The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Report from the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit - December 2009

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In December 2009 Carsten Hansen '12, a former Rockefeller Center intern and participant in the Center's Civic Skills Training program, attended the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark. Hansen filed the following report.

Attending the Conference of Parties (COP 15) Copenhagen Climate Change Summit was an awesome and overwhelming experience. I attended the conference as part of the Climate Institute’s Washington, DC delegation. Our plan was to present on the perils of climate change to island nations, such as storms and sea-level rise, and the change that these mostly developing nations are undertaking to prove to the world that it is possible to rearrange a simple energy portfolio to include wind, solar, geothermal, wave, and tidal energies. However, due to the vast amount of so-called "side events" at the conference, there were essentially six panel speeches every hour starting at 9:00 am and lasting until 8:00 am every day of the conference, and our presentation did not get scheduled.

The caliber of the 45,000-person attendee list at the conference meant that, to get any attention whatsoever, one had to be a very accomplished, well-known public figure. Panels included such names as Desmund Tutu, Al Gore, Lord Stern, Thomas Friedman, John Kerry, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Kofi Annan. I have never seen such a high concentration of television cameras in my life. It seemed like everywhere I looked in the Bella Center, somebody was being interviewed on some news program I had never heard of, or being trailed by questioning reporters. Without the presentation to focus on, I could attend whatever side-event speech I pleased. Some of the highlights of the conference were being about 25 feet from Ban Ki-Moon as he presented Wangari Maathai with a Messenger of Peace Award, walking right up to my governor, and meeting so many fascinating people. While the conference did not entirely accomplish what it was set out to do, it brought so many highly accomplished people together for the first time in history. Never have so many presidents, prime ministers, and dictators been in the same building for the same cause.

This piece is from the Winter 2010 Rockefeller Center Newsletter.

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