Friday, 28 December 2007

God Jul!

As this is our first married Christmas together we decided to spend it in Copenhagen and have a traditional Danish Christmas. This is largely the same as a Christmas in the UK but with a few small differences. The Danes enjoy their Christmas meal on Christmas Eve, when they also open their presents (which means I got to open my socks a day earlier than usual). Their traditional meal is "flaeskestegt" (pronounced "flay-ska-sty") which is roast pork (with crackling), red cabbage and caramelised potatoes. Very good, believe me. And they do amazing chocolates which nearly all contain marzipan (great if, like me, you love marzipan!).

Christmas Eve is the traditional family day when everyone stays in, generally eats too much, watches TV and plays games but Christmas Day is very social with most people venturing out for walks, ice-skating or even going to the cinema.

We went ice-skating on the main square, Kongens Nytorv (just 2 minutes walk from the flat). Predictably I was the only one who fell over.. but despite the slight bruising, it was a lot of fun. We were all put to shame by two tots who, complete with ice-hockey helmets and pads, stormed around the rink doing jigs, jumps, spins and all sorts.. show offs.

The weather has been cold but dry so unfortunately no snow.. but the forecast for New Year is very cold (with temperatures not getting above freezing) with the possibility of snow.. can't wait! It has been another relatively mild winter here so far with only a sprinkling of snow so far. Apparently in some winters it is possible to walk across the ice from Copenhagen to Sweden... but no sign of a big freeze just yet. Maybe it's all to come in January...

Wishing you all a "God Jul" and a "Glaede Nytar".

PS For those of you wondering what happened in Bali at the climate change negotiations, the outcome was an agreement to a negotiating process (involving all countries) with an end date of 2009 to agree on a post-2012 framework (when the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires). This is good news but the agreement to talks was the easy bit. Now comes the real hard negotiations on what each country's share of the overall greenhouse gas reductions should be. This promises to make Bali look like a walk in the park.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Bali: climate change crossroads

Today (Wednesday) sees the beginning of the "high-level segment" of the UN climate change negotiations in Bali, Indonesia. The first week and a half have been at official level. Now the serious negotiations begin. The talks are hugely important. The Kyoto Protocol, agreed in 1997 doesn't officially start until next year (the first commitment period runs from 2008-2012) but, given the pace of international negotiations involving 189 countries, the world needs to start now to begin to negotiate what will happen after 2012. There are a few stumbling blocks. Firstly, under Kyoto there is a principle called "common but differentiated responsibility" which means that every country has a responsibility to act but that that responsibility is greater for some than for others (according to whether you are a "developed" or a "developing" country). Under this principle, developed countries took targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Kyoto's first commitment period on the understanding that developing countries would later follow suit. The problem is that, although the first commitment period hasn't yet started, many developed countries are way off track in terms of meeting their targets (for example Canada has increased its emissions by 32% against a target of -6, Japan is on +13% instead of -6% etc. And, of course, the world's biggest polluter, the US, did not ratify Kyoto in the first place (and is on +22% against a provisional target of -7). I should point out here that the UK is on track: it has a target of -12.5% and is on track for around -23% by 2012. So developing countries, quite rightly, point to the fact that the "differentiated responsibility" has yet to be reflected in actions. At the same time there is little appetite among the developed countries who have taken on targets to take on further targets if the major developing economies of China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa (and developed countries such as the US) do not commit to any action.

Meanwhile, many (particularly the poorest countries) are feeling the impacts of climate change right now. Rising sea levels mean that many small island communities in the Pacific are having to leave their homes and relocate to places such as Australia, rainfall patterns are changing in Africa, causing already stressed agricultural industries to suffer even more and exacerbating crises like Darfur, and arctic ice is thinning at such an alarming rate that we could see the north pole ice-free in the summer within 5-6 years.

All this is against the backdrop of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which states that the climate is changing faster than we had anticipated, that it is "more than 95 per cent certain" that man is to blame and that global emissions must peak in the next 10-15 years and then reverse sharply if we are to avoid "abrupt and irreversible climate change".

And so to Bali. What can we expect? There is an emerging consensus that in Bali we need to launch inclusive negotiations on what happens after 2012 with a view to completing those negotiations by 2009 (to allow time for governments to ratify the agreement). So the Indonesians (hosting the Bali talks) would like to agree on a "Bali Roadmap" which sets out a timetable for the talks and the structure that those talks will take. This may not seem like much to ask as governments would simply be agreeing to talks. But, as always, the devil is in the detail and there is much disagreement about what those talks should include. On the positive side there is huge public awareness of climate change now and there are not many governments in Bali that would relish being seen as the spoilers when they return to face their public.. so it will likely require a strong coalition that countries can hide behind if the talks are to fail.

I am optimistic and I think we will get a Bali Roadmap at the end of this week which will set out a pathway for agreement on a post-2012 framework that should be agreed by 2009 (when the UN negotiations are scheduled to take place in Copenhagen). With a new US president due in late 2008, Australia having ratified the Kyoto Protocol this week (after the recent election victory for PM Rudd), and China taking a lot of action domestically to reduce its energy intensity and increase renewable energy, there are many reasons to be optimistic. We have to be - if we don't get agreement the consequences will be dire.

You can see the latest on the Bali negotiations from Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, by clicking on the link above.

Sunday, 9 December 2007


It has been pretty dark and grey here for the last couple of weeks but Saturday was a lot brighter so I went out birding for a few hours in the hope of seeing the 4th year White-tailed Eagle that has been wintering in the Klydesoen area (very close to my normal patch of Kongelunden on Amager). There was no sign of the eagle but I did catch up with a small party of Redpolls. These are superb little birds and across Europe there are three races that are found. The most common in the UK is the Lesser Redpoll that usually has a dull-brown plumage with off-white wingbars. In Scandinavia the most common race is the Common Redpoll (sometimes referred to as "Mealy Redpoll". By far the rarest is the Arctic Redpoll which, as its name suggests, breeds in Arctic Fenno-Scandinavia and Russia. The Arctic Redpoll has a much whiter plumage with a pure white rump, unstreaked white undertail coverts and a general "frosty" appearance.

The birds I saw yesterday (photos above) are of Common or "Mealy" Redpoll.