Indigenous Peoples' Climate Change Portal

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The Copenhagen Climate Agenda Print

Copenhagen, 3 December (IBRAHIM NJOBDI*) - Friday afternoon, December 3, the Copenhagen international airport is busy with arrivals of thousands of delegates from all over the world for the climate summit this 7-18 December 2009. It is already winter here with temperature less than 5 degrees Celsius and some delegates, especially from warmer part of the world-including this reporter, are finding it too difficult to adapt to the biting cold.

Driving from the airport to downtown Copenhagen, one does not need to be told this city is preparing to host this very important international gathering. There are posters around major junctions and metro stations on the summit either announcing side events or other related meetings and issues.

All the hotels are full or relatively very expensive that were booked  months ago. Many delegates are finding it difficult to get lodging and some are forced to stay in hostels at the outskirts of the city.

Delegates include state parties, NGO representatives, media and a large delegation of indigenous peoples’ representatives from all the continents. Over 25,000 delegates are expected to attend the summit. A welcome party to all delegates will be hosted by the city of Copenhagen on December 9.

Indigenous issues

Indigenous peoples’ representatives, under the canopy of the IIPFCC (International Indigenous Peoples' Forum on Climate Change) are organizing a 2-day preparatory workshop prior to the climate conference to brainstorm on how best to push their agenda. Indigenous peoples argue that they are the most affected by climate change due to their heavy dependence on nature for survival. Their major concern is to ensure that the UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) be evoked in all climate related decisions and texts.

The Copenhagen-based International Work Group on Indigenous Affairs(IWGIA) and Philippine-based Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples' International Centre for Policy Research and Education) have been helping coordinate activities and logistics for indigenous delegates. IWGIA is  also  organizing a reception in honour of all indigenous delegates attending the climate summit on Sunday December 6th. An Indigenous Peoples' Day is also being organized by IWGIA and Tebtebba with the IIPFCC on December 12.

Media men and women are busy informing the world on the day-to-day happenings and some can be seen on duty right from their arrival at the airport. The IIPFCC media team is also around and will help organize press briefings on the indigenous agenda.

Issues at stake

There is anxiety and expectations are high especially as world figures like US President Barack Obama, French President Nicholas Sarkozy and others are expected to personally attend the conference. The presence of President Obama, especially, is very important here as the United States has always been the stumbling block to the climate negotiations aimed at cutting down green house gas emissions. It is hoped that by deciding to attend the final phase  of the negotiations after Bonn, Bangkok and Barcelona, Obama will announce a major shift in US policy on climate change. However, many delegates especially from developing countries, remain skeptical that Obama will make this shift.

There will be a high level ministerial meeting by the 12th December and also a high level segment meeting before the arrival of the heads of state. Many bilateral meetings and alliances between states are expected.


A binding political agreement which may accommodate the US is expected to be reached but there is  pessimism on a legally binding instrument. They fear richer nations will dodge substantial commitments thereby jeopardizing the most awaited climate deal in Copenhagen.

Another development after the Barcelona Climate Talks which has cast suspicion is that some key and outspoken negotiators from developing countries have suddenly been replaced by their governments.

The million dollar question here is: Is it reasonable to spend huge resources to organize this summit without coming out with a legally binding and concrete global deal on climate change in the end?

The bone of contention is who should pay to whom, how and how much. Industrialized nations would not like to bear the burden alone. There is fear that their industries might be financing their competitors in developing nations.

This is the main discord of what has been termed "climate financing." For most poor countries in Africa, Asia and some small island states, the main polluter of the atmosphere which has led to global warming are the industrialized nations who have to pay for this. This argument emphasizes that industrialized countries put aside a fund (about 100 Billion Euros) that can help poor countries cope with climate change effects like floods, drought, typhoons, etc. Secondly, industrialized nations should cut down their green house gas emissions and thirdly, industrialized countries should pay developing countries to protect forest and reforestation known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) to keep carbon on the ground.

Another contention is who should manage or be the channel for the climate funds. Some developing countries want a financial institution under the UNFCCC while developed countires want the World Bank to play this role.

There is little consensus on how the bill should be paid, how much it will be and who precisely should pay it.


*Freelance journalist, Member, IIPFCC media team, Email: injobdi[AHT]