12 December 2009

Copenhagen week one

While following the coverage of the Copenhagen Summit this week a few things have annoyed me and a few things have inspired me.

From the "you're not helping" file comes the green aliens photo op used to accompany most mainstream media reports on the Conference's first few days. Media ops like this are a staple of any large conference, essentially the global media keep to themselves in a private media-only room segregated from the rest of the conference with easy access to broadband, coffee, food and beer and where all stories are written and filed. The press do not like to venture forth from this bubble, and so activists normally bring the story to them by staging photo-friendly actions at the entrance to the media room itself. The press dutifully trot out in a scrum, film the protest, then return 60 seconds later to their safe and secure bubble to file their story before hitting the bar. Job done. Its just a pity that the first of the actions is so cringworthy and further propagates the myth that all activists are a slice shy of a full loaf.

It has also been somewhat saddening that so much time has been given to the voices of Opec nations such as Saudi Arabia who are using the recent hacked climategate emails to pour doubt on the necessity for the conference itself. While the media is happy to cover these concerns none seem to feel it worth mentioning that they are being raised by oil producing countries who, you know, might have a vested interest in preventing any further control of greenhouse emissions.

On the other end of the spectrum in the "wow, that gives me some hope" category, comes the actions of the delegation from Tuvalu. As you probably already know Tuvalu is a tiny Pacific island nation with less than 12,000 inhabitants. No part of the country is more than 4.5 meters above sea level, and already the effects of rising sea levels have rendered parts of the country uninhabitable. I saw an interview with the Prime Minister recently who described his sadness at being the only leader in history whose role is to actively prepare for the destruction of his country and the complete resettlement of its people. A significant portion of the population has already emigrated to New Zealand, and like the Maldives the government is actively negotiating with other countries to buy land on foreign soil and migrate their entire country out of harm's way. For Tuvalu climate change is a harsh reality, not a future fear.

With the very existence of their country at threat they have taken a stand in Copenhagen, actively disrupting two days worth of meetings when it looked as if no binding resolutions would result, and countries such as India and China would be completely exempt from any carbon restrictions due to their questionable status under Kyoto as "emerging nations" despite having two of the world's largest industrial economies. With the support of other small island nations also at risk of complete annihilation and a number of African countries, Tuvalu showed that they were desperately serious about the need for actual firm and binding outcomes from Copenhagen, and stood up to the large powers of India and China who normally seek to speak for the developing world, but have radically different agendas from those on whose behalf they claim to speak. A great account of Tuvalu's actions from Ben Jervey can be found at Onearth, well worth reading.

The conference bubble is the reason why we have seen pictures of green aliens on TV and in the mainstream press, but the Tuvalu story has only been covered by bloggers, because the Tuvalu story is occurring inside the conference sessions themselves, and no journalist ever goes in there. That's where the people are, and you have to queue for the food, and you can't bring your beer in, and where's the fun in that?

I know I am slightly biased here because I've blogged from international conferences, but thus far the mainstream media seem to all be churning out the same identikit stories on Copenhagen that could easily have been written without ever stepping foot in the conference itself, while the bloggers all seem to be delivering more of an insight into the events taking place. This is probably because the bloggers are not necessarily neutral in all of this, and have more of a passion for the work taking place, whereas for the mainstream press it is just another story to be covered before moving on to the next job. Today Copenhagen and Climate Change, tomorrow South Africa and the World Cup, its all just so much spectacle and expensed lunches for them.

And as I write this while #cop15 is trending on Twitter, it is five places lower than Tiger Woods. Which explains everything you need to know about why mainstream media covers what it does.



At 1:16 pm, Blogger Kate said...

In the spirit of your "do something" post and your last post on COP15 I decided to do something.

It may only be a small thing but I was inspired and started a little facebook group.

Perhaps you could mention this here - that people can join on facebook by searching for

"Support Tuvalu at COP 15!"

It's only small now - but will get bigger - and it's doing something :)


At 7:00 pm, Blogger Unkie Dave said...

wahoo! well done Kate! In the subsequent days it seems China and India were shamed into action of their own and they supported a boycott by 135 countries initiated by African nations on Monday: http://bit.ly/8x1r5m

At 7:39 pm, Blogger Kate said...

wow all that from a Facebook group with 20 members... ah the power of the Internets ;-) *grin*


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