24 Dec 2009

COPENHAGEN – WE WILL NOT DIE QUIETLY

Just got this from Jonathan Neale, cheers amigo, an witness report from Copenhagen, I would add that the indigenous activist, climate camp and the best of the Latin American leaders show the way....any way signing off now for Xmass.


COPENHAGEN – WE WILL NOT DIE QUIETLY

A great wrong has been done in Copenhagen, and a new global movement has been born.
The first half of this report is about the wrong, and the second half about the new movement.

We Had No Idea

The agreement that has come out of the UN climate talks is worse than any of the 35,000 activists and experts who went to Copenhagen expected.
None of us saw this coming. Cynics like me expected a failure to agree and a postponement to next year's talks. We had no idea.
Instead, what happened was this. Barack Obama flew in on the last day – Friday. He gave a short rude speech that promised nothing. Then he met with Premier Wen of China for 55 minutes. Then the two of them met with Lula of Brazil, Singh of India and Zuma of South Africa.
Those five men agreed the 'Copenhagen Accord'. The White House issued it to the press with no further agreement from anyone. Obama then flew home.
The UN Climate Conference finished at three the next morning. The chair said they 'noted' the Accord and banged down the gavel.

The Copenhagen Accord

The Accord is two and one half pages long. Previously the Kyoto agreement had agreed reductions targets for rich countries. In the Accord every country will choose its own targets, whatever they feel like, and tell the UN by 31 January.
We had expected further negotiations in Mexico City next December. Most countries still expect that. But the Accord says the first review of the targets will be in 2015.
There is no enforcement or legally binding targets in the Accord. There are no 'politically' binding targets. Nothing.
We expected a failure to agree, and continued negotiations. This is not a failure. This is a quick, brutal coordinated destruction of any international agreement to cut emissions. It is a success for those who want to prevent action.

The Killers

All the hype in the media, and among most activists, had been that the Copenhagen meeting would be a contest between the rich countries and the Global South: Asia, Africa and Latin America. Many had hoped against hope that Obama would be the saviour on the last day.
In fact the leaders of destruction were the rulers of the US, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa. Lula, the leader of the great strikes under the dictatorship in Brazil. Zuma, the freedom fighter, the choice of the left and the unions in South Africa. Obama.
As Saturday unfolded, I spoke with one environmental expert after another. They all knew. The former leader of a British environmental NGO, a moderate man, showed me the Accord, tears in his eyes, saying, 'Why did they bother? Two years, tens of thousands of people, all for this, this, this,' - the paper shakes in his hands – 'this piece of shit?'

Why?

How did this happen?
After all, the governments did start out two years ago looking for a flawed, weak agreement. We were going to criticise them, and they were going to feel satisfied.
What has changed in those two years is the scale of the global economic crisis. Capitalism is competition. But the economic crisis means that each bit is in increasingly desperate competition with each other bit. National alliances of corporations – American capital, Indian capital, German capital, Chinese capital, Japanese capital – compete with each other now, with very little margin for success. The capitalists, and their politicians, do not think they can afford the cost to their bit of capital of doing anything about climate change.
Two years ago they thought they could make small moves. Now they don't.
So over the last year all the major governments in North America, Europe and the Global South have been moving away from doing anything.

The Five

Look at the five countries that wrote and signed the accord all by themselves: the US, China, India, Brazil and South Africa. Between them they have just under half the world's population, just under half the world's CO2 emissions, just over a third of the world economy in dollar terms, and over half of the world's industrial workers.
These are coal producers. Coal is the worst fossil fuel, because it is almost all carbon. China, the US and India are the three biggest coal producers in the world. South Africa is fifth.
Brazil has major oil reserves and is destroying the Amazon forest.
All these countries will find it harder, and more expensive, to cut emissions than the industrial powers of the European Union. That is why they sabotaged hope. Copenhagen is the triumph of Big Coal.
But the European leaders were not prepared to fight them. Brown and Milliband crawl to Washington by reflex. For Merkl of Germany and Sarkozy of France it's different. Their governments have stood up to the US before. Here they did not.
No one attacked Obama in public. No one publicly refused to sign the deal. No one walked out of the conference and stayed out.
Sometimes this is because their leaders were personally bought or threatened by the rich countries. But it is also because the corporations and banks in France and Germany are afraid of the cost of doing anything about climate change.

The Consequences

I went to many of the workshops and talks at the NGO run alternative Climate Forum in Copenhagen. Reports from scientists, and from activists in country after country, made clear that the consequences of climate change are here, now.
Scientists from the great universities of the world came, together, to tell us that the prospects were much worse than the UN report had predicted back in 2007.
A delegate from Ghana spoke in one meeting, and I asked a question about the effects of climate change in Northern Ghana. I knew the rains have failed there for the last four years.
'You want to know about the effects of climate change in the north, do you?' he said. He was angry. 'You want to know how many people died this year of climate change in the last place I visited in the North? 261. They took me and showed me where they did the operations in the hospital, and while they were doing them the electricity went off. They showed me where after the birth they had no water to wash the baby or the mother.'
'They are leaving the North.' He was angry at me, at the babbling ineffectual meeting, at the lack of rage in Copenhagen. 'We have nothing for them in the South. They are coming to you.'
The rulers of the world have betrayed those suffering now – the people of Bangladesh, Sudan, Kenya, Chad, Ghana, Afghanistan, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tuvalu the Maldives, and many more. They have betrayed the future of Africa, Asia, and the great coastal cities like New York, Amsterdam, London, Shanghai, Calcutta – and Copenhagen. They have betrayed you, and me. And my children. They have betrayed not just the polar bears and the frogs but the future of every living thing on the planet.
The second half of this report is about the new global movement to stop them.

