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Warming up to NGOs

Global Times
An Baijie

At the just concluded United Nations climate change talks in Tianjin, representatives of various countries held serious discussions about global warming, and other environmental issues. However, some participants showed up dressed to impress.

Three "frogmen" who wanted to call attention to the problems of global warming appeared in diving suits and goggles to symbolize frogs.

They also carried suitcases to the meeting and the organizers allowed them inside and even organized a meeting between members of several non-governmental organizations and a top official.

The frogmen were members of Greenpeace China, an NGO, who specifically showed up to express their fear about the rising sea levels caused by global warming.

"Climate change is the biggest challenge in the history of humankind, and we are facing two dilemmas: falling into the abyss of climate disaster or tackling the issue with a positive attitude," one of the men said during the talks earlier this month. "Every day is an opportunity for the negotiators to make a decision, and the more time it takes, the closer humankind will move to the abyss."

Officials at the October 4 - 9 gathering did not find the presence of the activists an embarrassment, as was the case at earlier meetings.

"Concerning the fact that most NGOs are coming to the meeting to represent the public's interests, we are friendly and nice toward them," an official at the Tianjin Foreign Affairs Office that co-hosted the talks told the Global Times over the phone, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

In addition to the "frogmen," Greenpeace China also staged a plastic iceberg near the conference venue to symbolize the impact of global warming. A member of the NGO also wore a costume to symbolize a starving, homeless polar bear.

"After Greenpeace asked to display the iceberg, we permitted and helped them to carry the material," the official said

Climate of change

More than 50 NGOs from home and abroad expressed concerns over climate change on the sidelines of the conference.

As officials are becoming more open about their work, some NGOs believe they can have more influence within the community.

"Around 1995, there were hardly any NGOs in China, and overseas NGOs were also strictly forbidden," said Liu Jianqiang, deputy editor-in-chief of the environmental NGO website

"But things have changed now, and we sit together holding side conferences here," Liu said.

Li Yan, director of the climate and energy project at Greenpeace China, said negotiators at the climate talks should have done more to lay the foundation for a more effective deal at upcoming talks in Cancun, Mexico, later this year.

More than 50 NGOs signed a document in Tianjin from September 30 to October 10 to support "Green China, Race to the Future" activities, which will include the showing of videos seminars and mailing out environmental booklets to the public.

Given the positive role that NGOs played during the climate talks, authorities showed a friendly attitude toward them.

Xie Zhenhua, vice minister at the National Development and Reform Commission, met with 21 NGO delegates for two hours on October 8, listened to their suggestions about key issues and spoke highly of NGOs in climate talks.

Shi Pengxiang, a project manager at Greenpeace China, said it was the first time that Xie talked with NGOs at a climate change conference, and Xie expressed his willingness to meet with them in Cancun.

In recent years, the environmental protection NGOs have been trying to exert more influence toward authorities.

Not just talk

Zhang Kejia, a worker in the Chinese department of the Nature Conservancy (TNC), a US-based NGO, told the Global Times they have been cooperating with local authorities in Sichuan and Qinghai provinces as well as Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region over forest-protection efforts there.

"Our organization mainly focuses on biodiversity issues, and we have coordinated with the local governments to protect forests, which is closely related to biodiversity issues," Zhang said.

Rather than just chanting slogans, the TNC engaged in concrete dialogue with the local governments in forest protection works, such as collecting data, providing key technologies and making plans for the local government, Zhang said.

Compared with the past, these governments are listening more to NGOs and some of the NGOs' proposals have been adopted into policy.

In 2004, six Chinese NGOs jointly advocated that the temperature in office buildings during summer months should not be lower than 26 C in order to lower energy consumption. And in 2007, the State Council issued a notice, stipulating that the temperature of public buildings should not be lower than 26 C. "The existing conditions of NGOs in China have become better than in the past, with more support from the government," Zhang said.

"The Ministry of Environmental Protection often consulted with the NGOs for suggestions," he said.

El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.


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