Holyrood 350 — H35O

4 Action Points For Holyrood To Avert Climate Chaos

3 Days of Copenhagen Climate Change talks and walks

December 11th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Along with about 45,000 oth­er peo­ple I’ve been at the Bel­la Cen­tre in Copen­hagen where the main UN Cli­mate Change nego­ti­a­tions and side events have been hap­pen­ing in a place capa­ble of hold­ing only 15,000 peo­ple (see Day One below).

Then I joined 100,000 folk to march on the Bel­la Cen­tre to demand real action now (see Day Two below).

Final­ly I took part in an unex­pect­ed BBC debate and in our polite but firm Aca­d­e­m­ic Sem­i­nar Block­ade (Day Three below) before head­ing home­wards.

DAY THREE: Sun­day 13th Decem­ber — Radio 5 then an Aca­d­e­m­ic Con­fer­ence Block­ade

The Radio 5 late night inter­view after the Copen­hagen march was bizarre; and even more bizarrely, some of it was appar­ent­ly repeat­ed on Radio 4’s Today pro­gramme the next morn­ing. I was asked about the huge march and why I was there – fair enough – and then the inter­view­er want­ed to focus on the 968 arrests – fair enough, although I won­dered out loud whether the sto­ry should real­ly be that a few ‘Black Bloc’ demon­stra­tors broke win­dows, that the Dan­ish police used that as an excuse to arrest and hold 968 pro­tes­tors in freez­ing con­di­tions (lat­er charg­ing only 13), or whether the sto­ry should be that 100,000 peo­ple of all ages and back­grounds and from all over the world marched to demand the politi­cians act. Unex­pect­ed­ly the inter­view­er then went to an Amer­i­can Repub­li­can Par­ty cli­mate denier and I was drawn into a debate about whether man­made cli­mate change is even an issue!

The next day a group of us held an Aca­d­e­m­ic Sem­i­nar Block­ade at the gates of a coal fired pow­er sta­tion near Copen­hagen docks. Pas­sion­ate and informed papers on cli­mate change were deliv­ered, and while I was giv­ing a paper (on the three dif­fer­ent forms of denial I believe that we in the cli­mate change move­ment have to nav­i­gate between) three police vans arrived and a police­man came over. I polite­ly but firm­ly asked him to wait until I had fin­ished giv­ing the paper – which he did. Then Stel­lan Vintha­gen spoke with him and the vans wait­ed while we con­tin­ued – even­tu­al­ly leav­ing as we left. The main organ­is­er of the Sem­i­nar Block­ade — Kelvin Mason, from the Cen­tre for Alter­na­tive Tech­nol­o­gy – point­ed out that var­i­ous Dan­ish based aca­d­e­mics hadn’t turned up to join us because there is a real sense of fear here, espe­cial­ly after the 968 arrests; and indeed while we were at the pow­er sta­tion, sev­er­al hun­dred peo­ple were arrest­ed for protest­ing in oth­er parts of the docks.

On Sun­day night I took the 24-hour coach ride back to Lon­don and am now head­ing on to Edin­burgh.

Mean­while in the nego­ti­a­tions the ‘devel­op­ing’ coun­tries led by Africa walked out yes­ter­day (Mon­day) because of an attempt by ‘devel­oped’ coun­tries to scrap the Kyoto Pro­to­col — the only legal­ly bind­ing agree­ment com­mit­ting ‘devel­oped’ coun­tries (except the US) to emis­sions cuts. The talks got back on track because the ‘devel­oped’ nations backed down and agreed to a twin track approach: one track to hold ‘devel­oped’ coun­tries (except the US) to Kyoto cuts; and anoth­er track to bring the US, Chi­na and India into mak­ing cuts as well. How­ev­er since the Kyoto pro­to­col came into fore emis­sions have con­tin­ued ris­ing rapid­ly, and total pledges for 2020 emis­sion cuts stand at a des­per­ate­ly low total of 8–12% cuts on 1990 lev­els, and once loop­holes are tak­en into account this could end up as a 4% INCREASE on 1990 lev­els when what is need­ed is at least a 45% DECREASE by 2020.

