Things fall apart

protestsI stayed away from the Bella Center today, where the main climate change talks are taking place, and that seems to have been a wise decision. From now on, access to the negotiations for NGOs will be restricted more and more each day, shutting out almost everyone by Friday. Today there were reports that even those with proper authorization could not get into the Bella Center, creating a feedback loop: the more people are denied access, the more frustrated they get, increasing the passion and size of the protests, making it harder for people to get in, making everyone more frustrated, etc. I spoke with someone who has been to all 15 COP meetings. He says nothing like this has ever happened before.

Downtown I received reports that protesters were violently clashing with police, and I could hear and see helicopters hovering over the center seven kilometers away. By early afternoon sirens were sounding throughout the city core as well, and police started shutting down sections of streets and stores. A local woman named Anna Sophia told me that people who live in Copenhagen think of it as a small town. Now this town is growing up quickly.

Aside from the frustrations around access, it’s also becoming clear that the national governments gathered here are not going to reach an agreement that satisfies the unflappable demands of our best science. The new buzzword to emerge, therefore, is “sub-national.” As in, regional and municipal governments all around the world are going to have to pick up the slack and get to work. Yesterday, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (perhaps you’ve heard of him) called for formal talks between these “sub-national” governments, and offered his state as a venue. This morning, I attended a press conference where the premiers of Quebec, Nova Scotia and B.C. and the ministers of the environment from Ontario and Manitoba were congratulated by environmentalists on the leadership they’ve shown. In accepting the award, Jean Charest offered “reassurance” that by no means would they take this as a sign that everything they’re doing is great, nor are they under the impression that there isn’t a lot more work to be done. Still, it’s an encouraging start.

That’s where I’m finding hope in these final days. When things fall apart and the central governments cannot hold to their responsibilities, more local governments can and will step in. At a Canadian reception this evening, I had a number of conversations with elected leaders and activists about the possibilities for Toronto to take a leadership position not only in Canada but on the international stage. Those conversations and ideas solidified my growing excitement about what the Toronto government could and should do to move our city into the future.

Photo by kk+ from the Copenhagen Flickr pool.

2 thoughts on “Things fall apart

  1. It is sad that they’re not going to be able to reach an agreement prior to the end of the convention. I have to admit, I tried to remain optimistic prior to the start of the talks (even more so when I heard @pmharper finally agreeing to ATTEND) but couldn’t help feeling that the G8s were going to focus on “economic stability” rather than open up their ears (and minds) to necessary change.

    When I watch world leaders squabble, I can only think of ridiculous movies like Independence Day or The Day After Tomorrow. It really is going to take aliens invading and/or global destruction before we stop being control freaks and work together. I mean, if we all had worked together and acted on what we’ve been told for the past 20 years, we sure as heck wouldn’t be scrambling now.

    Thanks again for the post and the local perspective.

  2. The governator is right! Work local! Certainly that’s what we have to do here in Canada. We should also measure local. So if Ontario, say, cuts emissions to a proper point, we shouldn’t feel shame or failure if Canada fails. Indeed, we’d tell the world that Canada failed, but not us. Nothing like shaming the Feds.

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