Stop Climate Chaos

Blog from Copenhagen: Part 2

Stop Climate Chaos @ Cop15

Sam Clarke
DAY TWO by Sam Clarke
Sunday 13th December 2009

Despite my clear need to find out a lot more about what's going on, today had to be the day of demonstrating. An early breakfast and a trip down to near the Klima centre saw a large gathering of the Climate Justice group. Yes, there are many blocs within the NGOs here, a somewhat depressing return to tribal roots. In this group Friends of the Earth figures prominently. They had agreed that after The Wave in the UK, this would be the flood. There were certainly plenty of people in uniform blue: two shades!

It was so cold I had to take a detour back to my flat to get the last piece of my clothing to protect me.

I returned to the Charlotternberg square. The City is full of installations celebrating this event. The first I saw is the exhibition direct from London showing those dead trees from West Africa, very striking against the buildings. Next to come into view was the 50 foot high flower pot which was part of the scouts and guides installation. It also had a large sphere which was supposed to be the space occupied by one tonne of CO2.

The main square was filling up with demonstrators though there was still 90 minutes to go. I was beginning to regret such an early arrival. There were a few speeches echoing off the palace walls and pulsing music which for once served to keep the chill at bay. Then we set off. It's never easy to estimate how many there are in a crowd especially when you are in the middle of it. This was certainly a similar size to the Wave in London, and by some reports was potentially bigger. It was well behaved and well organised as we slowly left the square. I was pleased to be able to move around. For a while I kept pace with my friends from the Cambridge Carbon Footprint who had an easily visible banner.

I'm not sure whether it was just before or just after I had put my placard down to photograph that extraordinary church spire whose golden staircase runs around the outside of the spire. We were passing what could have been a commercial zone, the police obviously rated it as much a security risk as McDonalds anyway. Then I saw a number of demonstrators in a block with black balaclavas and dressed all in black. Suddenly thunderflashes and fireworks started going off and the crowd hurriedly dispersed. Up to now the police had been standing quiety: their caps were replaced with riot helmets and their long lenses came out. The moment passed and like quicksilver, the crowd managed to get past what semed like a temporary blip. Later, sitting in the warmth of the bella convention centre, I joined other delegates admiring the illuminated march passing by. A call from home alerted me to the news that 140 people had been arrested and then I saw the TV pictures of people sitting in lines with their hands tied just as though they were in the middle east. Not only was I still on the loose, I had been completely unaware of so much trouble. Now back to the learning...

Not all NGOs find it easy to make any impact within the conference. Some models I have come across include these: one group had taken a stand and, like dozens of others, was giving out literature: in their case a very helpful book about REDD, others like FoE are trying to meet up with dozens of delegations to give support, advice and encouragement: their challenge is to co-ordinate all the information they glean, no mean feat in itself, then there are the one man bands who get friendly with delegates and are able to infiltrate delegations.

But what has been achieved? This, paradoxically, is the most difficult question to answer.. One friend said this was like playing a complex computer game where you don't know the rules nor the different levels. Well, one report this morning congratulated themselves for having discussed many important things, but not yet the emissions reductions nor the financing. But the big debate, I understand has been elsewhere: its whether to abandon Kyoto or not: not such a ridculous thought, I discover. The Treaty runs along side the Convention. The former has teeth, but excludes the US who hate it and won't sign. The latter is much more general. So the question is whether to persist (as the developing countries want) with the Treaty or whether to dump it in favour of the Convention and build in to that all the necessary teeth.

Perhaps the NGO party will help sort it out. The meetings quieten down on Sunday, I hear, but many will be staying up to complete negotiations and obscure elements of on or other strand.

ECO Cop15 newsletter for 13th Dec

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