Friday, 18 December 2009

Copenhagen Failure

I really really really didn't want to write a blog that had 'Copenhagen' and 'failure' in the title. I've not written a word about it so far, in the hope that my cynicism might be proven unfounded - that the world's governments might, for once, throw off the shackles of an insane economic system and actually listen to the scientific evidence that is being screamed into their ears.

It seems it was not to be. Below, I append the first eleven days of summary analysis from Greenpeace UK, along with my own thoughts on Day 12 - today....

Day 1: South Africa joins India, China, Mexico, Brazil and Indonesia in tabling commitments as the big developing world countries call the bluff of the rich nations.

Day 2: After years of negotiating a UN agreement a plan by Denmark to introduce an alternative, greenwash text is leaked to the media. The Danes, it seems just want a deal that says Copenhagen at the top. They don’t care whether or not it will save the climate.

Day 3: Despite Tuvalu having met all the requirements for their proposals for a legally binding deal to be discussed their request is refused. Tuvalu and their supporters in the developing world bring the main negotiations to a halt until everyone agrees to play by the rules.

Day 4: Tuvalu asks for a group to be set up to discuss amendments to the Kyoto protocol. Again they’re turned down by those who fear a binding deal and another portion of the negotiations is halted.

Day 5: Negotiations resume on all fronts as rich nations realise they can’t steamroller the poor countries.

Day 6: As the negotiators take a rest day the global day of action sweeps around the world. 100 000 people take to the streets of Copenhagen and millions join events around the world – piling pressure onto the talks.

Day 7: Round 1 to Tuvalu! A legally binding deal is back on the table as it appears the Danes have given up on their alternative text when a promised update fails to appear. Battle lines have been clearly drawn, on one side the nations who know that only a binding deal will deliver results, and on the other side, everyone else.

Day 8: Do they never learn? Again the Danes try to sideline discussions on Kyoto. This time it is the Africans who walk out. The EU, Australia and Japan retaliate by refusing to discuss their own commitments. More lost hours.

In the forest sessions it becomes clear that everyone except the Americans and Columbians want a deal that won’t end up subsidizing forest destruction. Worryingly the amount of forest nations are talking about saving is being talked down.

Day 9: As the world’s environment Ministers arrive the summit goes into ‘high level’ mode. Unfortunately the efforts by the Danes and others to avoid discussion of the Kyoto protocol means there is a huge amount of work to be done.

Day 10: With heads of state due to arrive everything is up in the air. There hasn’t been enough progress and the heads of state are going to have to earn their money.

Day 11: Finally some movement. Hilary Clinton proposes a fund worth $100 billion a year to support developing countries. It’s a number, but there’s no detail on where the money will come from. China responds by signaling that it is now prepared to talk about how its own commitments would be monitored – possibly removing a major block to a deal. The USA is still refusing to talk about a binding deal.As the heads of state prepare for their state dinner President’s Lula of Brazil and Sarkozy of France request that an evening meeting is convened to make progress.


Day 12: Today. Obama speaks. Possibly the worst speech I have ever heard from a non-denier head of state on climate change - not something I expected to be writing. At least Barack normally gives it some rhetorical welly. This was just inflexible, myopic tosh. And now it looks, as I write, that we are going to end up with a deal that will put us way, way, way, WAY over 2 degrees celsius of warming. Well into the region of tipping points. Well into the region where entire nations are going to be underwater in the coming decades, and in which millions upon millions of people will be forced from their homes.

This is insanity. THIS is the point at which we could have done something - and the people who run our governments - all of them, with a very few honourable exceptions -have completely failed.

Now, I have an analysis of why that is. It isn't because they want a world with more climate catastrophe, nor that they hate the poor (though a lot of them don't particularly care either way, of course). It's because the world economy needs to make a profit - and all the forces of profit are lined up against meaningful action. Sure, they will exploit loopholes and occupy market niches and do everything they can to make a quick buck out of climate change action. But when it comes down to it -business as usual is still the easiest way to turn a short-term bit of money. And we have failed to stand up in enough numbers, and to say "Ya Basta!" - "Enough Is Enough!"

Enough of warmed over words. Enough of platitudes. Enough of sitting by while the world burns. We have to do something, and we have to do it right now. And the answer isn't going to come entirely through the ballot box - though I think voting for the right candidates will help. It's going to come through ordinary people taking action in their own communities, linking up together, and showing governments that if they are incapable of doing something, then we will do it ourselves. I'll do my best to build a strong electoral challenge to this current shower of failures and charlatans - but I'll do my best to support community action while I'm doing it. Because only all of us, acting together, right now, can do what needs to be done. Lets get started.

P.S. If you want to see what our current 'leaders' think of people who try to point out the insanity of the current system, then check out this video. Several Hackney Greens were on this demonstration - beaten up for trying to assemble and speak out, nonviolently. It's a disgrace - just like the rest of the Copenhagen summit.

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