Climate train contribution to COP3
Sorry, I haven't had time yet to sort out the images and bookmarks in this chapter
Lobbying inside the Convention The Convention process has already been introduced in an earlier chapter, and Climate Train members all had a rough idea of the procedures of the COP from workshops on the journey. However such a vast political UN Convention is really driven not by official procedures or agendas but by chance meetings in the corridors through which the subtle balances between a few powerful personalities slowly evolve. Thousands of people continuously flow in and out, yet for days it seems that very little is being decided, until the backroom deals are revealed and it is too late to complain. Between COP1 and COP3 , delegates had two and a half years to make an agreement based on the Berlin Mandate (see introduction). In the event they agreed almost nothing of great significance until the last two and a half days in Kyoto, when the ministers everybody had been waiting for flew in. When they discovered that this was not enough time to resolve all the issues, even working non-stop for two nights running, they changed their watches from Japan time to Washington time to give themselves another ten hours to complete the protocol within the legal deadline (to the great annoyance of delegates who had booked flights home)! Not surprisingly the resulting protocol (see summary at the end of this chapter)was confused and full of loopholes. Lobbying was made more difficult for NGO delegates by the creation of the Committee of the Whole, or "CoW", a closed session within which most of the important decisions were made. The COP itself is subject to many rules of procedure, some of which tend to hinder progress, but as the decision making body it must usually be open to observation by NGO delegates. The CoW circumvented these requirements by being officially just a talking shop -but effectively the main forum for negotiating the protocol. Meanwhile the "High Level Segment" of the COP continued as a platform for hundreds of formal pre-planned five-minute statements, including our own (see later), rather than any real discussion. There were many receptions hosted by governments and large organisations at which we could start chatting to the delegates, and also get a free snack which was fortunate since the cafeterias were expensive and did not do justice to Japanese cuisine. There were also various facilities in the Convention hall, such as a bank, a travel shop and tourist information centre which also made bookings for the free excursions offered by the local support committee, a business centre where we could make photocopies and send faxes (although this was very expensive) and a UNFCCC information centre where we could obtain the necessary procedural documents for each day. Many people remarked at the great volume of paper produced here, and our Korean friends conducted a very poignant and controversial action in which they collected the mass of papers floating about the Convention hall and piled them up with a sign indicating that all this mass of paper was rather a waste considering the slow progress made by the Government delegates at the Conference. In the "event hall" linked to the main building by a long corridor, there were many tables set out as working space for NGOs. They were continuously busy, as were the two computer suites available to us, which included web access and email facilities. These computers were vital for our communication with colleagues elsewhere, including our media contact Dani Kaye in London. Some participants also took part in online discussions about Climate policy which were encouraged by the secretariat. In order to enter the Convention, we each had to be registered as a representative of an accredited organisation. Climate Train participants were asked beforehand whether they would prefer to be accredited with SGR or with ASEED Europe or with their own organisation, for example Dietrich Brockhagen was accredited with Germanwatch and Philippe Pernstich was a representative of the Global Commons Institute. When we arrived at the Convention to ‘check-in’ we discovered that there was some confusion caused by the Kyoto Convention local support team having received out-of-date information from the UNFCCC secretariat in Bonn and it took some time to rearrange the accreditation sucessfully.
Lobbying inside the Convention
The Convention process has already been introduced in an earlier chapter, and Climate Train members all had a rough idea of the procedures of the COP from workshops on the journey. However such a vast political UN Convention is really driven not by official procedures or agendas but by chance meetings in the corridors through which the subtle balances between a few powerful personalities slowly evolve. Thousands of people continuously flow in and out, yet for days it seems that very little is being decided, until the backroom deals are revealed and it is too late to complain. Between COP1 and COP3 , delegates had two and a half years to make an agreement based on the Berlin Mandate (see introduction). In the event they agreed almost nothing of great significance until the last two and a half days in Kyoto, when the ministers everybody had been waiting for flew in. When they discovered that this was not enough time to resolve all the issues, even working non-stop for two nights running, they changed their watches from Japan time to Washington time to give themselves another ten hours to complete the protocol within the legal deadline (to the great annoyance of delegates who had booked flights home)! Not surprisingly the resulting protocol (see summary at the end of this chapter)was confused and full of loopholes.
