Crowded COP15

This article was published in Greenbiz on Tuesday, December 15, 2009.

Based upon the severity of the issues at hand and the global significance of a potential climate change agreement, it is no surprise that thousands from around the world have convened in Copenhagen for the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Many in attendance are here representing governments from around the world. Typically, heads of state arrive at the end of negotiations, just in time for a signing ceremony. However, with a final agreement in question and what I think signals the importance of the issue, many heads of state have already arrived. This has created additional momentum and added to the excitement and hope.

But it is not just government leaders who have gathered. Some reports state that 22,000 representatives from NGOs are here this week. There are also a number of business representatives deeply invested in these issues in attendance. The Bella Center, site of the conference, holds 15,000 people, but 45,000 people registered to attend the convention. This clearly took the United Nations and the Danish host government by surprise. Each day thousands of people are forced to wait in lines, some for up to seven hours, to receive credentials to enter the proceedings. Then, the United Nations announced that thousands of NGOs who had not been allowed to enter would not be granted admission for the rest of the week.

For those able to attend the meetings, plenty of drama unfolded. The G77 group of developing nations walked out of the negotiations Monday, accusing developed countries of attempting to reduce their commitments to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. While the boycott ended after informal talks, there is clearly a need for a cohesive solution that is realistic for developed and developing nations alike.

At an event that I attended, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu underscored the need for all parties to work together. And that is exactly what many of the companies and NGO’s attending this historic event are doing. They are building partnerships to win new markets and the hearts and minds of the new generation.

Hope for success continues from business, non-governmental organization and government representatives, but that hope is mixed with a pragmatic view.  As one minister put it: “Unless there is belief that you can once again capture the attention of so many heads of state and governments, you better secure a good agreement in Copenhagen.”

Helle Bank Jorgensen is a partner and sustainability and climate change leader atPricewaterhouseCoopers U.S.

Click here for full coverage of COP15 from the and teams, including posts from Copenhagen by Executive Editor Joel Makower and Senior Contributor Marc Gunther, and from dozens of guest contributors from the business world.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Greenpeace Finland.