Update: Some of the early info I had on the “Copenhagen Accord” was incorrect – see corrections near the end of this post and have a look at this Guardian article for the full low-down.
Well, the COP15 UN Climate Summit is almost at an end. I’m sorry to say I don’t know anyone who thinks there is any chance the world leaders will rescue the sad state of affairs as they stand. Personally, I think the last two days of the conference have been more of a photo opportunity than anything else. Apparently, the text that now looks set to be the “Copenhagen Accord” basically looks the same as what was leaked from the Danes at the beginning of the two weeks. You would be justified in asking what it was all for.
Yes, my blog from Copenhagen lapsed, I’m sorry, but here’s a wrap-up of how we went with our Australian actions.
I already posted photos from our little Aussie bloc in the main protest last Saturday, but the following Monday we were actually covered on page 2 (or 4, depending on the edition) of The Australian, sadly our only national broadsheet – sad because it’s actually a really crap paper. Anyway, yay to them for covering us!
We just found out yesterday that Celia’s little piece was published in this week’s Blue Mountains Gazette too – and surprisingly have received much more feedback about that than page 2 of the national broadsheet. Ah local papers, I love you. If you can believe it, I think the title was “Local Girl Does Good”. Beautiful.
We also came across a reporter from ABC’s Radio National on the metro one day in Copenhagen, with the Sooty twins (our inflatable kangaroos) under arm and he posted one of my photos with their latest Copenhagen update, online here.
We took our Aussie protest, inflatable kangaroos and new chants to the Bella Centre a few more times in the second week, even in the snow. I have to say, I was, and still am, really unimpressed with a lot of the campaign, lobby and “activist” organisations who have been whinging about not being allowed into the Bella Centre. Okay, the world needs to know. Okay, we need observers there. Okay, we need some activists on the inside. Did the Danish government massively stuff up on the number of passes issued? Yes. Okay, it’s terrible that many people flew to Copenhagen thinking they could get in for the second week and ended up wasting the carbon-debt of their long-haul flight in their hotel rooms. However, did we need as many observers as there were? No. Should there have been limits on lobbyists from both the fossil fuel and environmental sides? Yes. Should there have even been limits on government negotiators and at the same time subsidies so that Tuvalu didn’t have one person there while Australia had 100? Yes. Anyway, what really made me lose faith in some of these people was when we were out near the entrance of the conference, singing a few Aussie climate chants. In a break, the crowd, some of whom to be fair had been queuing for six hours, starting chanting ‘let us in’. Okay, that’s reasonable. Then we thought we’d offer another chant since people were obviously in the mood & it helps with the morale:
What do we want?
When do we want it?
Basically no-one joined in and shortly, we had several people telling us to shut up. So many of these people are here to urge governments to do more on climate change but they want the protesters to shut up? That’s a pretty funny kind of logic.
The second major action of the two weeks was on Wednesday, Reclaim Power, when the plan was to march to the Bella Centre and attempt to breach the perimeter, taking over proceedings and creating a People’s Summit on climate change. Could have been a great idea but I think it was a little over-ambitious and because many activists arrived only days before the action, along with the Danish police pre-emptively arresting some key organisers it ended up a little disorganised. Anyway, we marched with a few Aussie signs, though sadly Sooty had taken a hit and was put out of action. The whole protest was pretty positive and very peaceful on the part of the protesters. Sadly, once we arrived at the Bella Centre the police got a little edgy and sprayed a lot of people in the eyes with pepper spray – very painful – and bashed a number of people in the head with their batons. They even assaulted one and arrested a number of other people trying to exit the Bella Centre and join the protest outside. After some time it calmed down and we actually had a great time holding a line across the road on one side of the main body of the protest so that the People’s Summit could go on outside without police intervention. We had clowns dancing around in front of the police line, sausages being thrown to their attack dogs and a classic linked-arm rendition of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.
What else happened to us in the last week? Our last days were put partly out of action when two of our crew, Mithra and Martin had their bag, containing their passports, stolen and had to go to a cop shop (ha!), report the theft, go to the Australian embassy, etc. So we might have had one more exciting action up our sleeves but it wasn’t to be. That day I went to see Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and Mohammed Nasheed, President of the Maldives speak at Klimaforum which was really beautiful and powerful. We were also caught in a riot (okay, that’s probably dramatising it a little) in Copenhagen’s free, autonomous suburb of Christiania. We were at an activist gig at a bar inside Christiania. When the gig finished someone announced that the front door was closed and you couldn’t leave that way because a riot had started and the police were firing tear gas outside. It’s hard to get an exact idea of what happened, but there was a big event in a climate tent there that night that was attended by many organisers from Climate Justice Action, the main group behind the Reclaim Power action, and the word was that police used a minor excuse to try to move in and pre-emptively arrest a bunch of people. This was resisted with fire blockades and broken glass which was answered with tear gas. Anyway, we got out a couple of hours later, walking through a weird scene with helicopter searchlights shining down from above, clusters of police in full riot gear and coach-loads of riot police in the surrounding streets.
So I travelled all the way to Europe, taking five weeks to get here with one of the big motivations for my trip to be here at the end of the year in Copenhagen for the COP15 UN Climate Summit. What was it all for?
There’s not much point in rehashing words that have been eloquently written elsewhere, so here’s an excerpt from 350.org (my favourite climate campaign, and these days there’s a lot of choice) which more or less sums up what I think would have been a good outcome for Copenhagen:
we at 350.org are fighting for a deal that is fair, ambitious and binding (FAB) — fair because developed countries provide at least $200 billion a year for developing countries to develop on a low carbon pathway and face the impacts of climate change, ambitious because the treaty sets 350 ppm as a target and demands at least 40% carbon cuts by 2020 for developed countries, and binding, because it will be a legally binding treaty, not just a political agreement.
We definitely fell far short of that, but there are some things to celebrate. Over 100 countries now support a deal based on bringing global CO2 back down to 350 parts-per-million, which is well over half the countries that were involved at Copenhagen. Also, many small nations, especially small island states had an opportunity, in front of a mass concentration of global media to present to the world the stark choice that particularly rich countries are making – unless we bring the world back to 350ppm and keep global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures – we are signing a death sentence for those people and millions more across the planet. The final piece of good news is that 1.5 degrees makes a minor appearance in the text as it currently stands – that in 2016 the goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees will be reviewed to see if we might need to keep it to 1.5 degrees instead, this is barely a win and more of a way to stop island nations from walking out of the summit. By 2016 it will almost certainly be too late to keep the average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. Update: sadly, all references to 1.5 degrees were removed from the final text.
Even though I didn’t expect much more from Copenhagen than what we have – essentially a political agreement with no legal power for wealthy countries to reduce emissions 80% by 2050 [Update: all targets removed from the final text] and no interim (2020) targets – it is sad to see that realised. It is sad that even with a mountain of scientific evidence for the crisis ahead of us and in the face of heartfelt pleas from countries like Tuvalu, world leaders still did nothing.
Our little group of individuals just wanted to be there to show that there are Australians who aren’t aligned to any lobby group or organisation who are prepared to come halfway around the world off our own bat to freezing Copenhagen just to have what small impact we can in the face of our government offering a woefully inadequate response and even trying to wriggle out of what little targets we have offered through dodgy accounting.