sATURDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2009
A spECIAL EDITION Of THE INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE
GREENPEACE/KATE DAVISONBRITISHANTARCTIC SURVEY/JIm ELLIOT
We know what happened. Massivenonviolent direct actions led to massarrests, filling up the jails, raising massconsciousness about climate changeand putting great pressure on Europe’sleaders. This forced a real agenda ontothe Copenhagen talks, leading to thecooperative global solutions that arenow being implemented. Yes, we’re all grateful to those whoput their lives and livelihoods on theline in the streets, shutting down offic-es, power plants, docks, highways, etc.But humanity also owes a debt to an un-sung group of people.The people who didn’t get up off their couches.The people who sat back and watched it all happen on their TVs.The only finger they lifted was topush a button on their remote, or toclick their mouse, yet they proved vitalto the mass movement.Thanks to the concept of “action off-sets,” people who were unable or un- willing to risk arrest themselves wereable to log on to websites like Beyond-Talk.net and donate vital funds to themovement to make up for their own in-action. These donations provided mon-
Heads sae agree hisric climae-saving deal
to developing nations. Now the rest of the world has followed our lead.”The international executive directorof Greenpeace hailed the deal as “a vic-tory for sanity, for the planet and itspeople” and paid tribute to “all of those who campaigned over the years to setthe conditions for change.”
THE YEAR IN REVIEW
Marred by a year of political blaming, bickering andbrinkmanship, the hugely complicatednegotiating process was in the end gal- vanized by the accelerating evidence of climate change impacts. A bridge to the Wilkins ice shelf in Antarctica collapsedduring one round of talks in April, the Arctic sea ice continued to thin, mon-soons were delayed, hurricanes devas-tated the mid-western United Statesand forest fires raged out of control.The breakthrough moment came atan E.U. Heads of State meeting in June.The European players in the G8 werethen able to put pressure on Canada, Ja-pan, Russia and the U.S. to follow suit attheir summit in July. Pressure mountedover the summer, as thousands of citi-zens around the world, concerned aboutthe climate crisis, joined together andmade their voices heard.Many who had never taken to thestreets before called on their heads of state to take personal responsibility forsaving the climate and to turn up in Co-penhagen and address the global crisis. At a key meeting in Bangkok in Septem-ber, U.N. negotiators locked in the 40percent emissions cuts by 2020 for richnations, challenging undecided nationsto meet this benchmark.
PresidentObama applauded his fellow worldleaders: “Change has come to the worldand we hope a lot less will now come tothe climate. By focusing on commonconcerns and our common destiny, to-day we have forged a common purpose.Saving the climate means saving our-selves, saving the economy and invest-ing in a sustainable future. Today wecan have hope for tomorrow.”In a radical break from past declara-tions, Donald Tusk, the prime ministerof Poland hailed the end of fossil fuel de-pendency in Europe. “The days of thedark age of coal are numbered. No onebelieved it, but the [European Union]has helped the world free itself from theshackles of fossil fuels and embrace theenergy of the sun, the wind and theearth. The pro-democracy revolutionthat began in the shipyards of Gdansk over 20 years ago has culminated in Eu-rope’s ‘solidarity’ with developing coun-tries in the name of the climate.”“Finally, we have the backing of allthe Europeans in protecting what’s leftof the Amazon,” said President Lula daSilva of Brazil. “We already exportedour best football players to their wealthyEuropean teams; we just don’t want tosend wood, soy and meat to them anymore. Viva el clima!”“Oh my God, this is like the bestgroup activity I’ve ever done,” said MitziC., age 18, who was at the public gather-ing outside the summit on a sub-zero winter night. “In fact, it’s the only groupactivity I’ve ever done. Until now, myentire social life has been on Facebook.This is so much more rewarding.”Danish police and security forceshad been on high alert fearing civil un-rest as hundreds of thousands of peoplegathered outside the venue to await thesummit outcome. The chief of policesaid the celebrations went on all nightand no arrests were made. In fact, mostof the police were sent home early.Many diplomats were seen to loosentheir ties and join the celebrations. En- joying a job well done, one of the Euro-pean Commission’s top negotiatorssaid: “Tonight and tomorrow we party,and then it will be back to work to get thedeal ratified and make sure the commit-ments are kept.”thousands of coordinated grassrootsactions. Riding on the coattails of this wave of popular support, the WorldHeritage Committee seized upon theopportunity to get the atmosphere pro-tected by adding it to the list of WorldHeritage Sites. World Conservation Union presi-dent Ian McWanger reported, “For along time now we have been evaluatingthe atmosphere’s importance to theEarth. Through modern research in- volving lasers and balloons we are ableto declare, without a doubt, that weneed to protect the atmosphere, andthat we haven’t been doing a very good job up to this point.” Indeed, CO