It’s not just a Wave (like the great march in Glas­gow) nor a Flood (like FoE’s march that fed into the Copen­hagen march of 100,000), it is a com­plete Sea Change that is need­ed. George Monbiot’s arti­cle in today’s Guardian describes it well. As we work flat out to try and make the changes need­ed, there are three cer­tain­ties that I hold onto. The first is that the only thing we can rely on is uncer­tain­ty: in oth­er words we can nev­er be cer­tain what will hap­pen, we can just do our bit to tip things the right way. The sec­ond is that rad­i­cal social change in the future always looks impos­si­ble before it hap­pens (and it hap­pens fast), and it always looks as though it was inevitable after­wards (of course Apartheid end­ed, women got the vote, the Berlin Wall fell, or in this case peo­ple would say that “of course we made the changes, oth­er­wise human­i­ty wouldn’t have sur­vived” – but that’s not how it feels right now). And final­ly, we are alive now to the extent that we care.

DAY TWO: Saturday 12th December — On the Huge Climate Action March

A fan­tas­tic day of civ­il soci­ety tak­ing action on the streets.

I’m too tired to do any­thing more than paste in here a report I have just sent to the BBC’s Radio 5 Live show who want to inter­view me tonight …

I came over to Copen­hagen on the fer­ry from Har­wich on Thurs­day, and head back to the UK tomor­row night by a 24 hour coach ride. I am part of the Tran­si­tion Town move­ment in the UK (www.transtionculture.org).

I came, like thou­sands from the UK, because we don’t believe the politi­cians under­stand the seri­ous­ness of what is hap­pen­ing. So today 100,000 of us from all over the world marched the 6km from Par­lia­ment Square to the Bel­la Cen­tre where Min­is­ters are work­ing out what they will let the world do to lim­it the dam­age from cli­mate chaos.

99,500 peo­ple on the march were cheer­ful and colour­ful (the oth­er few hun­dred were young kids of the Black Bloc who — after two of them broke some win­dows — seemed des­tined to end up being the play­things of the Dan­ish police and their new ‘Ras­cal law’ giv­ing them pow­ers they need­ed to prove they deserved). The rest of us danced to sam­ba bands, brass bands, walked along­side floats, under flags and ban­ners, as pen­guins, as polar bears (well, you know, they have to find some­where). The colour­ful tens of thou­sands car­ried plac­ards say­ing ‘Politi­cians only talk, Lead­ers lead’, ‘There is No Plan­et B’ and ‘Sys­tem Change not Cli­mate Change’. At the end an indige­nous leader from the Amer­i­c­as said — to roars of agree­ment — that the real solu­tion is not the cli­mate mar­ket; the real solu­tion is sim­ply to leave the coal and oil and gas in the ground, and not to try and make a quick fix with poi­so­nous nuclear. Before, on the march, he and all the indige­nous peo­ples had been singing ‘The Cli­mate Mar­ket is a Big Lie’.

The fear is that the politi­cians will nego­ti­ate a deal where the North just car­ries on with plan­et-wreck­ing busi­ness as usu­al, and pays some mon­ey to the politi­cians of the Glob­al South in exchange for them say­ing they’ll pro­tect their forests to keep absorb­ing some of the CO2 — mean­while car­bon lev­els will keep on rock­et­ing, the arc­tic melt­ing, forests burn­ing and per­mafrost melt will increas­ing­ly release methane. The fear is that they’ll make it look like a great deal, but it could be just like the G8 meet­ing in Gle­nea­gles in 2005 when Bob Gel­dorf and the Make Pover­ty His­to­ry cam­paign got the Gov­ern­ments to promise they’d end pover­ty in Africa, and then things just got worse.

Strange­ly enough, we’re here because these meet­ings of these politi­cians do noth­ing. They just seem to rub­ber stamp the sys­tem that has brought us star­va­tion at one end of the world and obe­si­ty at the oth­er, brought us cheap flights to sun­ny des­ti­na­tions which will soon be too sun­ny to fly to any more. That’s why the most pop­u­lar plac­ards at today’s march were ‘Sys­tem Change not Cli­mate Change’ and ‘Our Cli­mate — Not your Busi­ness’.