Lobbying was made more difficult for NGO delegates by the creation of the Committee of the Whole, or "CoW", a closed session within which most of the important decisions were made. The COP itself is subject to many rules of procedure, some of which tend to hinder progress, but as the decision making body it must usually be open to observation by NGO delegates. The CoW circumvented these requirements by being officially just a talking shop -but effectively the main forum for negotiating the protocol. Meanwhile the "High Level Segment" of the COP continued as a platform for hundreds of formal pre-planned five-minute statements, including our own (see later), rather than any real discussion.
There were many receptions hosted by governments and large organisations at which we could start chatting to the delegates, and also get a free snack which was fortunate since the cafeterias were expensive and did not do justice to Japanese cuisine. There were also various facilities in the Convention hall, such as a bank, a travel shop and tourist information centre which also made bookings for the free excursions offered by the local support committee, a business centre where we could make photocopies and send faxes (although this was very expensive) and a UNFCCC information centre where we could obtain the necessary procedural documents for each day. Many people remarked at the great volume of paper produced here, and our Korean friends conducted a very poignant and controversial action in which they collected the mass of papers floating about the Convention hall and piled them up with a sign indicating that all this mass of paper was rather a waste considering the slow progress made by the Government delegates at the Conference.
In the "event hall" linked to the main building by a long corridor, there were many tables set out as working space for NGOs. They were continuously busy, as were the two computer suites available to us, which included web access and email facilities. These computers were vital for our communication with colleagues elsewhere, including our media contact Dani Kaye in London. Some participants also took part in online discussions about Climate policy which were encouraged by the secretariat.
In order to enter the Convention, we each had to be registered as a representative of an accredited organisation. Climate Train participants were asked beforehand whether they would prefer to be accredited with SGR or with ASEED Europe or with their own organisation, for example Dietrich Brockhagen was accredited with Germanwatch and Philippe Pernstich was a representative of the Global Commons Institute. When we arrived at the Convention to ‘check-in’ we discovered that there was some confusion caused by the Kyoto Convention local support team having received out-of-date information from the UNFCCC secretariat in Bonn and it took some time to rearrange the accreditation sucessfully.
The Climate Train Stall
The vast concrete Convention Centre seemed a little bit like the "Startrek Enterprise", and it was very difficult to find anybody. However we were fortunate that the secretariat had allocated the Climate Train a good site for a stall which also became our meeting point. This had been arranged in advance by Ben Matthews on behalf of Scientists for Global Responsibility, and was at the end of the corridor linking the main building and the "event hall", next to a casual seating area where delegates could smoke or buy cans of hot or cold tea or coffee from the vending machines. Barbara Black, in charge of NGO affairs in the Secretariat, said she hoped we would provide an especially good display for this prime location, which we achieved with our long yellow banner suspended from the ceiling , and many smaller posters including Dietrich’s calculation of the "Ecobalance of the Climate Train"., Bens’ poster about "Climate Engineering", and the banner which our Japanese friends from Kobe had made to welcome us.
At the stall we had a continual stream of interest in our trip, which helped us to initiate discussions on particular lobbying points. Just being a group of cheerful people having animated conversation probably helped our cause! During the final days of the CoP even government ministers would stop by to remark on our journey, as they rushed between the CoW and the media centres in the event hall.
Our leaflets left on the stall, including Dietrich’s ecobalance leaflet and SGR’s special edition newsletter, were picked up quickly and soon we had to design and print more. In the final hectic days Ben Matthews set up his computer and printer on the stall so we could produce publicity material in-situ. On the penultimate night Ben was busy until three o’clock in the morning, designing and putting up posters to publicise his Climate Engineering meeting the next day, and also keeping an eye on events in the CoW which was still in session! Michelle was also there late after reading the Climate Train statement to the plenary, and they slept a few hours with only the huge notice board of our stall dividing them from the ministers who were still occasionally passing by immersed in earnest discussion..
Climate Train Presentation on 1st December.
In parallel with the main sessions there are also many press conferences and "special events" organised by NGOs, which were all listed on the day’s agenda and could also be filmed and broadcast on the video monitors by arrangement with the secretariat. The main limitation was a lack of meeting rooms, even including the Prince hotel over the road. Ben Matthews booked in advance two such slots on behalf of Scientists for Global Resposnibility -one for the Climate Train and one for a scientific presentation (see later). These were on the first and the last days of the COP, neither of which was an ideal time but the slots had been allocated on a first-come-first-serve basis and while we were on the train and boat we had been unable to respond to the faxes and emails about this from the secretariat.
