Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
As the UN climate change conference enters its final days, thousands demonstrated in the streets of Copenhagen as part of the ‘Reclaim Power’ protest. Starting from multiple points around the city, the demonstrators approached the Bella Centre to hold a People’s Assembly and give voice to climate change solutions that are marginalised from the talks. Despite significant repression from the police, the groups succeeded in holding the Assembly close to the conference venue. The main protest was organised by Climate Justice Action!
At the same time, about 300 delegates from the Climate Justice Now! network and led by members of the Bolivian delegation and the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus, marched out of the Bella Centre and the official process, attempting to join the protests outside. These delegates were met with police truncheons; some were badly bruised.
‘First they shut the public out of the climate negotiations, then they shut out 80 per cent of NGOs who have been accredited to attend, and now they are jailing people who challenge the undemocratic nature of the climate negotiations, while the future of life on earth hangs in the balance,’ says Dorothy Guerrero of Focus on the Global South.
Hundreds more UNFCCC accredited civil society observers were denied access to the Bella Centre all together, including the entire Friends of the Earth International delegation, who staged a sit-in in the lobby at the Bella Centre in response.
‘In the wake of the mass exclusions of critical civil society voices from the COP15 process, and with the future of our planet hanging in the balance, we joined the mass nonviolent movement in Copenhagen to protest the unjust agenda of the rich countries,’ said Anne Peterman of Global Justice Ecology Project. Proposals to limit global warming to two degrees would ‘literally wipe entire nations off the map,’ she added.
Going nowhere fast
Inside the conference, negotiations remained deadlocked. The US expressed strong reservations concerning a new summary text from the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action, one of two major strands of the climate negotiations. It is seeking to avoid internationally binding targets equivalent to those established under the Kyoto Protocol.
Meanwhile, the Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen came in for strong criticism when he attempted to table a new text that was ‘parachuted from the sky’, in the words of the G77 and China. They called the process ‘illegitimate, undemocratic and non-transparent’, a concern echoed by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
Chavez went further and echoed many of the sentiments of the protestors outside. ‘The rich countries of the north helped bankers, the big banks. I’ve forgotten the figure, but it’s astronomical.’
‘What they’re saying on the streets is that “if the climate was a bank they would already have saved it”, I think it’s true. If the climate was a capitalist bank, a capitalist bank, one of the biggest ones, they would have saved it.’
Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, also spoke in support of the protests. ‘We understand that there are lots of protests outside and inside, and there need to be. I don’t believe we will come to an agreement because there can be no agreement if it does not challenge the model that created climate change, which is capitalism’, he said.
System change, not climate change
The street protests expressed frustration at a political process that has proven itself incapable of tackling the issues at hand. Inside the talks, climate justice activists continue to oppose and counter jargon-ridden texts on some of the worst excesses of the climate talks – including new Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) schemes, which could trigger land grabs in the global South by many of the same corporations that have driven deforestation.
Pressure from outside sought to draw attention to more systemic failures, too. Whereas market-based solutions translate the problem of climate change into a language of neo-liberal economics – attempting to use the problem of the market to fix the worst market failure, climate change – climate justice activists were inviting a more fundamental rethinking of how goods are produced and consumed, and how the international trade system works.
‘We have no more time to waste. If governments won’t solve the problem then its time for our diverse people’s movements to unite and reclaim the power to shape our future’, said Stine Gry of Climate Justice Action.
Oscar Reyes is a researcher with Carbon Trade Watch, and co-author of Carbon Trading: How it Works and Why it Fails
This article was published in Climate Chronicle – a climate justice newspaper put together during the UN Climate Change Conference
Michael Coates reviews a new film revealing the shocking state of housing inequality in the UK.
The vicious media campaign against trans people is part bigotry, part strategy, writes Roz Kaveney
Jon Trickett MP reports on 'Dickensian' levels of poverty and hardship felt across the UK.
Natasha King busts some myths around the No Borders debate
He was once a radical icon, but now he's a mouthpiece for racism and nationalism. Time to get off stage, writes Michael Calderbank
Consensus seems to have shifted, but austerity is far from over. The chancellor has committed us to yet more years of misery while the rich get richer, writes Richard Seymour.
Frustrated at the idea of another royal wedding? You're not alone. Joana Ramiro argues we should stop idealising a fundamentally undemocratic institution.
Liberal elites are using Russian interference to minimise their own political failures, writes Matt Turner
Nick Dearden from Global Justice Now argues that after years of colonial domination and dodgy trade deals, the UK must make amends and support Zimbabwe in this uncertain time.
Last month's mass far right demonstration can be linked to a toxic mix of government tolerance of fascism and neoliberalism on steroids. Ewa Jasiewicz investigates.
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke