Good COP, Bad COP

COP 15 Wrap Up: A Mirror of Exclusion
by -- December 19th, 2009

The jury is still out whether the 193 nations gathered together for the COP 15 summit have achieved an agreement that will bind longer than the waiting lines this week outside the Bella Center.

The poor execution of the UN Climate Summit mirrored the exclusionary political processes that have typified the global climate discussion thus far: massive coordination and collective action problems resulting in the unjustifiable exclusion of a vast population affected by climate change and essential to the implementation of a viable solution.

Some 40,000 people registered for COP 15–many of which were NGOs and observer organizations with valuable contributions to make to the evolving negotiations; as representatives of civil society, these organizations, as much or if not more than State representatives, can articulate the perspective of the otherwise voiceless–those who will be most impacted by climate change yet the least able to respond.

Whether this exclusion was intentional or simply poor planning (officially registering 40,000 people for a venue that can hold only 15,000 at capacity), dramatic miscalculations like this result in not only a vast waste of private and public resources (imagine the CO2 emissions from all those flights) but also a wasted opportunity to invest the diverse constituencies impacted by climate change in the generation of its solution.

Top down, one-size fits all solutions implemented by States without consultation with community level institutions most familiar with local contexts and populations represent recipes for failure. Rather than fixating only on the potential outcomes of an agreement if everyone does what they have committed to (which may still not be enough), Nations should be paying closer attention to the political process by which commitments and outcomes are supposed to be achieved. If COP 15 has been typified by “exclusion” and the same top-down processes of old, how can the communities of the world have faith in the credibility of their government’s commitments and “their” best solutions to climate change adaptation and mitigation.

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