As I arrived at Copenhagen’s Kastrup airport, I quickly logged onto the UN Climate Summit website to see the Countdown to Copenhagen clock ticking away. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of urgency as the clock showed exactly 24 hours until the most important meeting in the history of mankind was set to begin.
As I exit the airport, I notice eye-catching billboards with ageing world leaders saying, “I’m sorry, we could have prevented catastrophic climate change… we didn’t.”
All advertisements featured Lula of Brazil, Tusk of Poland, Brown of the United Kingdom, Merkel of Germany, Sarkozy of France, Zapatero of Spain, Medvedev of Russia, Harper of Canada, and Rudd of Australia, are part of Greenpeace’s campaign to remind them of their responsibility to future generations and to make the right decision to ensure an FAB (fair, ambitious, and binding) deal for the climate and for all life on the planet.
Thousands of people have descended on Copenhagen for this one-of-a-kind summit (also known as the 15th Conference of Parties or COP 15 in short), and all hotels, hostels, and accommodations, as well as the grounds themselves, have been transformed into makeshift accommodations for the thousands more expected to arrive in the coming days. Fortunately, I have a bed at a youth hostel, where I am sharing a small room with six young Friend of the Earth members from Germany.
On the first day of the climate summit, there is a kilometer-long queue of participants waiting for registration in freezing weather as negotiating teams, journalists from 192 countries, and a mass of NGOs and civil societies from all over the world arrive for the opening sessions. The long line also allows various campaigning groups to interact with those who remain in line.
Greenpeace’s Café, with activists serving hot coffee and pushing the FAB deal, a big screen that is a joint effort between Greenpeace and tcktcktck partner under neat Metro line and right in front of the entrance showing several video clips around the clock. Video clips include features from climate defender camp in Sumatran forest at Kampar peninsular of Indonesia, climate impact in the pacific.
Several groups are making their voices heard at the entrance: men and women in red – climate debt agents – holding a banner that reads “rich countries – pay your climate debt!” ; a regular appearance of supreme Master Ching Hai distributing “Be Veg, Go Green, Save the Planet” leaflets ; men and women with kangaroo puppets with the message blaming “Australian Coal” as the planet’s killer. A COP of coffee – a free cup of coffee provided by the wind energy industry – has a coffee bike that serves fresh coffee, cappuccino, and chai tea to those on their way to the entrance.
Coming a long way to Copenhagen – my first climate summit – I am unable to register on the first day because my name is still waiting to be added to the new list of Global Campaign for Climate Action (GCCA), but I am amazed by looking at the entire Bella Center compound from the metro elevated platform, with one large wind turbine behind and a power plant pumping out smoke plume on the horizon. Greenpeace’s climate rescue station is also located next to the building. I hope for the best, for a fair, ambitious, and binding agreement. Otherwise, the Copenhagen summit will be nothing more than a showcase of corporate-driven climate solutions and a never-ending political debate.
The UNFCCC website’s countdown clock read zero. The talks begin under Copenhagen’s gloomy sky.