Tuesday, 1 December 2009

::30 11 09::

A week today, the largest environmental gathering in history will begin. From December 7-18, 30000 people will flood Copenhagen to express their support for action on climate change. Expect bike blockades and a one-hour electricity blackout as part of the most imaginative acts of insurrection yet.

Naomi Klein, author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, took part in The Battle of Seattle at the World Trade Organisation conference in 1999. This time round she believes, "It’s really tricky for activists in terms of figuring out how you interact with a summit like this. There’s a different dynamic [from Seattle], because the fact is that the people in the streets overwhelmingly support the mission of the meeting in Copenhagen. And, so, they’re not saying "no" to the idea of a climate summit. In fact, they’re saying "yes."”

Klein will speak alongside George Monbiot and Vandana Shiva at the official ‘People’s Summit’, Klimaforum09. “Klimaforum’s aim is to provide an opportunity for the public to enter into discussion. We're going to be looking at radical solutions," said spokesman Richard Steed.

Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth International (FOE) have organized one of the major actions during the conference. The Flood, consisting of about 3,000 members of the public who will take to the streets dressed in blue and march towards the Bella Centre after joining up with the other marches that day. Collectively, they will signify that a good deal needs to be made for the developing world.

The Flood will be part of the Global Day of Action on December 12 when the city centre will become a carnival of parade. 'System Change, Not Climate Change' is the slogan for the less formal actions being organized by Climate Justice Action (CJA), the umbrella group for an international network that includes Climate Camp, Focus on the Global South, and the Indian Social Action Forum. The network of organisations marching that day plan to convene outside the Bella Centre to show the level of solidarity needed to meet the reduction rate. A massive video screen next to the entrance to the Bella Centre will display suggestions and messages to delegates and a 4-story globe, the Climate Rescue Centre, will also be in situ inviting delegates in for coffee and the chance to debate with the public.

Developed countries accept domestic emissions reduction obligations of at least 40% by 2020 compared to 1990 with no offsetting. African governments walked out of the talks at the last UNFCCC meeting in Barcelona because rich industrialised countries refused to commit to emission reduction targets. As well as coercing governments into committing to these targets demonstrations will also highlight that market-based ideas, like cap and trade schemes, emissions trading and carbon sinks might be simple opportunities for companies to profit from pollution. Protests will highlight that climate finance needs to be reliable and transparently managed and allocated for mitigation, adaptation and technology transfer for developing countries. Importantly, most protestors reject any World Bank involvement in international climate finance and demonstrated on December 11 by actions from a group Our Climate Not Your Business.

Other protests such as Resistance is Ripe and ongoing exhibitions by members of indigenous populations from Peru, the Philippines and the Arctic will meet the suggestion from developed governments who promote trade liberalisation, privatisation, forest carbon markets, agrofuels and carbon offsetting as methods to reduce carbon emissions. NGOs such as The Third World Network, Focus on the Global South and Jubilee South will participate in the official conference and lobby against the dangers of these proposals to local communities.

Meanwhile, many people will travel to Copenhagen for the arrival of the high delegates on December 16. Highlights include darkness at 7:00 pm the lights of the city will go dark for one hour - Earth Hour - sending a powerful message about the need for a commitment to a global climate deal that is strong enough to avert catastrophic climate change.

During that day, members of the public and CJA are arranging an action called Reclaim Power. They will attempt to enter the Bella Centre en masse and turn the debate into the People’s Assembly for Climate Justice. Although this sounds easy, UK protestor Isabel Jama, believes, “that we’ll definitely be met with violence from the police. CJA has a guideline that we’ll only use our bodies in the protest and we’re anticipating police tactics to be an obstacle to get around not to confront. However, this will be different to UK protests where police don’t use teargas and we’ll be working with legal and medical teams on the day. Danish kids are rowdy and the police use dispersal tactics there instead of kettling.”

Danish officials have taken a firm stance against activism in recent years and UK protestors are expecting to witness the type of resistance seen in the dismantling of Ungdomshuset (Youth House). Police emptied the community centre run by activists and musicians in the middle of Copenhagen in March 2007 and 436 people were arrested after police used teargas against the crowds. Another example of intolerance is the steady dismantlement of Christiania, an autonomous zone in the centre of Copenhagen where cannabis laws did not apply until 2008. Whilst the Danish government announced last week that they have turned warehouses and gyms outside the city into temporary prisons a new law has been hurried through parliament ahead of the summit and police are now entitled to arrest anyone who they suspect might breach the peace. Danish student Seb Ross says, “Protests have begun to combat these infringements of civil liberties, and whilst there’s an ideological perspective to their action their point is informed by the environmental agenda that requires a constructive outcome.”

Nonetheless, protestors believe this draconian approach simply requires imaginative thinking. The Laboratory of Insurrectory Imagination (Lab of ii), a Bristol based art collective, have joined up with Climate Camp to design a bike block to aid Reclaim Power. Isa from Lab of ii said, “We’re utilizing all the benefits of bicycles to make the day a success, for example their swarmability. By combining the creativity of the art world with the courage of the activist community our prototypes include chariots and multi-story bikes, where one bike is welded on top of another making it really tall. These will give protestors advantages over the police.”

Such images of engineering are reminders of the post-apocalyptic scenes in the cult film Mad Max and appropriately so for an event that aims to halt the world’s decent into such a scenario.

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