Hope in 100,000 Flavours

Posted on 13 December 2009 by editor

One of many marches Saturday in Copenhagen: Credit: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

One of many marches Saturday in Copenhagen: Credit: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

By Terna Gyuse*

COPENHAGUE (IPS/TerraViva) The midpoint of a conference on climate change in which tremendous hope has been invested; unsurprising then that demonstrations of popular desire for decisive action against global warming took place around the world.

Candlelight vigils were planned for 139 countries Saturday, halfway through the COP15.

In Copenhagen itself, in Halmtorvet near the site of a parallel conference organised by civil society, Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) held the Flood for Climate Justice. Some 5,000 people, many clad in blue plastic ponchos, surged through the streets bearing signs calling for “Climate Justice Now” before merging with a march of 100,000 people.

Marchers challenged some of the accepted orthodoxies that shape the proposals being officially debated. FoEI chair Nnimmo Bassey rejected the idea that carbon offsetting – trading funding for green projects for the “right” to pollute in excess of agreed targets – could benefit the planet.

“Carbon offsetting has no benefits for the climate or for developing countries – it only benefits developed countries, carbon speculators and major polluters who want to continue business as usual,” Bassey declared.

Fellow FoEI activist Marta Zogbi told TerraViva carbon trading was a false solution, opposed by civil society. “We have an enormous influence; the issue of climate change has been carried forward by organised civil society,” she said. “The corporate lobby is also very powerful, which is why society cannot advance as fast as it would like.”

The “Flood” march advanced to Parliament Square, where it joined a broader mobilisation involving trade unions and environmentalists, peace activists and relief organisations, political parties and carbon traders.

Hope in a hundred flavours has been invested in this Conference of Parties. The aim of drawing 60,000 people to peacefully demonstrate popular desire for decisive action was easily achieved. Danish police estimated 100,000 took part in the six kilometre procession from the Christiansborg Slodsplads to the Bella Center where the UN Conference on Climate Change is taking place.

This sea of people contained a range of opinions.

Activist Clodimir Bogaert came from Belgium just for Saturday’s march. “We hope things change, because the problem is urgent. We see that the first to suffer the effects of climate change are the poorest countries.”

Peter Sprengers, a carbon business analyst with Norwegian renewable energy company Statkraft, said “I came to Copenhagen to get a feeling about what is going to happen with CO2 and energy policies, because it has a huge impact on our business.”

He said he did not come to Copenhagen to lobby or try to influence the agreement because he does not think he can have an impact: “The main decision-makers are the U.S. and China at the moment.”

At the other end of the spectrum was Chilean activist Alicia Muñoz of the international small farmers movement Via Campesina, who has spent a week taking part in different activities in Klimaforum, the civil society meet held parallel to COP15.

“It is very clear to Via Campesina that we must pressure for an agreement to be reached, because we know the negotiations are not coming up with positive results,” Muñoz told TerraViva.

Also part of the main march as it set off was the now-familiar Black Bloc which brings a radical critique to most major demonstrations.

“I think the Copenhagen Conference is a good sign, but I doubt this meeting will bring a true agreement. It will be just like Kyoto,” Henrik, one of those marching with the anarchists, told TerraViva.

“I am here because we must do something, bureaucrats cannot solve anything. It is the people who must have the power.”

Wearing black clothes, many covering their mouths, the Black Bloc demonstrated with the main march for about half an hour, part of a group calling for “System Change, Not Climate Change” and shouting slogans against capitalism and the police.

Not far from the Amagerbro Metro station in central Copenhagen, police blocked the march’s main route with vehicles and arrested at least 100 of the anarchists.

Elsewhere in the city, a separate anarchist march under the slogan “Never Trust a COP” was broken up by police. By evening, 900 people had been arrested. Climate Justice Action issued a press statement condemning police handling of those arrested – the group says many were kept waiting out in the open for several hours, denied access to water, toilets or medical attention.

The Climate Justice Action (CJA) global network also questioned arrests that took place far from any sign of trouble. Activist Helga Matthiessen, held for an hour before being released, said “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.”

At the Bella Center, the final event of the day was a candlelight vigil attended by Noel Laureate Desmond Tutu.

They were calling for negotiators, in the remaining six days, to agree a deal that is fair – providing $200 billion to help poorer countries cope with climate change; ambitious – responding to the scientific consensus that emissions must peak no later than 2015 to keep carbon dioxide levels below 350 parts per million;  and binding – only a legally enforceable deal will hold governments accountable.

*Claudia Ciobanu, Daniela Estrada, and Raúl Pierri contributed to this report.


3 Comments For This Post

  1. George Says:

    nice article, captures the mood across the globe especially the developing world where, many – those who understand a bit about C.C – are not sure whether the climate change discussions – regardless of the time it begun – will ever come up with a tangible solution to deal with the effects brought by the modern world phenomenon. It captures the ’silent demos’ by those who are illeterate about C.C. Because, they are always lamenting the changing climatic seasons with little knowledge that, it is also a very-much man-made phenomenon. keep it up!


  2. Ruth Says:

    This concept of the Black Bloc is quite interesting. I hadn’t heard about this. I wonder what human rights the arrested protestors are saying they have been experiencing.

  3. privat Kredit Says:

    yea prestigious exercise :D





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