So on the first afternoon of the COP we held our "special event" to tell people about the Climate Train, and to encourage them to think about the issues we were raising. Altogether it continued for about 3 hours. Richard Scrase introduced us, and our panel of speakers. Dietrich then presented the Ecobalance of the Climate Train, and went on to discuss how the problem could be tackled. Ben Matthews then briefly discussed various aspects of the science of Climate Change, followed by Yuri Doublianski and Sergey Pashenko who talked about Climate Change in Siberia.
Sergey used the analogy of imagining the room we were in as the world, and the effect of spilling oil in one corner and setting light to it. The fumes would affect everyone in the room, even those furthest away. He went on to explain how Siberia is suffering from Climate Change more acutely than other parts of the world. He has been measuring air pollution in the city, although overall very little is known about air pollution intensity in most of the rest of Siberia. The severe smogs in September that almost brought the city to a standstill finally made people begin to worry about the effect anthropogenic activity is having on the climate. Yuri then went on to talk about the melting of the permafrost. 50% of Russia is permafrost and the boundary is expected to move 6-8 hundred kilometres north by 2050. This will have three main knock-on effects: the release of the greenhouse gas methane from the frozen peat bogs, the rupturing of the oil and gas pipelines which are supported by the frozen ground, which would result in more release of methane or flaring leading to CO2 emissions, as well as local pollution and forest fires, and the leak of radioactive waste which the Russian Government plans to bury in the permafrost in the far north of Siberia, not realising that it may melt. Konstantin Dunaev then talked in detail about the processes by which forests absorb sunlight energy and CO2 and control the local climate through evapotranspiration.
Yu Jingjie then presented some of the findings of her research with Ren Hongzun at the Institute of Geography in Beijing, on the effect of climate change water resources and sea level in China. It was extremely disturbing to see the map she presented showing how Tianjin, a city of 10 million people, would become a little island surrounded by the sea, if the level rose by only 30cm which is well within current predictions from climate models (40-60cm by 2050, maybe up to 100cm relative to the land in the yellow river delta region which is sinking). Much of China’s prime agricultural land would also be lost underneath the waves or destroyed by the intusion of salt water, which would also affect the drinking water supply for many coastal cities, where flooding might also cause cholera epidemics. She proposed a number of mitigation strategies such as strengthening sea-level monitoring and predictions, developing more coastline protection projects and reinjecting water into underground aquifers. However prevention is of course better than cure.
The talks were followed by discussion of how to tackle climate change. Discussion centred on the problems of current infrastructures and work patterns which mean people have to travel long distances to work.
International day of action on air-travel
Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Millieudefensie) had over the year been co-ordinating a campaign entitled ‘The Right Price for Air Travel’ which was pressing for the introduction of charges on emissions from aircraft. They had designated the 5th Decmber as a day of world-wide action to highlight the problems of air travel. Groups around the world (mostly in Europe but also in America, Canada and even in Africa) organised actions, meetings, and press events to coincide with the Convention in Japan, which of course provided the key focus. Christina Kopernik-Steckel was the principal organiser of our action in Kyoto which took place just outside the Convention to draw attention to the role air-travel plays in polluting the planet. She co-ordinated 80 Korean, Japanese and Climate Train people in a professionally choreographed piece of street theatre which a group had been planning in workshops on the Climate Train., aided by props which they had bought in Beijing. Between 30-40 camera crews filmed the action (over 75 journalists were present) and more than 25 journalists attended the press conference afterwards just next to the Event Hall where the media were based.
