Sandbag is a UK based not-for-profit organisation campaigning for environmentally and economically effective climate policies, with a focus on the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS).
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Ambitious Mitigation Targets? Bonn Chance!
posted by Damien on 22nd Jun 2009

Last week the Sandbag team ventured over to Bonn Germany to attend the most recent UN climate change negotiations leading up to Copenhagen and to drum up some attention for our power sector campaign.

This was my first taste of one of these events, and I was amazed at the hurricane of activity which surrounded the place. The sprawling Maritim hotel complex was crawling with national delegates, pressure groups, businesspeople and media.

Every inch of carpet was covered with people typing furiously at their laptops, and we were no exception – when we weren’t cornering delegates in the corridors, we were busy crunching data for the Climate Action Network or busily preparing for our own side event.

This frenzy of activity from the NGO observers made a distressing contrast with the inertia of the negotiations themselves which in some parts seemed to stall completely. Meeting with the big environment and development NGOs from the UK, there was a deep, collective frustration at the lack of progress or ambition demonstrated. This was hardly surprising after we’d witnessed Japan came up with some bewilderingly weak 2020 commitments and we’d heard a senior member of the UK delegation tell us that a 40% domestic cut for 2020 would be impossible.

On a more positive note, while it is yet to have the public face it needs, it was encouraging to see many of the big NGOs coming together to present a joint position for a Copenhagen Climate Treaty. This kind of solidarity will surely help concentrate pressure on governments and help gather public support around specific Copenhagen outcomes. I can only hope this is the beginning of something bigger. No mention of power sector budgets in there as yet, but we will keep on advocating the need for dedicated policy on this essential sector!

But if this ideas is yet to gain traction with the big NGOs, consultancies like Ecofys, industry groups like the Global Wind Energy Council, and even the International Energy Agency are warming up to it in a big way. Many side events extensively discussed the merits of sectoral crediting mechanisms and sectoral trading, and the power sector was regularly singled out as being particularly eligible for these approaches.

Our own side event sought to showcase the formidable potential of the power sector for driving CO2 mitigation, but we thought we’d demonstrate this unconventionally, using an online game (which you can now play as a single player version). After logging on to the game, attendees were asked to pick from a range of 15 countries. To “win” the game, they had to collectively reduce their power sector emissions enough to peak global CO2 from all energy sectors by 2020. This is a difficult task, and we were very pleased to see the delegates succeed in reaching a sufficient global agreement to peak emissions. More pleasing still was the enthusiastic responses the game generated.

While it was an exhausting week, and the real progress of the negotiations was questionable, it was nonetheless inspiring to meet so many intelligent and passionate people from many different backgrounds united in a common purpose – campaigners, academics, ethical business, youth activists, even a few impressive government delegates.

Perhaps the most amusing piece of gossip we heard was that the drudgery of the negotiating process had driven even quite adversarial negotiators into befriending each other on social networking sites. One Facebook application proving particularly popular – “Which muppet are you?” So there you have it, our collective futures are safely in the hands of a bunch of muppets!

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