DAY ONE: Friday 11th December — In the UNCCC Bella Centre

Today I was at the side events at the UNCCC Cli­mate talks in the Bel­la Cen­tre, Copen­hagen. I was here to meet up with peo­ple I’ll be work­ing with to sup­port for­est peo­ples’ com­mu­ni­ties in Camer­oun to resist and redi­rect the World Bank’s cli­mate change ‘solu­tions’. Solu­tions which are prob­a­bly no solu­tion at all but will appro­pri­ate local peo­ples’ forests, lead to rapid defor­esta­tion, and be used to jus­ti­fy emis­sions in the Glob­al North through appear­ing to pro­tect (while actu­al­ly destroy­ing) the forests of the Glob­al South. Wel­come to the UN’s REDDS mech­a­nism (Reduc­ing Emis­sions from Defor­esta­tion and Degra­da­tion in the Glob­al South) — a great idea if con­trolled by local peo­ple and if it isn’t an excuse for inac­tion in the Glob­al North, but a crazy idea in the hands of the pow­ers that be. Sounds famil­iar?

There has just been an amaz­ing event at the end of the day: CAN (the Cli­mate Action Net­work) has just award­ed the day’s high­ly prized ‘Fos­sil Fool Award’. Under bright lights, with a huge fan­fare, speech­es, and a huge crowd, the prize was award­ed to Cana­da for being the most obstruc­tive nation at the talks today. Amaz­ing­ly the Win­ning Tro­phy was received by the May­or of Toron­to who is here with a 100 oth­er May­ors from across the world.

The May­or stood with the tro­phy on the podi­um, hold­ing it in front of his face. He said he was proud of what Cana­di­ans and cities through­out Cana­da are doing in response to cli­mate change, but he was receiv­ing the prize because he was ashamed of the Cana­di­an government’s stance. The occa­sion end­ed with a glitzy singer singing a song as if from Cana­da: “We’ll keep extract­ing from the tar sands until [PM] Harp­er is gone”. Huge applause, huge appre­ci­a­tion of the no-non­sense, and yet strange to be with such a huge crowd laugh­ing so hard, clap­ping so loud­ly, and aware that this is so dead­ly seri­ous.

Mean­while, in the inter-gov­ern­men­tal nego­ti­a­tions the REDDS ini­tia­tive is being rapid­ly watered down. They’ll work through the night on this one, but as things stand there are no tar­gets, the lan­guage doesn’t guar­an­tee indige­nous and local peo­ples free, pri­or and informed con­sent, and the argu­ment is over ques­tions of finance rather than democ­ra­cy and cli­mate safe­ty. Sounds as though it is going the way of the whole con­fer­ence: dis­tant tar­gets instead of present action, more tech­no-fix­es instead of just solu­tions. On tech­no-fix­es see the Dec­la­ra­tion ‘Let’s look before we leap!’

Strange­ly, at the ses­sion on REDDS in the Con­go Basin (which was most­ly a com­bi­na­tion of pedan­tic obfus­ca­tion and enter­tain­ing sto­ry telling from African Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ters), the Kenyan Green Belt move­ment Nobel Lau­re­ate Wan­gari Maathai spoke briefly at the end of the need for African uni­ty and drew laugh­ter when she said we had to get the rich nations to “open their wal­lets” to save the Con­go rain­for­est. I couldn’t help think­ing how unlike­ly it would be that that finance would serve local peo­ple, rather than fur­ther enrich the rich. Stranger still (or maybe not) were the two Dan­ish con­fer­ence secu­ri­ty guards who forced peo­ple who were stand­ing to leave the packed room (pre­sum­ably on the pre­text of health and safe­ty). They hadn’t done this at any oth­er ses­sion. Some of us got up to give peo­ple from Africa our seats, and some of us then sat on the floor. When asked to move, I refused. Oth­ers came and sat down too instead of leav­ing, one Euro­pean woman ask­ing “Am I allowed to stay?”, to which I replied “If you insist on stay­ing, they won’t move you”, Reas­sured by this self-ful­fill­ing state­ment, she stayed. But it’s only self-ful­fill­ing if enough selves ful­fill it — a metaphor for the col­lec­tive action need­ed to replace the inevitable with the impos­si­ble?!