THE NEW GLOBAL MOVEMENT

Copenhagen saw the birth of a new global movement.
The first reason was the demonstration on Saturday. The official police estimate was that there were 100,000 marchers.
The march was long, loud, cold, bouncy, and energetic, about half Danes and half foreigners. I moved up and down the line, and everywhere people were chanting. This time the slogans were about climate, not some other issue, and they sounded and felt organic, rising up from the movement.
Every type of person was there. I marched with the Belgian unions, who kneeled and banged their green hard hats on the road and then rose and ran shouting, again and again. With the Swedish communists and their red flags. With the British campaign and our greenhouse, chanting, 'Leave the Oil in the Soil, Leave the Coal in the Hole.' The Danish WWF chanted that with us, and then taught us 'Wa, Wa, Wa, PANDA!'
People were happy. No one had expected 100,000. For the activists gathered from around the world, this was the largest climate demonstration they had ever seen, by far.
From then on we knew a new global movement was possible.

Climate Justice Now

The second reason for the new movement was the coming together of Climate Justice Now and Climate Justice Action.
People came to Copenhagen from all over the world as part of 'NGO' charities and campaigns. 25,000 of them had passes for the Bella Centre where the governments were meeting. This was part of a long term policy of coopting NGOs.
This time, the more radical NGOs were loosely organised in a Climate Justice Now network, including Friends of the Earth International, Via Campesina (the peasants), Jubilee South (Christian debt campaigners), Focus on the Global South, Attac France, and individuals from many more NGOs.
But radicalism spread well beyond them inside the Bella Centre By the second day, African delegates were demonstrating in the halls, chanting 'We Will Not Die Quietly'. There were regular small outbursts, and security began interrogating and banning people.

Climate Justice Action

Outside Climate Justice Action worked in concert with Climate Justice Now. CJ Action were the direct action people – the largest group was Climate Camp from Britain.
Their big demo was planned for the last Wednesday. CJ Action would try to march up to and through the police lines at the Bella Centre CJ Now would lead a walkout from inside the Bella Centre
The authorities inside, probably controlled by the Americans, were increasingly angry and worried about the resistance. The Saturday demo had been very large. Demonstrations inside were unprecedented.
Moreover, the American government knew they were going to put the boot in when Obama came. So they started closing down.
From Saturday on the Danish police were arresting large groups and holding them without charge for 12 hours, about 2,000 in all. They also arrested, charged and refused to bail the main leaders of DJ Action.
With the joint demo looming, the UN announced that the NGOs would have to give up 80% of their passes for the last four days. Almost all the US trade union delegates, for instance, were locked out.
The night before the CJ demo inside and action outside, Friends of the Earth International met and decided not to join the demo. The next morning they arrived at the Centre to discover that all their delegates had been banned from the Centre The same happened to Tkk, Tkk, Tkk – a coalition including Greenpeace, Oxfam and WWF.

Solidarity

On Wednesday two hundred people demonstrated inside. If the UN had not cut out most delegates, it would have been two thousand.
Outside two thousand marched towards police lines. The numbers were small because it was nine in the morning on a working day and people were understandably afraid of the police.
There were ten rows of police, pepper gas in the face, beatings, and no chance of getting through.
It was disorganised, chaotic, and frightening. But it was an enormous success. The world saw police brutality, outraged delegates, and a serious and brave resistance.

Now in Britain

After that most CJ Now and CJ Action activists talked of building a united global movement in each country. By Saturday, with the scale of the betrayal slowly sinking in, we met and planned how to do that.
Unity between those two forces will draw in much wider numbers of people. There was general agreement on this too. People had seen that the Saturday march was fifty times bigger than the direct action. They know we will need an enormous, serious and militant movement to even begin to move the world leaders.
I am sure that there will be meetings in most towns in Britain during January to begin building this new alliance. In some places, that will be many organisations coming together formally. In others, it will be smaller networks meeting informally.
If you want to be part of that process, get on the phone and start finding people.
There are two forces we have to mobilise beyond the obvious. One is the 100,000 who came on the London march on December 5. The leadership of that march was shamefully congratulatory of Brown and Milliband. That must never happen again.
But there were enormous numbers on their first march. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, for instance, brought 4,000 people on coaches. Do not forget to call your local bird watchers.
The other force is unions, because that is how to mobilise workers, the majority of society.
Unions were largely absent from the London demo and Climate Justice Now. But they were the stewards on the great Copenhagen demo of 100,000.
Our best chance now of building a mass movement that can do something about climate change is the fight for One Million Climate Jobs. Remember, every CWU and PCS branch has already been sent a copy of the pamphlet. Don't forget to ring the branch secretaries.
Some people will be hopeless after Copenhagen. Some NGO leaders will be whipped into line. But many will be enraged, and moved to action.
For the first time, it is possible to build a global movement, and a movement in your town.
This is only the beginning. It will be a long fight. The rulers of the world have made clear it is no longer about polar bears, no longer fluffy, no longer nice. Everyone involved will be have to work with new people, in different ways, well outside their comfort zone.
This is now a struggle, between the activists and the rulers of the world. We must make it a struggle between the people and the rulers.
It is about the poor, and the Global South. But don't kid yourself. It is also about Greece, Australia, New Orleans, Mississippi, London, Liverpool, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and many more.
North and South we will make the rulers of the world hear the cry of Copenhagen:
We will not die quietly.

Jonathan Neale

1 comment:

luna17 said...

Jonathan Neale is right about quite a few things, including the importance of a mass campaign around 'One Million Green Jobs'. This is the way to link the politics of climate change with the problems of economic crisis and unemployment. There's the potential for unions to get involved in climate activism on a completely different scale to before, though it shouldn't be seen as purely about the unions.