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Beyond Copenhagen
      Beyond Copenhagen : The Outcome and What Next? This was the title of a public conference organised by  the Exeter and District Branch of the UNA-UK at Jurys Inn, Exeter on Saturday 20th February last. As Chairman of this organisation I was involved in setting it up.  70 concerned members of the public listened to three expert speakers who gave their views and then participated in group discussions. Opening the conference, Susan Matthew, one of the Branch Vice Presidents, reminded everyone that the Copenhagen Conference had to be organised by the UN because it was the only global organisation which could bring together representatives of over 190 countries, but she quoted Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, who said at the end of the Conference that,  “Trying to take so many countries through the same door towards a more co- operative global warming policy has proved challenging.” In his address, Dr. Jeff Ridley, a scientist from the Met Office, explained that greenhouse gas emissions had increased steadily since the start of the industrial revolution but that Earth’s climate was now being changed in ways that were scientifically distinguishable from natural variations. “The long-term global goal is to limit warming to about 2 degrees centigrade, so that oceans can absorb these gases. The challenge is to reduce emissions from today’s levels by about 70%…Global emissions must peak before 2020 and decline thereafter in order to have a realistic chance of avoiding a temperature rise of more than 2  degrees C.” He told us that sceptics will always be with us, and when the truth is faced,  the  response is often to favour ambitious plans to build hugely expensive barriers or sun deflectors rather than  explore essential lifestyle changes. Dr. Duncan Russel of the Exeter University Department of Politics, explained that domestic difficulties and economic worries had prevented a global deal, but pointed out that other forces had come into play – The Climate Change Group of Leading Politicians and Businesses, the Carbon Disclosure Project, the C40 Cities and the international climate change campaign had all made their voices heard. He posed the question. “Might the solution be based on these sort of initiatives rather than a weak global agreement?”  Dr Stewart Barr, from the University Department of Geography, followed this theme through by encouraging community-led participation for sustainable living, but warned that large scale behavioural change would be difficult. Recent surveys of public opinion indicate that most people wish to conform to familiar neighbourhood lifestyles and are prone to short term thinking. Rather than launching big national propaganda campaigns, he advised policy-makers to do more to fund local projects, which are sprouting up around the country.   The discussion groups confirmed this thinking. Several people present were already active in ecological groups and transition town movements. Some were engaged in personal targets to reduce carbon footprints, others with local food projects etc. We agreed that it was important to encourage local sustainable living and to lobby our MPs and MEPs on these issues. We should encourage them to think long term rather than short, to support green technology at home, and to help the poorest countries abroad so that they can combat the worst effects of climate change. Winding up the conference, I reminded everyone that those of us who live in democratic countries carry a big responsibility, which we should exercise. “The poorest countries are paying the price today,” I told them, “but it is our own grandchildren who will pay it later, if we do not heed the warnings.”         ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
         BEYOND COPENHAGEN- THE OUTCOME -WHAT NEXT?                               This free conference has been organised by the Exeter Branch of UNA-UK ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------                                          Date: Saturday 20th February  1.30 – 5.30 pm at Jurys Inn, Exeter                                        Doors open at 1.00             Registration until 1.30 1.30 Conference opened by Susan Matthew, Vice-President of the Exeter Branch of UNA-UK and former a Principal Officer in the UN Peacekeeping Department.           Brief explanation of the UN Role in world affairs and climate change.    1.45    Dr. Jeff Ridley from the Met Office Hadley Centre. Exeter                                                                                     “Climate Change, Adaptation and Mitigation”                                    2.15     Dr Duncan Russel of the Exeter University, Department of Politics                “Copenhagen. The outcome. What next for Politicians?” 1.45 Dr. Stewart Barr of Exeter University, researching sustainable development “Understanding and Promoting Behaviour Change for Sustainability”  3,15.   Tea break                                3.30.   Three alternative discussion groups:-              the science of climate change (with Jeff Ridley)              the politics of climate change   (with Duncan Russel)                                       behaviour change for sustainability (with Stewart Barr)                                                                                                                                                                                                       Members of each group are invited to introduce themselves and then share thoughts on the topic and then agree on the two most important bullet points for further action.   3.45.      Feedback Session led by Noel Harrower, Chair, Exeter Branch UNA-UK 5.30.      Thanks and Close of Conference ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Conference members who have vehicles in the Summerlands Multi-storey Car Park can obtain a reduction if they get their tickets stamped at the main JURYS INN Reception Desk on the ground floor.
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