The Copenhagen Bikeshed

I’ve been trying to put Copenhagen’s COP15 into perspective, to synthesise the whole experience into something I can hang on a peg.

The more I think about it, the more it resonates with a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while about “The Bikeshed Effect”.

“Why Should I Care What Color the Bikeshed Is?

The really, really short answer is that you should not.”

A bikeshed in Copenhagen

The whole Copenhagen effect was a great example of the Bikeshed Effect in action. I listened to a LOT of speeches at COP15, including the opening ceremony High Level Segment with Prince Charles, Yvo de Boer, Ban Ki Moon and all the climate A-listers. Every speech I heard said: “We need to agree a strong and fair international agreement to tackle climate change, now”. Think “Yes, we all agree, we need a new bikeshed”.

That’s fantastic, a really clear signal of intention and consensus. But that’s where the agreement stopped.

Should the agreement be an international carbon tax? Cap and Trade? Kyoto-based? Contraction and Convergence? Green? Brown? Orange? Polka Dot? And the roof: Should that be the same colour? Felted? Or tiled perhaps? Maybe a green roof.

And that’s where we are now. A rough agreement to build a bikeshed that most countries have agreed should not be pink or orange, but probably a greenish colour, with some kind of waterproof roof. But,