Posted by Menas Kafatos
Attending the session of 5 total U.S. Governors, and Canada Premiers (Campbell, British Columbia; Charest, Quebec; Doyle, Wisconsin; Gregoire, Washington; and Selinger, Manitoba–Governor Schwarzenegger could not attend), was very informative and, once again, showed that real progress is occurring at the regional and local levels, perhaps outside of, or in spite of what national leaders are capable of, or are not capable of accomplishing. They all emphasized that they are not waiting for action from Washington, D.C. or Ottawa. They are pursuing reduction of emissions and at the same time accomplishing economic development.
Later in the day, we listened to speeches from a number of VIPs, including the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the head of UNFCCC Yvo de Boer, Connie Hedegaard, Minister for U.N. COP15, Prince Charles, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai who was designated as a UN Messenger of Peace by the Secretary-General, etc. They all implored the world’s governments to reach accord. Hedegaard was very strong but also almost sounded desperate, she time and again asked that the world’s leaders understand the seriousness of the climate situation and act upon it. She said that “we shall be judged not just on what we do but also on what we fail to do”. Yvo de Boer, chair of UNFCCC as well as U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, both emphasized COP15 was a historic time.
A very inspiring speech was given by the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles. He was impeccable in terms of facts, persuading without being too emotional. He built a series of arguments, questioning whether we as humans could actually survive as species. Appealing to world leaders he said “With your signatures, you can change the future”. Among other things, in pursuing innovation, he indicated that performance-based incentives could be provided to countries where the world’s rainforests exist to save the rainforests and provide economic incentives so that the forests would not be transformed into farmland.
This was a full day of activities. Anticipation was clearly building up throughout the day, towards the final days of COP15 and particularly Friday, 18 January, when President Obama would arrive. Lines were long and one could not get into many specific events, even if one were patient. However, screens were available at many places, allowing delegates to be following the events of the day.