A column assembled led by banners in different languages. The message on the banner drew attention to the fact that aircraft fuel is exempt from tax and that air-travel is an increasing contributor to global CO2 emissions. Behind the banners were a group of very smartly dressed people, representing delegates. Next came two people bearing a scarlet carpet, followed by a group of 'ordinary people' holding placards with the names of cities where the construction of airports has had massive negative environmental and social impacts. There were dozens of these written in both English and Japanese. Finally came five people hidden within the body of a massive model beast shaped like an aircraft. Absolute silence fell, and was suddenly broken by a clash of cymbals to set the pace, followed by the eerie sound of 80 people growling out the sound of an aircraft engine. The plane crashed its way through the crowd of weeping 'ordinary people', forcing them to the ground, before moving on to ' land' on the red carpet. As it came to a standstill, the 'smart people' threw huge copies of dollar bills at the plane and prostrated themselves in a parody of worship. All the time the sound grew to a crescendo until, with a final clash, absolute silence fell again. Christina Kopernik-Steckel
This was followed by an official press conference in the COP. Dietrich Brockhagen introduced his Ecobalance calculations (see earlier chapter) , and the link between air travel and climate change. James Barnes, Ureka Hagi and Taka Hani Director of ASEED Japan also gave talks on the environmental costs of air travel. He then launched our Climate Protection Airlines tickets. These were devised during a workshop on the Climate Train, and inside the six-page ‘ticket’ the environmental and social and economic costs of that flight were listed and totted up to make the full fare. Hundreds of these tickets were handed out to delegates during the rest of the conference and they were very effective at raising discussion of this issue.
Climate Train Statement to COP3
At the meeting of the subsidiary bodies in Bonn in July, many months before the Climate Train arrived in Kyoto, Ben Matthews had asked Mr Zammit Cutajar (the Executive Secretary of the COP) whether we would be able to make a speech to the plenary on behalf of the Climate Train. He liked the idea and the original proposal was to arrange an event on the main stage near the beginning of COP3 to announce our arrival and inspire others by our dedication to get to Kyoto with minimum emissions of greenhouse gases. When we arrived in Kyoto we were told that we could make a statement to the High Level Segment on Tuesday 9th December, in the evening session. This formal statement was not quite what we had intended, but nevertheless it was a great privelege, as few NGOs were given even this opportunity to address the COP.
The group had a series of evening meetings to put together ideas for what we wanted to say in the speech. The overall agreement was that it should be a balance of 'reasoned argument' and emotional commitment to stopping climate change. We also thought that since we were such a unique group and on such a unique project, we should say something different but complimentary to what other big NGO's would say in their speeches, focusing on the broader vision rather than the details of the protocol and COP procedures. A draft version of the speech had to be submitted to Azza Taalab on Monday morning, so we had a last meeting late on Sunday night. We agreed on most of the ideas, but it is very difficult to agree textual particulars between such a varied group of people who kept drifting in and out of the meeting, so we learnt for ourselves why the COP process is so slow. So much can depend on just the emphasis of one or two sentences, and there were some contentious sticking points. We also had a problem because each meeting was attended by a different group of people and so we often ended up going over the same arguments and discussions. One contentious issue was that to really tackle climate change in a positive way, every one of us needs to change our lifestyle to a much less resource intensive pattern. The delegates at the conference were part of the problem since very many of them had totally unsustainable lifestyles. Yet we had to present the idea in a way that was a challenge, but not a denunciation of our audience. In other words we had to present a tactful but fundamental criticism to the delegates we were addressing. The political dynamics of the COP process were mirrored in our own speech writing process. Eventually, like the Kyoto protocol itself, the draft was finalised in the small hours of Monday morning. The speech was delivered by Michelle Valentine, who had put the most effort into pulling everybody’s ideas together into a coherent text. The attendance at the session was low because many of the delegates were involved in frantic negotiations in the CoW about the draft protocol issued earlier that day, however it was seen by many people on the video screens around the Convention and around the world on the live internet link. This video-on-demand can still be seen on the web at the internet address given at the end of the report.
I felt extremely privileged to have been able to give this speech on behalf of such a wonderful group of people. Afterwards many delegates congratulated me on the speech, I think I had been in the unique position of being able to say some of the things that they wanted to Michelle Valentine
Climate Train statement to COP3
"Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am privileged to be able to speak to you on behalf of the Climate Train.
We are a group of 36 scientists, environmental activists, government delegates, and students from 14 countries who have come to this conference by train and boat. We have travelled more than 14,000 kilometres across Europe, Siberia, China and the sea, with stops for meetings in Berlin, Warsaw, Moscow, Novosibirsk and Beijing.
Our journey gave us a unique opportunity to interact with people from many regions and countries to discuss common concerns and problems. We learnt from NGOs and scientists about the regional effects of climate change. We found communities who are already suffering from climate change, who are fearful for their future. In Siberia people are witnessing their forests burning because of drought, and our colleagues calculate they may all be destroyed in only a few decades.
