UNFCCC Secretariat and Danish Government, You Should Apologize to All NGOs

December 21, 2009

Hengwei LIU

The 15th Conference of the Parties (COP-15) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) taking place at Bella Center in Copenhagen, Denmark, commenced on December 7th, 2009, and adjourned some two weeks later on December 18th. Its original purpose has been to reach a new international agreement on climate change to come into force when the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period comes to an end in 2012.

After two tumultuous weeks of sessions involving 193 countries, leaders from the United States, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa came to an agreement named ‘Copenhagen Accord’. While the accord is reached, many vital details remain to be defined in the following year. The ‘deal’ is far from perfect–and a long way from what had hoped for–but it is a start. ‘For the first time, all major economies have come together to accept their responsibility to combat climate change,’ said President Obama, after a raucous all-day session of emergency negotiations in Copenhagen. ‘This is a consensus that will serve as the foundation for global action against climate change for years to come.’  Credit should be partly given to the Danish government and its leadership and the UNFCCC Secretariat, who have worked tirelessly for a long time to prepare for the negotiations at COP-15 in Copenhagen.

Here I do not want to comment much about the ‘deal’ or give more praise to the organizers. Now I want to turn to the other aspect–the shocking logistical failure in Copenhagen–the organizers denied access to thousands of the registered COP-15 participants!

The Article 7, paragraph 6, of the UNFCCC duly provides for the admission of NGOs to sessions of the Convention bodies as observers: The United Nations, its specialized agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency, as well as any State member thereof or observers thereto not Party to the Convention, may be represented at sessions of the Conference of the Parties as observers. Any body or agency, whether national or international, governmental or non-governmental, which is qualified in matters covered by the Convention, and which has informed the secretariat of its wish to be represented at a session of the Conference of the Parties as an observer, may be so admitted unless at least one third of the Parties present object. The admission and participation of observers shall be subject to the rules of procedure adopted by the Conference of the Parties.

Knowing the Bella Center could accommodate at most 15,000 persons at any one time, the organizers approved about 43,000 observers from official, accredited organizations around the world. The result is that thousands of participants – including not only NGO representatives, but also government negotiators – stood in line outside of the Bella Center in the bitter cold waiting about 2 hours in the first week and 10 hours in the second week to get inside to receive their credentials.  Thousands of others never got inside, despite having waited up to 8 hours, standing in the cold. Moreover, many side events will be holding in Bella Center have to be cancelled.

Same chaos also occurred at the Central Station of Copenhagen at the evening of Dec 17, many trains delayed, and no one knew when the trains will come and which track will be used. In this station, I cannot find any volunteer of COP-15.

There has never been such a chaos in the UNFCCC conference history. No doubt, both the UNFCCC Secretariat and the host, Danish government must share the responsibility for the logical failure.

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One Response to “UNFCCC Secretariat and Danish Government, You Should Apologize to All NGOs”


  1. You got yourself a new reader with this post. Great work, I’ve subscribed to your blog feed.


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