Salutary Clips from Copenhagen COP15

As world leaders descend on Paris today for the climate showdown, I couldn’t resist digging out the corresponding moments of the doomed Copenhagen COP15 in 2009, filmed by indefatigable colleagues at OneWorld.

First, the grand entrance of Angela Merkel. Although the OneWorld crew* extracted only a single word from the doughty Chancellor, this was almost certainly more than she offered to anyone else, as you’ll see.

In opting for economy of expression, Frau Merkel momentarily forgot that it is better to travel hopefully to climate negotiations than to arrive. Asked whether she was optimistic about the outcome of the talks, her response was an emphatic “always”.

Although the soundbite is momentary, this clip covers the full minute preceding the exchange so that you can enjoy the desperate choreography of interviewer and camera operator as they scramble to penetrate the media scrum.

Fast forward a couple of days to the end of the Copenhagen COP – the very bitter end – a solitary UK minister exiting the desolate conference centre, the mood transformed utterly, the media vanished into the night.

Again I’m showing the whole clip as a bravura ensemble – the minister for sustaining a thoughtful discussion about the “pain and effort…of this odd process” when others would have resorted to the single phrase, the interviewer for finding each new question when a moment’s hesitation would have ended proceedings and the camera for its nerveless tracking – all at unbroken walking pace at 4.30 in the morning after two weeks of relentless live presentations.

Back to the present in Paris, optimism about the climate negotiations is once again the refrain, but you sense that the trauma of Copenhagen has not quite been exorcised. Now a more influential figure, often called the “climate Chancellor” in her own country, Angela Merkel wisely conveys determination rather than optimism. Both she and Barack Obama are searching for political legacy; Paris this week could be the time and place.


*the interviewer in both clips is Adam Groves. I haven’t checked whether he also held the camera; more likely this was Jamie Walker. Sadly, OneWorld will not be covering COP21 but you can follow the climate media and advocacy work of our founders, Peter Armstrong and Anuradha Vittachi, on Twitter @OneClimate