levelsin the atmosphere have risen as muchas 22 percent in the past 50 yearsalone.Lobbyists were quick to providetheir own response to this highly popu-lar legislation, by promising an equiva-lent amount of public funding to Exx-on-Mobil, which has begun research todevelop a new, petroleum-based atmo-sphere. This offer, and the offer by Shellto offset their pollution by protectingMars’ atmosphere instead, were bothmet with such diverse and pervasiveglobal backlash and boycotts that bothcompanies have subsequently changedtheir names to “not-Philip-Morris” and“Clean Green Oils,” respectively. With the atmosphere in the hands of public domain, residents of the worldare finally free to walk through a field,gaze up at the protected sky, andbreathe fresh air, with the knowledgethat their skies and air will now be pro-tected.The World Conservation Union is“thrilled at this step that will help to up-hold our group’s mission to conservethe world” and is looking into makingthe ocean a World Heritage Site also. “A gentleman from Not-Philip-Morris ar-gued with me against recognizing theimportance of the atmosphere. He saidthat the atmosphere isn’t cultural, so itisn’t within our purview,” saidMcWanger. “But, hey, I told him: No at-mosphere, no humanity. No humanity,no culture. It’s a no-brainer.”The World Heritage Committee has of-ficially declared the Earth’s atmo-sphere as the newest addition to its fa-mous “World Heritage Sites.” Finallytaking its place alongside such won-ders as Chichen-Itza and the city of Fez,the atmosphere had long been rejectedfrom inclusion in this list for what hasbeen cited as “political differences.”However, earlier this month the World Conservation Union, an adviso-ry body to the World Heritage Commit-tee, determined the atmosphere to beof “Outstanding Universal Value” andsubsequently championed the atmo-sphere’s addition to the list of WorldHeritage Sites. A commemorative plaque is set tobe placed on the atmosphere by weath-er balloon as soon as possible, and im-mediate changes are being made toprotect this universal resource.“For years,” laments climatologistRichard Hower, “people have beenabusing the atmosphere.” With its new status, restrictions will apply as to theamount of pollution, particularly CO
and methane, which is allowed to enterthe atmosphere.“Until now, this site was completelyunprotected,” reports climate expert Wu Chi. “Certain countries were treat-ing it like a landfill, without regard for itas an international site of huge valueand importance. As a World HeritageSite, the atmosphere is sure to get theprotection it deserves.” Within the guidelines for the atmo-sphere’s inclusion as a World HeritageSite, specific conditions are named inorder to protect its sustained health.One such requirement, to keep its CO
levels below 350 parts per million, wasbrought to the forefront of this year’sCopenhagen Climate Summit through
Legislain makes sureamsphere will ge heprecin i deserves
BY HILLARY IONEsCO
Exxn fnall cmes clean Amsphere named wrld heriage sie
After years of waging a disinformationcampaign denying climate change,ExxonMobil, the American oil and gasgiant, has announced that it is convert-ing fully to renewable energy, follow-ing the positive outcome of the U.N.climate summit in Copenhagen.The corporation has also agreed topay off the fines originally awarded by a jury that the judge later reduced fromthe Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. Theyalso will pay for the creation and en-forcement of a marine reserve in Prince William Sound, where the 11 milliongallon oil spill occurred, killing much of the region’s wildlife.In a press conference this morningat Exxon’s headquarters in Texas, CEORex Tillerson admitted, “We tried toavoid taking action on climate changeby funding climate skeptics and byclaiming that more scientific study wasneeded. We were fully aware of theoverwhelming amount of scientific evi-dence showing the need for seriousemissions reductions. We regret beinga powerful obstacle to real solutionsand political progress, and are gratefulto be forced to act responsibly.”Since 1998, Exxon has spent in ex-cess of $23 million funding a small armyof denial scientists, amplifying their voices and injecting them into the me-dia and policy arenas. But today Tiller-son claimed that they were immediately
ExxnMbil abandnsssil uels and creaes Alaskan marine reserve
BY pETRO CHEMICA