In China there is much concern about the increased frequency of catastrophic flooding of low-lying coastal areas, and the massive disruption of their agricultural systems. Visiting these places and hearing from local people directly about their concerns made us face the reality of climate change.
Travelling by train and boat produced only one eighth of the global warming impact of a similar journey by airplane. Of all modes of transport, air travel is the most dangerous to the climate because greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft directly affect the most sensitive parts of the atmosphere, and these effects are long-lasting. The recent dramatic increase in air travel is totally unsustainable, and we ask the COP to tackle this problem of reducing emissions from aircraft in future meetings.
Arriving at COP3 we found a very limited and discouraging process. The confrontational tone of the present negotiations cannot resolve what is a common, global problem. None of the greenhouse gas reductions the COP is considering adequately reflect the gravity of the problems that changes in our climate will bring. We need first to take note of what the planet can bear, then work out what levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases can be emitted rather than relying on weak proposals put forward by those too heavily influenced by the economic or industrial lobbies.
During our journey we discussed many new and innovative ways of tackling the problems, such as renewable energies, energy efficiency, new types of housing, development of good public transport systems, and encouraging overland travel by dismantling bureaucratic barriers. Many of these straightforwrd practical answers deserve much more serious consideration by policy makers.
But more than this, we all need to be prepared to fundamentally change our lifestyles in order that we can meet the responsibility of caring for our planet. Many of us are already doing this and therefore we do not need the large quota of emissions which you want to give us. Policy makers should base their judgment on what is a "realistic" change of lifestyle not on their own experience as diplomats but on public opinion and good examples.
Whatever decision the COP takes, the result will affect the future of billions of people and the earth itself. We need a new approach of co-operation that can deliver a collaborative and long term global solution based on equity.
One very positive action that we could all implement now is to make the Climate Convention itself more sustainable by reducing the need to travel to future meetings. This could be achieved by increased use of video conferencing and the internet, and more regional conferences.
Finally, we would like to invite you all to experience some real changes in the weather by joining our Climate Ship to COP4 in Buenos Aires.
Thank you Mr. Chairman for the opportunity to make our statement, and also to everybody who helped to organise the "Climate Train", especially Scientists for Global Responsibility and ASEED"
Other Activities in the COP
Altogether, Climate Train participants were involved with in a great variety of different events and it would be difficult to include them all here. Many people attended meetings whichwere connected with their work, for instance, Peter Hundley attended the Symposium on Voluntary Business Initiatives for Mitigating Climate Change, since this would be useful for his business based in Germany.
Some of the Climate Train members (Oras Tynkkynen, Sergey Pashenko, Yuri Doublianski, Philippe Pernstich, Dietrich Brockhagen) also lobbied their Ministers. Oras Tynkkynen and Richard Scrase attended an NGO briefing meeting hosted by five "Green party" Environment ministers from France, Finland,Latvia, Georgia, Italy, and France., and even had tea with the Finnish minister for the Environment Pekka Haavisto. He explained why Finland had recently backtracked on energy taxation since joining the EU, due to pressure from neighbourinhg countries. The money raised by energy and gasoline taxes was offset by lowered income taxes which should help to reduce unemployment, but retired people and those still unemployed complained so it might be better to reduce VAT on services instead. Meanwhile he said that they had set up 200 joint implementation initiatives in the region , particularly to reduce the very high emissions from Estonia. This way they could maximise the effectiveness of each dollar spent, although they had received no emissions credit for this so far. They had also been trying to broker agreements between Germany and Russia, and were also trying to promote forests as a sink in the Baltic region, although they were concerned about protecting old forests.
Richard Scrase also met with Frank Joshua of UNCTAD to discuss the latest developments on CO2 trading. as Richard describes below:
He stated that he did not want emissions trading to be government to government, because he doesn’t believe this would drive down prices in the best way. He is currently working with large energy companies, banks etc. to set up protocols for trade. One of the preconditions for beginning emissions trading would have to be legally binding emissions targets and a global cap on emissions. . He said that he viewed the UN role as one of co-ordination; setting up the institutions, good practice, models of institutions, national governments should incorporate appropriate legislation to police the trading system.
