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Mainers Heading to Copenhagen to Lobby for Strong Climate Treaty
12/01/2009 05:32 PM ET   Reported By: Anne Mostue

A handful of Mainers will be attending the United Nations climate negotiations next week in Copenhagen, Denmark. Members of the group say they hope to draw more attention to the need to cut carbon emissions in Maine and around the world.

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The Maine contingent to Copenhagen includes a college student, a member of the Maine Sierra Club, and a retired war veteran.

"I will go to Copenhagen as a representative of Operation Free, which is a coalition of mainly Afghan and Iraqi War veterans who believe that it is absolutely paramount that we as Americans become energy independent," says retired Major Gen. Donald Edwards of South Bristol, a veteran of the Vietnam War who plans to speak at the conference as a delegate from Operation Free, a coalition of Veterans and national security organizations that views climate change as an issue of national security.

"We burn almost 25 percent of the oil that's burned in the world, so we'll go to Copenhagen with that in mind," Edwards says. "We'll also go to talk about the problems of population displacement, because the oceans rise two-and-a-half to three feet. Here on the Maine coast, that's going to be a very serious challenge. But if you can imagine the Indus River Delta, or the Nile River Delta or the coast of Nigeria, where there are immense populations in very low-lying areas, it's going to be a disaster."

Edwards predicts those population shifts will have significant effects on the environment and on security in those regions.

Also traveling to Copenhagen is Brooke Welty, a Portland native and student at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor. She'll be attending with 13 of her classmates, who've been preparing for the conference over the past year.

"There will be thousands of youth at the conference in Copenhagen who will be demanding a strong climate treaty," she says. "We will be meeting the first weekend as a Conference of the Youth, preparing statements, planning lobby visits with the senators that will be there, with negotiators."

Like Welty, Freeport resident Joan Saxe views her role as one of ambassador. Saxe is attending the conference as Chair of the Maine Sierra Club's Energy Committee. "Our presence in Copenhagen and our expanded ability to be ambassadors at home will be crucial in getting public support and putting positive pressure on the Obama administration and Congress. We feel like this is a truly historic opportunity."

The three Mainers say they'll judge the success of the conference by the amount of attention it brings to climate change. Edwards says he hopes it will get more people to listen to the discussions about cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases believed to be responsible for global warming.

"I think we all realize and understand that there's not going to be a treaty enacted at this meeting. Hopefully there will be progress and hopefully with the president's presence and members of Congress as well as ourselves, the rest of the world will begin to feel that America is moving forward with climate control."

The UN-led talks run from Dec. 7th through the 18th in the Danish capital.


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