living in a fools dream!!!!! By the way we are currently in a financial crisis but the people in government and the United Nations are quite happily using our tax money to babble their nonsense but where are all the activists and demonstrators getting their money from to pollute Copenhagen????

  5. 8 T
    December 17, 2009 at 15:25

    What’s getting in the way of solving climate change? Global greed. It’s the old thing of a group saying we need change. But then nobody’s willing to go first. Even though you know it’s the right thing to do.

    And yes, not even the star power of Obama can save this conference.

  6. 9 rob z.
    December 17, 2009 at 16:00

    Here’s my opion:
    1-Democracy getting in the way? Yes.
    2-Does the market hold the key to fixing the mess? Partly.
    3-Are we too selfish as individuals&countries? Yes.
    4-What should we do with fossil fuel? Manage the resource better.
    5-Must we accept that some must fall to poverty? No.
    6-Has the negotitation failed? Partly,refer to question 3.
    Rob in florida.

  7. 10 Linda from Italy
    December 17, 2009 at 17:15

    I was going to hold back on this one, to hear what the “climate champions” had to say first, as I’m sure they’ll have a lot, also want to see if they are less sensitive to national issues and have a broader, more global vision and a greater sense of planetary solidarity.
    I think the questions are excellent, particularly 1, 2 and 5, while maybe it’s still too early to discuss 6.
    The democracy question could be seen as an explanation of why Obama won’t be able to wave any magic wands, as he is already in a fight to the death over health reform and, if this blog is anything to go by, the US seems to have a disproportionately large number of MMCC deniers. On the other hand would anyone of us living in mature democracies really want to live under a Chinese-style regime? Chinese industrialisation has forged ahead with a complete disregard for the environment, the pollution that has caused and the harm it has and still is doing to so many Chinese people, not to mention the number of workers killed and injured in industrial accidents and the fact that there is no state health care. They can only do this because of the lack of democracy (just like the UK in the 18th/19th century) so that does not auger well when it comes hoping that such a system will care tuppence about the rest of the planet.

  8. December 17, 2009 at 17:21

    I really do not like the sound of question 1.
    It’s not the first time that I have heard that democracy is a stumbling block.Let us be wary of that extremely dangerous suggestion.
    Question 3. Is a yes.
    Question 5. There will always be poverty somewhere.Regardless of warming,or no warming.
    Question 6. Mutual mistrust and suspicion will take care of that one.
    Question 4. We should keep our fossil fuels.Because when the ice comes back,as it will,some day.Then our scientists can tell us to light as many fires as we can.To increase co2 and therby warm us up again.Sorry to be so pessimistic but that is the way I see us.

  9. 12 Albertine
    December 17, 2009 at 17:28

    Is democracy getting in the way?

    Democracy is being blocked here. If all voices were heard in these proceedings, and if all voices were counted in a fair way, there would be resolution. That is the problem, they are being stonewalled by powerful countries who block democracy.

    The US failure to respond is NOT because of democracy slowing things down. It is because of corporate control over our government that blocks legislation on climate change and alternative energy because those corporates stand to lose out in that change. The corporations also control the media here, and so the information that gets out to voters is distorted.

    This is all enabled by 1970s campaign finance legislation and Supreme Court ruling Buckley vs Valeo which was specifically designed to enable corporates to block democratic change, since democratic change brought Clean Air and Clean Water acts in the 1970s that cost them a lot of money. Democratic change also shut down the Vietnam War which was a big no no for the military industrial corporate elite. That really clipped their wings. They took care of that, which is what we see today.

  10. 13 Linda from Italy
    December 17, 2009 at 17:52

    I think Qs 1 and 2 are linked, as most democratic political systems go hand in hand with free market capitalism, although not vice versa, with varying degrees of this, as in the difference between, for example the US and the Scandinavian countries.
    I think there is an argument for skewing the market through tax/subsidy systems, e.g. send the cost of petrol/diesel through the roof with heavy taxation, but then invest that extra tax revenue in decent public transport systems, so people just have to get out of those private cars, but in rural, sparsely populated areas where this is not always feasible, subsidies could be paid to local residents who HAVE to have their own transport.
    This could also extend to energy companies, giving huge tax breaks to encourage weaning off fossil fuels, profits from which would be taxed to the hilt, and onto clean energy sources so, given the inability of most companies to see anything but the bottom line, this would focus their minds most effectively.

    December 17, 2009 at 18:29

    The world is preocupied right now with:
    My sampling; home and away tells me that climate change is not an important subject to majority of ordinary people, governments, most businesses etc. Those who feel for climate like you and me are in the minorities. The rest have other priorities although they want to masquerade with this topic for the sake of postarity. It has proved time and again that the campaigners cannot be allowed to win or even given strong backing because – “that will cost extra”. You will get very few people that do not opt for ALTERNATIVES instead of REPAIRs. I hold my breath knowing that tommorow is the next time for more alternatives – such as football in South Africa or when Tiger has something new to say – people want to know all that – I am tired. Good luck to all the hopefuls.