Marina Schvangiradze was herself a representative of the Georgian government, and spent much time helping Tengiz Gzirishvili the head of delegation at offical meetings.
Ben Matthews and Philippe Pernstich attended the two day Global Legislators for a Balanced Environment (GLOBE) forum in the Prince hotel. This included a keynote speech by Aubrey Meyer of the Global Commons Institute trying to bring all sides together with the "Contraction and Convergence", which was strongly endorsed by GLOBE’s President Tom Spencer in his statement to the COP. The GLOBE meeting also included a very interesting presentation from the World Resources Institute about the impacts on human health of greenhouse gases and other associated emissions from power stations, not in fifty years time but right now.
Phillipe spent most of his time a the COP helping Aubrey Meyer to lobby for "Contraction and Convergence". In the small hours of the last frantic session of the COP this suddenly came to the forefront of the main debate due to a proposal raised by the Indian delegation and endorsed by the group of African Nations, and most remarkably, by the United States who acknowledged that they saw "Contraction and Convergence" as the likely way forward in the long term. He did not sleep at all that night, returning to our temple after breakfast just in time to join us on the train back to the ferry at Kobe.
Ben also attended a scientific meeting about the future direction of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He raised the question of including biogochemical feedback processes in the global climate models, and mentioned the forest fires we had observed in Novosibirsk as an example of such surprise events that the models had not predicted. The reply from the IPCC chair Robert Watson was very encouraging, clearly there was a consensus that this was one of the key challenges over the next few years.
Others from our group -Wolfgang Pomrehn, Sun Yu and Berthold van Maris were professional freelance journalists and were very busy writing reports to send home to media outlets in their country. Richard Scrase and Sergei Pashenko also spent much time sending reports to media outlets in their own countries.
There were a number of evening receptions which gave people the opportunity to network and make new contacts for future work. We also invited Tenghiz Gzirishvili, Nikolai Beradze and Nino Chkobadze - the Georgain Government delegation to eat with us at our temple, and this provided a very good informal opportunity for us to hear the latest news about the COP policy process and discuss ideas for future involvement.
The Risks of Climate Engineering
On the last day of COP3 Ben Matthews used the other "special event" booked on behalf of Scientists for Global Responsibility to make a presentation inside the Convention entitled "Climate Feedback Processes and the Risks of Climate Engineering". About 35 people were present, a good turnout for a scientific meeting on this very busy last day.
The introduction to climate science at the beginning of this report has already shown how positive biogeochemical feedback processes might greatly amplify the physical effect of greenhouse warming, but much further research would be needed before they can be adequately represented in global climate models. However there are people who suggest that if we can research the feedback processes which control climate, we could also manipulate these processes to offset anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. This idea is "Climate Engineering".
There are two basic types of proposals: to reflect more sunlight or to enhance the absorption of atmospheric CO2. For example we could put dust in the stratosphere to reflect sunlight (we have recently seen how the volcano Pinatubo cooled the global climate this way), or we could add nutrients to the ocean to fertilise the algae and thus increase the "biological pump" which absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere (as discussed above). Proponents of these ideas show simple calculations which suggest that such "technical fixes" for global warming might be much "cheaper" than reducing our consumption of fossil fuel! The figure overleaf summarises proposals which can be found in the scientific literature.
However such proposals could be very dangerous, because both climate and ecological systems are intrinsically chaotic and therefore it is hard to predict the outcome of such intervention. Any practical scientist will know that the first time we try a new experiment, it doesn't work right, there is usually something unexpected. But in this case we only have one planet for such global experiments. On the other hand, the proponents of such research argue that emitting so much CO2 to the atmosphere is already a great experiment, and if the politicians fail to solve this problem then the climate feedbacks could cause a catastrophe, so we should develop tools now to fix the planet in case this occurs! While such people may genuinely believe this may be the only solution, to assert this now could become a self-fulfilling prophesy: if scientists assure policymakers that they can develop this kind of technical fix to solve the problem of greenhouse gas emissions, then the politicians will relax their efforts to seek an effective agreement to reduce emissions of such pollution.