the consequences of inaction were driv-en home by representatives of countriesfrom all corners of the globe.From North and South, developedand developing country representativesshared their fears of mass migration,mass starvation and mass extinctions.They warned that unchecked climatechange would make poverty permanentin the developing world and severelyimpact those in developed countries.The meeting also addressed the risk thatgeopolitical tensions would increaseunder a warmed world. Reduced sup-plies of potable water, decimated arableland and mass migration from areas ei-ther flooded or rendered uninhabitableby sea level rise and increased tempera-tures could all trigger bloody regionalconflicts.Fredrik Reinfeld, Sweden’s primeminister and current holder of the Euro-pean Union’s rotating presidency toldreporters at the summit that the E.U.had played its part. “I feel proud that myEuropean colleagues and I have beenable to make a difference. We were thefirst to break the deadlock at an E.U.summit six months ago by agreeing thatEurope and other rich countries had aresponsibility to repay their carbon debtey for food, transportation, shelter andbail money for those willing to partici-pate more directly.“It’s like ‘carbon offsets,’ where youpay to plant a tree to make up for flyingon an airplane,” explained ChristopherTimson, the inventor of action offsets.“Except in this case, it’s not bullshit. Your money actually does fund directaction in a clear and useful way. Maybenot everyone can get in the streets, Idon’t know, but lots of people have afew extra bucks. Every successfulmovement has to meet people wherethey are, and accept support in what-ever form people are able to give it.”Indeed, thousands of “eco-couchpotatoes” signed up to financially off-set their inaction, and help the active,on BeyondTalk.net.“I was thrilled to be able to partici-pate,” said Meryl McIntyre, 47, an ac-countant in Fargo, North Dakota.“Since I’m the sole breadwinner, myhusband didn’t want me to go raise aruckus. But I could put a bit of that‘bread’ into something I believe in.”“Honestly, I just really hate the smellof tear gas,” said Bruno Schmidt, 24, acar salesman in Bonn. “I’m very sensi-tive to that, and I also have a neuroticfear of being dragged over asphalt byburly men. But I’ve had a good year,sold a lot of hybrids. And I knew it wastime to give something back. I loggedon to BeyondTalk.net, and for just a few hundred euros, I paid for the train tick-ets and food money for an entire affin-ity group of climate activists. They sentme a thank you email with photos of their arrest. It’s a warm feeling.” withdrawing all funding from every oneof these organizations.Last year Exxon finally admitted, intheir Corporate Citizenship Report,that these organizations were causingproblems for action on climate becausetheir “position on climate change coulddivert attention from how the world willsecure the energy required for econom-ic growth in an environmentally re-sponsible manner.” Tillerson said todaythat this was “the understatement of the year,” and went on to say: “We havebeen at the heart of U.S. inaction on cli-mate change for more than a decade,but today this comes to an end.”Last year’s funding of two of the world’s most outspoken skeptics, SallieBaliunas and Willie Soon, was a “trav-esty,” he said, and had caused himsleepless nights. “It’s a relief to get rid of them, to be honest. I hope they shut upnow.” As the world’s largest publicly trad-ed company, Exxon has no choice but toact on the demands from the majority of their shareholders. Tillerson ended hisannouncement by saying, “It becameclear at the E.U. Heads of State meetingin June that world leaders were taking astand against fossil fuels. Ever sincethen our share values have been fallingbeyond what any of us were expecting.By the time Copenhagen came around, we knew we had to make significantchanges, literally overnight.”Recently an independent opinionpoll of Exxon shareholders revealedthat 89 percent of them were not onlyconcerned about their imminent loss of profit due to increasing political supportfor renewable energy, but that they wereinfuriated with Exxon for lying to themabout climate change and funding cli-mate skeptics for so many years.In another astonishing turnaround,Exxon also announced that they have voluntarily agreed to pay the full $5 bil-lion in punitive damages that was or-dered by a trial jury following the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. Even though anappeals court reduced this amount byhalf and a further appeal ruling by theUnited States Supreme Court lowered itto $500 million, Exxon has now insistedon paying the original fine.“It’s the 20th anniversary of the spillthis year and we realize that sufficientreparations are long overdue,” said anExxon spokesperson at a press confer-ence this afternoon in Anchorage, Alas-ka. “We would also like to fund the cre-ation and enforcement of a no-takemarine reserve in Prince William Soundto protect this fragile marine environ-ment from any future oil spills and toprohibit any form of commercial ex-ploitation. We are currently working onthis project with President Obama andexpect to open the marine reserve in2010. It will be called the ‘ExxoneratedOcean Park.’”
New marker ‘acinses’
Marine life will benefit from protected climate and no-take reserves.
The atmosphere will have a World Heritage plaque placed near here.
GREENPEACE / HENK mERJENBURGHGREENPEACE / PAUL HILTON
FROM PAGE 1