Tracking the changes: Teresa Fogelberg takes the climate train

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14 December 2009

Thousands of people make up a COP, from campaigners, lobbyists, negotiators and journalists to NGO and UN staff, presidents and ministers. Teresa Fogelberg, however, has a very special take on the event.

Back in 2000, Fogelberg organised COP6 while head of climate change in the Netherlands environment ministry. She is now a top communicator, as deputy chief executive of the Global Reporting Initiative — the global standard for sustainability reporting. And she has been listed as one of the Netherlands’ 100 most influential leaders in sustainability by Trouw, one of the main Dutch newspapers.

It’s no surprise, then, that Fogelberg — who is also on IIED’s board — travelled to COP15 with sustainability top of the agenda. She shares her journey with us here…

From the train platform in Nijmegen, Holland, to drought-striken Bokkeveld in South Africa

Two 10-year-old boys welcomed us with a cup of hot chocolate and put a green bonnet on my head. I needed it: it was cold in the train station square in Nijmegen, in the eastern Netherlands. Cheerleaders, also in green, danced extra hard to keep out the cold.

The Dutch climate train was off, making the rounds of seven Dutch cities. Then, at 9pm, the train was waved off by a large crowd as it left for Copenhagen.

On board were some 200 local and national climate activists, researchers and politicians, and a very large number of journalists. Also riding the rails was Dutch Minister Jacqueline Cramer, herself an environmental activist and professor in corporate social responsibility.

Thirteen carriages in all, with speed dates, debates, lectures and interviews, as well as three bars for networking. And a whole cabin filled with bicycles for the travelers to use in Copenhagen.

At 11pm, we heard the voice of the minister wishing us all good night from her cabin, explaining that she had to catch some sleep before the intense negotiations ahead.

I shared a cabin with Liesbeth van Tongeren, the director of Greenpeace Netherlands, and Gail Whiteman, professor at Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University, on her way to speak about human rights engagement with companies.

That encounter in itself was very special: three women from civil society and academia exchanging Copenhagen news and events, as well as creating a special kind of bond.

In our single bunk beds we travelled on bumpy rails through dark, starlit and cold Europe. The train carriage was snug and old-fashioned, with windows on both sides. An hour before arrival we witnessed a pink-orange dawn, and red-painted farm houses on rolling hills. All 200 of us had an excellent breakfast just before we rolled into Copenhagen Central Station. (A big thanks the Dutch national railways, for hosting this festive and inspiring train ride!)

The train formed a literal chain between city and city, country and country, North and South.

On board, local politicians were discussing municipal climate neutral measures, and the Dutch president of public swimming pools committed to move away from the use of chlorine and heat the water more efficiently.

And Sylvia Borren, chair of the Dutch Worldconnectors, handed out a last-minute call for action in Copenhagen, combining a strong climate deal with combating poverty, in order to avoid all funds allocated to climate change adaptation to be taken away form the Millenium Development Goals.

In Copenhagen the train stopped, but my travels continued. I found myself in Bokkeveld, South Africa, where small farmers were trapped in a three-year drought that threatened to destroy their income from rooibos tea production. And in rural Zimbabwe: Berta Nherera of ecology and land-use organisation PELUM gave witness of how women farmers are affected by climate change.

I was, of course, at Day 3 of IIED’s D&C Days — at the session on community-based adaptation.

How did the farmers fare? In both cases, the local communities were trained in monitoring rainfall and temperatures, and were assisted in adapting to the changes, through new crop varieties and water harvesting.

And how did we fare? I can only say: D&C Days — a safe haven for G77, China delegations and NGOs from developing countries.



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