It is interesting to note that the majority of people who promote "Climate Engineering" research are not from universities or institutes with a long experience of atmospheric or ocean research, but from fossil fuel transnational corporations, electric companies, or the governments of Japan, Norway and the USA, who give more and more funding to develop such proposals. It is ironic that the same companies which play such a large role now putting CO2 into the atmosphere, expect to make a profit later from selling the technology to remove this same CO2 , as indicated by the many patents which they have already filed based on such research. Yet perhaps if fossil fuel companies engage more in basic research into the natural climate systems of the world, they will learn more about the risks of intefering with climate feedback systems, and conclude for themselves that the only sustainable solution is to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels.
A few days earlier Ben Matthews, Berthold van Maris and Michelle Valentine had made a one-day tour of the "Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth" between Kyoto and Osaka, one of the leading instutions advocating such global-scale technological solutions to the problem of greenhouse warming. It was very interesting to see how all the individual high-tech research projects fitted into the long-term vision of this institute, but some of the proposals seemed over- optimistic and the overall "ecobalance" and thermodynamics of the projects were often not clear.
So the question of whether or not to encourage such research raises many dilemmas, and will become more and more topical as governments begin to expand on the phrase "enhancement of sinks" which is now scattered throughout the Kyoto protocol. A detailed paper written by Ben Matthews on this topic can be found on Scientists for Global Responsibility’s Web page. A video of this presentation in the COP and the subsequent discussion was recorded by the UNFCCC secretariat and can be viewed on the Web (addresses in contact information at the end of the report).
Climate Train Activities in Kyoto city
Sunday 30th November Street Festival in Kyoto
A street festival had been organised by many local citizens organisations in collaboration with the city government. Part of the main "Oike" street in the centre of the city had been cordoned off and was populated with stalls and exhibitions by local environmental organisations. The festival began with fantastic drumming, follwed by other traditional Japanese music and dancing. The Climate Train was privileged to be able to perform our song on the main stage, and we were given a warm welcome to the city by local people.
Sunday 7th December - Street Parade
It is always important to demonstrate that there is a strength of feeling and a desire for the same goals by very many kinds of people, and thus many members of the Climate Train decided to participate in this street parade organised by various citizens organisations in Kyoto. It was very colourful and many issues connected with climate change were highlighted, such as opposition to the building of more roads in the city. However it did not turn out quite as we had expected:
The processions was too well ordered, we had to walk in an ordered line so that cars could pass us easily. The Japanese do not have the same culture of protest that exists in Europe, they campaign much more by media stunts and careful campaigning. This frustrated many of us Europeans, though we had to respect the cultural difference. I wondered which methods were more likely to be effective and overall one needs a great variety of different strategies. The difficulty is making them complimentary not conflicting. Michelle Valentine
Demonstration at Esso Garage in Kyoto
In the morning of Thursday 4 December many Climate Train participants joined a group of activists from ten countries to blockade an Exxon petrol station iat Nishi Oji Dori near our temple in a highly visual and successful demonstration to protest at the obstructive behavior exhibited by Exxon towards the Climate Negotiations. The event was covered by various TV Channels and Newspapers, mainly Japanese but there were also correspondents from Austrian TV, CNN and Reuters. This kind of direct action, which included people locking themselves to the petrol pumps so they could not be used, is now quite common in Europe but still very unusual in Japan.
Environmental Bus Tour of Kyoto City
Michelle Valentine, Berthold van Maris, Susi Danner and Dushka Peric joined the bus tour on 3rd December, as Michelle recalls:
It was organised by a local couple to demonstrate the various environmental problems being experienced locally. It was nice to learn more about Kyoto city, one can feel rather disorientated and distanced from the wonderful world we are trying to save if one spends most of one's time in the conference. One place we stopped was close to the Convention Centre itself. During the 1980s there had been much prospecting on real estate in Japan. The local council sold land to a company for it to be developed for housing, which basically meant flattening the ancient hill. The development was supposed to take place to minimise the negative environmental impact, but although the company ignored these guidelines the council renewed their contact. Eventually the company went bankrupt and left the land scarred permanently, the locals call it the 'punk' mountain as it looks it has a Mohican hair cut.
I also enjoyed a cycle ride around the lake at the back of the Convention Hall, although I was informed by a local journalist that there was much opposition to the construction of the hall since it partly destroyed this very highly valued beauty spot in the city.
Finally, Margaret Charnley, Zuzanna Iskierka, Britta Coy, Susi Danner and Richard Scrase all gave presentations about the Climate Train to Ritsumei University and a number of local NGO groups.