OK, so I said before my trip that I’d blog during it. And now I’ve been back nearly a week and I’m only just finishing off the blogging. But this is a good sign, because this means I also have a stack of other things I intend to blog and I can’t wait to write them up. So, the International Climate Gathering and everything else in Copenhagen…
So, after our excursion into Christiania, and our scouting mission to the Bella Centre, we headed over to the school where the meetings would be taking place. Saturday morning was spent in intense debate over the legitimacy, perceived or otherwise, of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) process that will wind up a key stage in its life here in Copenhagen from 30th November to 11th December 2009.
On the pro-legitimacy side: basically an argument about states, about having 190 countries being better than representing just 8 of them. Also a sense came through that legitimacy didn’t matter, a kind of defeatism that says that the problems of the world are too urgent to solve any other way than through the method most agreeable to those in power.
This essentially misses what must surely become the crux of the Climate Change problem; not how to solve it per se, but how to solve the problem without simply filling the pockets of the rich, because as we realise the finiteness of the world around us, surely we must realise that what the rich gain, the poor lose.
On the anti-legtimacy side: the feeling that this is a biassed forum, far more greatly representing corporate and western interests than those of people in the global South, and one which will not hear the voices of the indigenous, of women, etc. i.e. the truly marginalised as opposed to simply the most powerful men in the poorer countries. Also, the sense that capitalism and climate change are intrinsically linked.
After lunch there was a strategy debate, and a quick look at some tactics. These could be outlined as 4 basic demonstration plans with varying pro’s and con’s:
- Mega-march: Worries about the Edinburgh Effect, whereby we welcome global leaders to decide our future for us on their terms, but of course, maximum turnout possible.
- Shut them Down: PR nightmare and unlikely to build much sense of unity, but hopefully very clear antagonism, although whether it’ll look like antagonism or stupidity is muchly debated. IMHO, If this is to work, the political situation will need to be bleak, starting with McCain winning the US election, and this winter’s UN Summit being a shambles, and we must do a huge amount of educating and debating in our communities.
- Shut them In: Much clearer, but are we basically beseeching them to do good, when we should be saying “this is a global elite solution, to be implemented by the World Bank, no deal is better than a bad deal”. Actually might be a worthwhile tactic, and one many involved with NGO’s might come round to, at least enough that their organisations don’t get in the way of it. There’d need to be a credible document to wave at people.
- March of the Excluded: Think this will be much more exciting if it happens; a march of peasants, indigenous, etc. with Unionists and radicals from the North, an attempt to get inside a the stated mission to take part in the talks. If it succeeded, the ramifications would be, er, weird. If it fails, then it’ll look bad as the real people of the world are held out by security companies emblematic of what the talks represent: another round of separating poor from resources, and of accumulation by the rich. PR-wise it could be an easy sell, much like the phrase “You are G8, We are 6 billion”, “You are a corporate cabal with some NGO’s and poor countries along for the photo shoots, we’re here to do the job properly”.
Of course, all but number 1 in the list are very amitious plans, and as everyone knows, we’re getting rather used to not quite managing to suceed in these exploits. Another summit, another shrinking crowd? Think again!
We were then taken out to a street party. If it was meant as an introduction to radicalism in the streets of Copenhagen, then this was a brilliant event. Arriving in a group of 20, we turned a corner into a shopping street to find a van with no sides or back parked across the street and a little way back, what looked like a dumping ground for rubbish. We quickly set to, helping to prepare the street; and then the party began!
2.5 hours later, the streets covered in grafitti right up to the second floor in some places, the first in most, the sound system cut out and we dispersed, right on time, just as agreed with the police, who got a little heavy handed afterwards, but mostly things were fine. Certainly no sign of the infamous tear gas.
Some of the British present were swept back 10 years to Reclaim the Streets. Others, like myself, had barely seen anything quite like it. It was an amazing experience which is itself completely illegal in the UK. The simply act of partying in the streets (unless its a polite tea-party, and then only if you’re lucky enough to get agreement from all the residents) was outlawed in 1994 and the idea of taking a sound truck on a protest march is now long faded into distant memory.
After that night, many of us concluded that it was perhaps more realistic than we had at first thought to be raising the possibility of Blockades and Block-Ins. If the UN has the security mandate at the conference centre, will it want to be seen to be deploying tear gas on crowds, anyhow? And if we can mobilise this massive energy of youthfulness and resistance, what wonders will we acheive? Its definitely time to think big!
But if Saturday involved the thinking, Sunday involved the doing. By the end of it we had written a statement, a call to climate action in Copenhagen, which is beginning to make its way around the world. We’d formed several different working groups, perhaps too many, and we’d agreed that we should be doing info-meetings in the lead up to another gathering in March of next year.
The basic guist: If you can plan to be anywhere in December 2009: Be in Copenhagen!
The next 3 days passed with little event, mostly chores like washing clothes and making copies of the call to action. The one thing that did happen was the tunneling adventure, in which we visited various underground valve chambers in the city’s centralised heating system that uses hot water from power stations to heat people’s homes, but thats a tale for another time, except to say that the pipes might actually make the steets warm enough to blockade.
Overall, what will happen in Copenhagen is going to take more than a weekend to prepare. It will almost certainly be a spectacle of some or other description, and the talks this December in Poznan, Poland, will do much to set the tone of the debate, so we’ll need to see the results and do some consulting of the global south before knowing just how bad things will be looking for the world’s poor come Christmas 2009. But we can get the word out and encourage people to get planning on how they’re going to be there.
See you in Copenhagen!