Sunday, 13 December 2009

Direct action, not political wrangling, is what counts at COP15

Delegates at the UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen (COP15) have compiled a draft text of a possible final deal for the summit. According to BBC News, the documents "call on developed nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25-45% from 1990 levels by 2020," whilst "current pledges add up to about 18%." However, whilst poorer nations "have called for the document to endorse the target of keeping the temperature rise since pre-industrial times below 1.5C (2.7F)," the document "leaves open the exact target for limiting temperature rise, amid disputes between various blocs."

This follows news that "a three-year deal to pay 7.2bn euros (£6.5bn; $10.6bn) to help poorer nations cope with climate change" agreed by EU leaders in Brussels has been "derided" by developing countries and aid agencies. This was supposed to be "part of a global "fast start" package being debated" at Copenhagen, but "cannot be enough for the purpose of meeting the requirements of the LDCs [Least Developed Countries]."

Particularly, in Copenhagen, it is small island states who "are particularly concerned about the need for firm, predictable adaptation funding." We might recall the plea, back in September, from the leader of the Maldives. Worried that "our homeland and others like it will disappear before the rising sea, before the end of this century," asking "world leaders to discard those habits that have led to 20 years of complacency and broken promises on climate change, and instead seize the historic opportunity that sits at the end of the road to Copenhagen." However, "deep down, we know that you are not really listening."

Meanwhile, those trying to make world leaders listen have been hit by fierce repression.

According to the Independent, "tens of thousands of climate activists marched in Copenhagen yesterday as part of a worldwide "Day of Action" to urge negotiators at UN talks to agree a strong treaty to fight global warming." Although "the rally was mostly held in a carnival atmosphere," "riot police detained about 700 activists at the rear of the march after bottles were thrown and a window at the Danish foreign ministry was smashed." The media played to type with reports of "black clad youths" and "anarchists" (a word they can never use with any sense of context or comprehension) who "launched cobblestones, explosives and homemade weapons."

These reports became the excuse for massive police repression, with CNN telling us that "350 to 400 people were arrested in the throng, which was demanding "climate justice."" The Guardian adds that "violence broke out when tens of thousands of people – some dressed as penguins and polar bears, carrying signs saying: "Save the humans" – took to the streets" and their march was "was marred when a group of protesters threw bricks at police."

However, on Indymedia, Climate Justice Action have a somewhat different take on matters;
Danish police have indiscriminately arrested hundreds of climate justice activists during a climate change protest made up of 100,000 people that took place today in Copenhagen. Questions have been raised about the fact that the arrests occurred in a different time and place to where some trouble had momentarily flared earlier in the day. Journalists have been restricted from reporting at the site of the arrests since 1800hrs.

It’s estimated that 100 people are still being held on the road in extremely cold weather, cuffed and forced into seated positions in lines. They have expressed severe physical discomfort and have no access to water, medical attention or toilet facilities since 1530hrs. Many activists are reported to have urinated themselves while detained on the ground.

An estimated 200 have been removed from the site and taken away in coaches. Several people are reported to have fainted around 1945hrs.

Helga Matthiassen, who was detained for an hour before being released due to an injury she had recently sustained, said, “Of course we’re angry – people all over the world are angry about being lied to by governments who are making a corporate deal at the climate talks, and now when we try to protest against this on the streets we are randomly held by police.

“Not only have we been denied the right to protest, but our basic human rights have also been ignored in this ludicrous, staged police exercise. It seems Danish Police have a new motto: why just criminalise protesters, when you can dehumanise them too?"
With Denmark having "passed legislation which will give police sweeping powers of "pre-emptive" arrest and extend custodial sentences for acts of civil disobedience" in time for COP15, such actions are not a surprise. However, they are a worrying portent. And not only because they echo the increasing police state measures that apply in both Greece and Italy, hinting at a growing trend towards authoritarianism across Europe.

With particular relation to the threat of climate change, it has long been noted that only radical action offers any real solution. For that to happen, we need to see grassroots level resistance against the capitalist system and the imposition of a sustainable economy based on community and mutual aid over the destructive consumption of the incumbent capitalist system.

In Haaretz, Uri Gordon notes that "on Monday, thousands of people will attempt to enter the summit premises and turn the proceedings into a public forum, where delegates will finally have to listen to their demands for climate justice." In defiance of police aggression, and perhaps as the only means to roll it back, we must share his hope that "Copenhagen may yet turn out to be a defining historical moment - the moment when citizens took change into their own hands."