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This year’s Earth Day celebrations are focusing on effecting legislation for climate change, both globally and nationally.  This focus on climate change coincides nicely with the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Bolivia.

The Conference was held April 20-22 in Cochabamba, Bolivia — the same city where the famous ‘Water Wars’ took place 10 years ago.  The summit is meant to be a recognition of those countries (mostly developing countries) who were left out of the Copenhagen Accord.  Environmental leaders, indigenous leaders, and civilians from around the world gathered in Cochabamba to discuss a plan for counteracting climate change.

Bolivian president Evo Morales is at the fore-front of this message, saying that ‘either capitalism dies, or it will be Mother Earth.’  The theme of this conference is very much that indigenous lifestyles are the best way to live sustainably, and that more industrialized nations should bear their weight of responsibility when it comes to the damage that has been done to the global environment.

The intent of the delegations in attendance is to draft new proposals to submit to the UN council in Mexico later year.

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In case you’ve been busy studying (as I know many of you are) Democracy Now! offers incredibly articulate coverage of the tension over proposals at the COP15 in Copenhagen this week.

Interviews with Bolivian and Uruguayan negotiators, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, 15 year old climate ambassadors from the Maldives and more!  Check it out!

This December, I’ll be one of a handful of students from Iowa who’ll be attending the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.  World leaders will attempt to put together a climate change agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, and I’ll be there to observe and report on the proceedings. In Copenhagen I’ll join thousands of young people from all across the world who’ll form the first officially recognized youth delegation – youth who will be advocating for an effective international climate change treaty.

I decided to create The Road to Copenhagen blog as a way to chronicle and share my experiences, but also to open up the process to the widest audience possible.  The Road to Copenhagen, will follow the most recent developments leading up to Copenhagen and highlight perspectives that often get overlooked in the media—those of youth, delegates from developing countries (who disproportionately suffer the worst effects from global warming), and other activists.

The COP15 might possibly be the most important and the most challenging international gathering of our or any other generation.  Despite efforts to undermine the scientific consensus behind global warming, the facts are clear; the earth’s temperature is rising and human activity is driving it.  While most leaders acknowledge that fact, we still aren’t sure what type of agreement Copenhagen will produce.

World leaders and delegates of 192 nations will be in attendance, but what happens in Copenhagen—its successes or failures—will impact the world’s six billion people.

Power concedes nothing without demand.  While blogs alone won’t solve the world’s problems, they offer spaces for people-generated media.  So keep an eye on what’s happening, join the conversation, post a comment and, if interested, author a post.

It’s time to shed the dirty energy economy of the past.  It’s a new day, and long past due.  Let’s get to work!

I hope to hear from you soon!

Dan Reicher, director of climate change and energy initiatives at Google, summed the effort to pass a US climate change bill as an “epic, epic struggle”.

This summer the House of Representatives passed a climate change bill that aims to reduce carbon emissions and make investments in renewable energy. Recently the Senate has taken up the task of stitching together a bill and well, but real action has been postponed to the spring.

The positive and the frustrating aspects of the American political process are on full display. Climate change legislation languishes and wallows in several Senate committees, and is held captive by the vested interest of the few.

This would all be inconsequential if it wasn’t absolutely urgent for the US to get its act together before UN climate talks in December.

In December, 192 nations will meet in Copenhagen to forge one of the most difficult international agreements ever – a comprehensive climate change treaty that replaces the Kyoto Protocol. The Copenhagen conference is seen by many as one of the last opportunities for the world to lock in a process that reduces greenhouse gases in time to stave off disaster.

Copenhagen will not only be a historic gathering of world leaders, scientists, and thought leaders – it’ll be a critical one as well. The time that remains, the window that we have for a climate change deal for the world’s 6 billion people is closing.

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Cross-post by  Janet Redman, Institute for Policy Studies

Developed countries have an obligation to direct financial and technical support to developing nations to enable them to shift to low-carbon growth pathways.

It’s been a year since Barack Obama’s historic election as our first African-American president. That night, many Americans shed tears of joy, exchanged congratulatory embraces, and voiced high expectations for real change.

As the Obama administration’s first year draws to a close, we’re approaching another historic moment. The world’s nations are negotiating a deal to steer the planet away from catastrophic climate change. And by December, if an agreement is reached at a summit in Copenhagen, developed countries like the United States will have to step forward and put binding targets for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions on the table.

Yes, developing countries-with their increasing carbon footprints-should come to the table, too (and in fact, many are already making great strides at implementing renewable energy and energy efficiency programs). But the responsibility rests squarely on wealthy industrialized nations to own up to our historical role in causing the climate crisis and make the first move. And legally, developed countries have an obligation to direct financial and technical support to developing nations to enable them to shift to low-carbon growth pathways.

