Hopenhagen in Le Bourget

1 February 2016

By Adrian Yeo

Not too long ago, there was a COP labeled as the most important juncture in climate negotiations. It was a culmination of a few years of intense negotiations which will craft our way forward post-2015. It had to be a success to save the climate. That year was 2009 at COP15 in Bella Centre, in the city of Copenhagen, Denmark. We all know what happened then.

Six years on, I arrived in Le Bourget, Paris, for the recent COP21. It felt so strangely familiar. Headlines around the world ringing a similar tune. The excitement in the air was equally apparent. However, it was also very different in many ways.

Instead of people reading climate change stories for the very first time like they were in 2015, climate change is already a subject much spoken about in the media. In the run up to COP21, many analytical papers, documentaries and even a Grist video have been produced in relation to climate change. Back in the days of Copenhagen, the media and the public were still grappling on how to explain the complexity of climate change, let alone the COP process.

With much secrecy and almost no figures and plans on the table prior to COP15, parties came in with armour and shields, ready for a long, arduous debate. However at COP21, countries had to submit INDCs ahead of time so pledges and plans were shared way ahead. Parties were better informed, especially the developing countries, on the commitment and ‘game plans’ of developed countries. Thus the feeling of hope and confidence in the success of COP21 was felt strongly since Day 1.

Everyone was smiling and at ease, even with the extended State of Emergency after the tragedy that rocked Paris just weeks before. It must have been something in the water at the venue.

“It is a changed world in 2015”, many were quoted as saying in the meeting rooms. Many developing countries showed leadership and invested massively in a low or zero emissions future. We saw China and India being the largest consumers of solar and wind energy. Our friends from the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) even set up their own trust fund to assist each other. With such commitment and pressure, the actors from developed countries will be put to shame if nothing good comes out of the implementation of COP21.

The Paris Agreement brought the real meaning in Hopenhagen, a tagline used back in the Scandinavian country. Delegates went home with a clear target and timeline. Something all of us can work with.


Image credit: Joachim Ladefoged

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