In con­trast to the Con­go For­est ses­sion (and to an ear­li­er ses­sion on the Con­ven­tion on Bio­log­i­cal Diver­si­ty which couldn’t see the peo­ple for the sci­ence and the finance), a ses­sion on the Ama­zon and REDDS run by indige­nous peo­ple was full of peo­ple and peo­ples sto­ries. Many of the indige­nous rep­re­sen­ta­tives were only new­ly elect­ed to their rep­re­sen­ta­tive posi­tions and so seemed to know lit­tle about the cli­mate issues. They were, under­stand­ably, more con­cerned with the imme­di­ate effects of vio­lence against their peo­ples (in Peru) and with the impact of extrac­tive indus­tries (every­where).  At the start of the ses­sion a Min­is­ter from  Colum­bia (I think, though pos­si­bly it was Ecuador)  spoke clear­ly and pas­sion­ate­ly about how her Gov­ern­ment had changed it’s view of REDDS to place local peo­ples needs and wish­es cen­tre stage. She couldn’t stay for the rest fo the ses­sion because she was need­ed in the main REDDS nego­ti­a­tions to bat­tle against the water­ing down of democ­ra­cy and ecol­o­gy in favour of finance and pre­var­i­ca­tion.

Before find­ing a place to tap this out and then head for the alter­na­tive sum­mit or Kli­mafo­rum, I met some­one from Scot­land who recent­ly helped ini­ti­ate a Tran­si­tion ini­tia­tive there (here?!), and who also works with com­mu­ni­ties in Africa. He thought they were oper­at­ing in com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent worlds — but talk­ing with col­leagues from Camer­oun we weren’t so sure. We reck­oned that recov­er­ing com­mu­ni­ty own­er­ship, action and effec­tive­ness in the Glob­al North is as vital as pro­tect­ing exist­ing com­mu­ni­ties and shared own­er­ship in the Glob­al South.

Instead of head­ing to the alter­na­tive Kli­mafo­rum sum­mit, I went to the alter­na­tive alter­na­tive sum­mit in what felt like a police no-go alter­na­tive col­lec­tive: Chris­tia­nia. It used to be a mil­i­tary fort and was turned into a huge squat that cov­ers blocks and blocks. Here the sum­mit was a huge cir­cus tent with good cheap food, con­ver­sa­tions, and a dis­cus­sion focused on how peo­ple can make lives and com­mu­ni­ties that are not dri­ving con­sump­tion and cat­a­stro­phe. The whole place min­gled threads of chaos, con­ver­sa­tion and laugh­ter — not so dif­fer­ent, then, to the so-called main event back at the Bel­la Cen­tre.

You can keep track of what is hap­pen­ing at the nego­ti­a­tions through Cli­mate Action Net­works’ dai­ly bul­letins.

[Justin Ken­rick]

Tags: Uncategorized

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 nickwilding // Dec 11, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    thanks so much for the update justin… great to get a sense of the action, con­nec­tions, ener­gy sat back home in Scot­land… if you have a chance would be brill if you post­ed same into fieryspir­its web­site too I know lots of folk might be inter­est­ed…
    nick
    PS I’d love to hear more about ” We reck oned that recov er ing com mu nity own er ship, action and effec tiv ness in the Glob­al North is as vital as pro tect ing exist ing com mu ni ties and shared own er ship in the Glob­al South.”

  • 2 Cop 15 Report « // Dec 15, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    […] “The colour­ful tens of thou­sands car­ried plac­ards say­ing ‘Politi­cians only talk, Lead­ers lead’, ‘There is No Plan­et B’ and ‘Sys­tem Change not Cli­mate Change’. At the end an indige­nous leader from the Amer­i­cas said — to roars of agree­ment — that the real solu­tion is not the cli­mate mar­ket; the real solu­tion is sim­ply to leave the coal and oil and gas in the ground, and not to try and make a quick fix with poi­so­nous nuclear. Before, on the march, he and all the indige­nous peo­ples had been singing ‘The Cli­mate Mar­ket is a Big Lie’. The fear is that the politi­cians will nego­ti­ate a deal where the North just car­ries on with plan­et-wreck­ing busi­ness as usu­al, and pays some mon­ey to the politi­cians of the Glob­al South in exchange for them say­ing they’ll pro­tect their forests to keep absorb­ing some of the CO2 — mean­while car­bon lev­els will keep on rock­et­ing, the arc­tic melt­ing, forests burn­ing and per­mafrost melt will increas­ingly release methane. The fear is that they’ll make it look like a great deal, but it could be just like the G8 meet­ing in Gle­nea­gles in 2005 when Bob Gel­dorf and the Make Pover­ty His­tory cam­paign got the Gov­ern­ments to promise they’d end pover­ty in Africa, and then things just got worse.” Read the full report here. […]

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