But our government says it can’t get out ahead of Congress and commit to anything internationally until lawmakers pass a domestic climate bill. Meanwhile, Congress says it’s waiting for the White House to send the right signals before pushing hard on targets and climate finance for poorer countries.

So instead of leading on climate, as he’d promised to do in campaign speeches, Obama’s administration has called for each country-rich or poor-to simply pledge its individual domestic climate commitment.

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So if you hadn’t heard, Power Shift Regional Summits have been happening all over the country (check out the map for a summit in your area). This weekend, Power Shift Pennsylvania pulled off our own summit at Penn State University.

While I hope to submit additional posts on the overall turnout, content of each panel and activists work around the first week of Senate hearings on the Kerry-Boxer bill, I want to start with the discussion that I found most interesting–the panel I facilitated on How Coal & Natural Gas Disrupt Communities and Degrade the Environment.

Presenting were Andrew Munn, from the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC), Jay Sweeny and Brady Russell from Clean Water Action (CWA), Stephanie Simmons from both CWA and the Sierra Club, and Raina Rippel from the Center for Coalfield Justice and the newly formed Alliance for a Coal-Free Generation.


Andrew has been working and living in the Coal River Valley in West Virginia, working with communities affected by Mountaintop Removal. Jay and Brady have been working with communities affected by Natural Gas drilling into the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, along with Stephanie. And Raina has been doing some amazing organizing against Longwall Mining in her community.

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With 50 days left before the COP-15 international climate negotiations in Copenhagen, we’ll need a serious shift in climate (figuratively speaking) for any significant shift in climate (literally speaking) to happen after the close of negotiations on December 18th.

Developed and developing nations remain at an impasse over two major points of negotiation–who will incur the brunt of the costs to help developing countries adapt to climate change, and who will take the lead and stop pouring green house gases into the atmosphere. So, what are young people across the country doing to shift the climate state-by-state as our leaders remain stagnant and unproductive? Power Shift.

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As a college-age environmental activist, I’ve always felt a divide between the Green movement of my parents’ generation and that of my own. Celebrating Earth Day each April is almost an afterthought for the environmental student group at American University, though in 1970, it singlehandedly defined a movement and a generation. Going to Sierra Club meetings with my parents is always a little alien to me as well – the older, affluent, white attendees couldn’t look more different from the young people (from increasingly diverse backgrounds) that I see at protests in Washington, DC.

With this knowledge, it’s all too easy to forget that I’m asking many of the same questions and fighting many of the same battles today that my parents did 40 years ago.

Two weeks ago, I joined twelve other members of Eco-Sense, American University’s environmental sustainability group, at a screening of Earth Days. This new documentary looks back at the roots of the Green movement, using exclusive footage and interviews with America’s legendary movers and shakers to trace its evolution through the decades. From Rachel Carson, the first Dirty Dozen, and the ground-breaking 1970 Earth Day, you witness the development of a radical movement that has finally—for better or for worse—become mainstream.

Perhaps the most powerful message of the film is that change cannot come from a movement that is partisan, polarized, and exclusive. Wealthy and poor, Democrat and Republican, developed nation and developing nation, and black, white, and brown need to once again recognize their common interests in the Green movement. After all, the first definitive pieces of environmental legislation in the US—the Clean Air and Water Acts and the Endangered Species Act—were products of a bipartisan effort for change in the 1970s, largely forwarded by Richard Nixon.

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First, let me begin with an introduction: my name is Ethan Frey. I’m a senior International Politics major (+ a few minors) at Westminster College in New Wilmington, PA.  I am serving as one of Americans for Informed Democracy’s Northeast Regional Coordinators this year, with a focus on  Global Environment. There’ll be some great, exciting and substantively significant events happening through the Fall (Power Shift Pennsylvania and Copenhagen, most namely) and I’m excited to organize around them – for and against them – with you all. Thanks for the opportunity!

Now on to the G20…

Unfortunately, I was only able to roam the streets of Pittsburgh Thursday, and not Friday. I’ll set the scene: driving south into Pittsburgh signs read “road closings for G20”, “Pittsburgh welcomes world leaders”, “Use caution: police forces on high alert”, so once we get into the  city, we realize that, in reality, the streets are bare aside from what seems to be a government crackdown in a policed state.

Our first stop: the press tent to assist with an Avaaz photo-op at the Media Check-In outside Mellon Arena.  They were marketing “SurvivaBall” – the newest chic invention by the zillionaires that (attempt to) run the world.

“SurvivaBall” is the G20’s answer to the climate crisis: corporate accountability; save our CEOs.

It’s oozes satire, as the Avaaz folks attempt to display how spending 1 billion to insure the CEOs and executive directors that run the largest corporations and countries is not going to be enough.

Their message: we need to spend the money now to ensure the safety, and provide the ability for developing countries to adapt to a changing climate. International Adaptation Aid is an issue that must emerge on the political scene once the U.S. Senate returns to negotiations around a Climate bill.

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August 2020

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