  12. 15 Kenneth Ingle
    December 17, 2009 at 18:31

    The only result from this meeting, as always, will be that more European taxpayers money is given to corrupt foreign governments. Our politicians in the EU do not understand that friends cannot be bought and that few long term credits will ever be repaid. When will they learn that their first duty is to look after European interests. Every motorist knows – before trying to help others it is important to ensure ones’ own safety.

  13. 16 Tom D Ford
    December 17, 2009 at 19:16

    “4. What should the world do with its fossil fuel resources?”

    Stop burning it!

    It can still be used as feedstock for making products, just as it is now.

  14. 17 Tom D Ford
    December 17, 2009 at 19:20

    “5. Must we accept that some people must fall into poverty for us to respond to climate change?”


    There is an article in the November 2009 Scientific American magazine that details how to do it, “A path To Sustainable Energy by 2030”. We can do it with 100% Wind, Water, and Solar and eliminate all fossil fuels. I highly recommend reading this article, the authors address these kinds of questions.

  15. 18 Tom D Ford
    December 17, 2009 at 19:30

    “2. Does the market hold the key to stopping climate change?”

    A well Managed and Regulated Market can be part of the answer, we just have to get rid of the idea of the “Free Market” which caused the current problems, even Alan Greenspan has admitted that the belief in the “Free Market” was wrong, as it caused the current world recession.

    But we need scientists and engineers to help design a new logical and rational economic model that is sustainable and not dangerous to life on our little blue marble of a planet.

    The “Free Market” has been like an out of control Malignant Cancer on our world body politic and we need to stop it in its’ tracks and excise it.

  16. 19 Tom D Ford
    December 17, 2009 at 19:33

    “1. Is democracy getting in the way of responding to climate change?”

    No, democracy is not the problem, the problem is the entrenched Fossil Fuels industries that are working so hard to obstruct progress in responding to Climate Change. They don’t want to change.

  17. 20 Tom D Ford
    December 17, 2009 at 19:41

    “3. Are we too selfish (as individuals and / or countries) to find a communal solution?”


    Labeling all humans as too greedy is just a libel and slander in my opinion.

    I have found that when it is needed, humans can work together to get things done.

    Just look at how the Allies mobilized in WW2 to defeat the German form of Conservatism, the Liberal governments of the world united and stopped Fascism in its tracks and then rebuilt their nations in a way that all benefited.

    Lets get the Deniers out of the way and get to work fixing the problems.

    “United we stand, divided we fall”, is a great quote from our 1776 US Revolution, that is very appropriate now.

  18. 21 Tom from Cleveland Ohio
    December 17, 2009 at 19:50

    If anyone’s solution degrades the standard of living in the US, they need toiwake up. Greed and democracy has made the US great. We need to use greed by encouraging those companies who take the risk in developing new technology the ability to make billions if they do a good job. Any socialist solution will just breed corruptioon without solutions.

  19. 22 Tom D Ford
    December 17, 2009 at 19:50


    “The BBC Trust, BBC World News and the British Council all of whom have doen a great deal to make this show happen.”

    And thanks to BBC “Swirled Have Your Say”, the WHYS guys.

  20. 23 Tom D Ford
    December 17, 2009 at 19:58

    Did not the great Yoda say:

    “There is no hope, there is only do or not do”?

    Let’s do!

  21. 24 T
    December 18, 2009 at 03:04

    Not surprisingly, there’s a last minute rush to save face at this conference. Obama is coming. And to some there’s more than one meaning in that. But that’s for another post.

    Will there be a final meaningful agreement? No. Basically a communique that says we will get around to it eventually. I’ll be pleasantly shocked frankly if an actual agreement is done.

  22. 25 scmehta
    December 18, 2009 at 07:57

    *Only ill-governed democracies would get in the way of responding to the issue of the climate change.
    *The market factor is not more important than the health of our earth and us all.
    *Yes the whole world is selfish by nature; but, we just cannot afford to be so in face of a common global danger/calamity.
    *Slow but definite transition from the fossil-fuel to the clean energy is of paramount importance.
    *The adversely affected poor peoples/nations being, because of the sacrifices required to redress/rectify the climate change, would need to be compensated by the developed countries (the commitment is already in the offing).
    *The negotiations at the Copenhagen Summit have fundamentally, but partially, succeeded; the most heartening thing is that all the 196 countries of our world are determined to put in their possible best to immediately start to act on the issue of climate-change/global warming.
    I, alongside the BBC, am very optimistic about the outcome of the Summit.

  23. December 19, 2009 at 05:39

    i do not agree that some economies shd be sacrificed at the expense of climate change and some nations should be made poorer,also fossil fuel shd not be stopped but at the same time alternative energy sources shd be discovered and usage shd begin immediately.

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