Copenhagen Day 4 - it's a serious game

The Head of IUCN's Water Programme Mark Smith got a naked greeting upon his arrival at COP15, but it's much more than fun and games inside, he explains.

Dr Mark Smith

Day 1 for me in the Bella Centre. Arriving was a bit of a jolt, stepping off the metro train in the dull grey of a Danish December morning, straight into what felt like an old-fashioned football crowd. The banging drums and blowing horns turned out to be coming from a bunch of ‘youth’ in their underwear – not so common at football matches – but it was the crowd that basically carried me through the doors.

This is the fourth of these big international jamborees I have been to in the last 14 months, after our own IUCN Congress, the Ramsar CoP and the World Water Forum last March. This is definitely different. There are smooth diplomatic operators, earnest activists and nutters in equal measure. As IUCN we try to be a mix of the first two, but the last group are certainly having the most fun. There are a lot of people in the building, and all busy, but few are involved in the main event. Underneath it all there’s no escaping that this is serious business.

The hallways and coffee stops are full of interesting chatter when you stop to listen. Technical dissections of emissions reporting methodologies in one huddle, a briefing to a journalist about the value in carbon markets of every 1% reduction in emissions in another. Easier than reading a text book that’s for sure. Plus I heard more than one discussion of who the villains of the piece might be. Not surprising maybe, but citizens back home would be shocked. Just imagine Peter Gzowski’s lament.

I was a panelist this afternoon in a side event discussing the role of water management in climate change adaptation and our hopes that this can get some profile in the adaptation agreement here. We’ll see what happens with that, but the event was fascinating. There is a real agenda emerging on climate resilience and water. The science of social-ecological systems is meeting policy in real-world terms thanks to the CoP. I’m convinced IUCN can really help here, and people are listening to us and the insights we bring from work in the field.

The coolest thing of the day? Without doubt the ‘science sphere’ in the US pavilion. A globe about a metre and a half in diameter, hung from the ceiling within which is projected a map of the world with swirling colours depicting changes in temperatures and ocean currents. How it works I don’t know but we definitely need one in the entrance of the new IUCN building.

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