TRANSCRIPT: "On the one hand it's great because I see a lot of very inspiring and intelligent people but it's also very hard because one of the things I am feeling is that we are missing the train and one of the things I think is very important is that we get the climate empathy we need: since he (her son Francis) was born I was asked frequently by people "aren't you feeling what you are doing now more deeply than before?" I was really astonished about it because for me the empathy with mothers in Bangladesh or your country does not depend on being a mother myself-- and we need to act for the outcomes of this conference based on this empathy."-- Anja Kohne
Lisa Williams Lahari, Climate Pasifika media - photo and filming by Lisa Williams Lahari
Monday, 14 December 2009, COPENHAGEN--Mothers of the world will find they have a sister in Anja Kohne, (above) and it's a timely hat for the longtime European environmental activist to wear. Having recently given birth to son Francis, she is attending COP15 with him while on maternity leave. The symbolism of bringing the generation who will live with the decisions from the COP15 into the building is not lost on Kohne, she says perceptions of her activism have changed since she gave birth:
"Since he was born, I was asked by people "aren't you feeling what you are doing now more deeply than before?" I was really astonished about it because for me the empathy with mothers in Bangladesh or your country does not depend on being a mother myself-- and we need to act for the outcomes of this conference based on this empathy."
Kohne, a first class honours graduate student working on her PhD thesis on environmental policy integration in EU foreign policy, has 15 years behind her in governmental and non-government work. Enough years to convince this environmental policy consultant that the only way for the world to come to a common agreement is for the negotiators on all sides to ditch the guilt trips, acknowledge failure and responsibility, and have some compassion for each other's point of view.
"We need to go into a state where we can take on responsibility without feeling guilty. It needs to be a friendly confrontation."
Confrontation is something COP meetings seem to have in abundance. Whether you are doing it diplomatically in the plenary and working group negotiations, or loud and proud with the NGO activists staging events in the wings of the negotiations, the clamour is likely to heat up as December 18 nears. And while the locking horns and colliding positions may be more tuneful to newshounds than mutual support and unison, there are also many examples of how North-South NGO activism and partnerships are stepping up last-chance messages to the COP leaders.
From acronyms like CAN (Climate Action Network) and WWF to an Australian youth coalition campaign called Project Survival, the indicators of that activism being successful -- or a failure, will come through in next week's decisions. A 'People's Forum' on climate change this week in Copenhagen Central town has also attracted some 10,000 people and will deliver a declaration to the COP15.
For Kohne, NGO activism has a large role to play in ensuring governments in the developed nations allow space and input from civil society into the agenda setting. Kohne's conviction that a global sense of citizenship is what is needed doesn't stop at climate change. She says worry by developed nations over the economic pressures from constituents is creating a new 'economic racism' which is over riding the scientific proof that urgent and drastic action is needed to avoid the peak and tipping points predicted to take place.
"I was once on a panel with a multinational and he was telling me how he tells his children to do their homework because people in China and India are waiting to do theirs for the same jobs. I would hope that by the time he (Francis) is 20, he's not thinking anymore about whether it's a German or an Indian or a Chinese he's competing for a job with, he's just doing some work anyway."
But the pace of climate change and its impacts even as the world's leaders meet is creating a new sense of urgency, a demand for a change of mindset and new modes of framing our worlds. And the fact is that the world is changing so fast that we have to relearn our ways of thinking even as our children are struggling with new environmental realities.
Given that political leaders and their negotiaters are hardly going to start spouting Edward de Bono's six thinking hats method to mapping solutions through the minefield of agendas at COP15, it's easy to become cynical about calls for fresh vision and new thinking when old politics from older men are so much in play.
But Kohne shares two pinpoints of optimism amidst the fear that the 'Hope' in Copenhagen may come to nothing.
"I have two main sources of hope," she says, "firstly, there is a shared anguish amongst people in developed countries who share the goals and the values of the people who are the so called most affected. The problem at the moment is to pool the voices of the South with the voices of the North to really have the same perspective. And I really really hope the G77 and China are going to stand together and are going to insist on deep emission cuts because that's what we need. If they don't bring this meeting to a positive outcome I think we are all in a bad state."