Dec 19, 2009
Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International sums up the last two weeks of climate talks in Copenhagen from the backroom deals to rise of the Climate Justice movement.
Early on in the second week of COP15, the cordoned path created for long lines of NGOs seeking entry into the Bella Centre was a crowded mass of people. The cold was setting in, but the people pressed in.
The story was different for the last two days of the COP. The path was desolate and taken over by a carpet of snow. Observers had been barred from entering the venue and the few with possibilities of entry had to contend with long waits as security officials thumbed through sheets with names of those cleared to enter.
Within the conference venue the most democratic space appears to be the entrance hall where the registration of delegates was carried out. The pull here is the large UNFCCC logo on the wall where virtually every delegate sought to be photographed as a memento to a conference of lost opportunities.
Inside the chambers, more went on behind closed doors than in plenary. The Danish president of the COP spent more time denouncing leaked or rumoured secret texts rather than spending precious time negotiating. Blocks and hurdles were erected in the path of negotiators to ensure that real progress was not made.
The UNFCCC erected banners inviting people to raise their voices for climate change. Out on the streets the Danish police fought to ensure that the voices of dissent were silenced.
Thousands demand Climate Justice
If any good news emerged from the climate conference, it must be that the climate justice movement is rising up. On December 12, 2009 over 100,000 citizens of the world braved the cold and marched more than six kilometres through the streets of Copenhagen to show their disgust with politicians and leaders who consistently refuse to act but keep talking about climate change.
Would emissions be cut? Would these be done at source or would it be through acts carried out elsewhere rather than at home? Who would pay for the mitigation measures needed to be effected in poor developing nations? The impacted nations have said that levels of funding needed to tackle these impacts have been put at about US$400 billion per year. With brave generosity, rich nations offer to place $30 billion for the period 2010 to 2020. And then ramped up to US$100 billion by 2020.
President Lula of Brazil, while speaking at the plenary on the closing date, wondered if the negotiators would have to wait for angels to put intelligence in their brains before they could come to a good deal. His statement suggested that there was a case of lack of intelligence. Was it really a lack of intelligence or an unwillingness to toe the paths of true ambition?
take it or leave it
When President Obama took the stage, he asserted that climate change poses an unacceptable risk to our planet. The world should act boldly in the face of the threat. He said he came to act and not to talk. So what was the act.
Obama stated that the USA would change the way they create and use energy as a necessary block in their national security. In addition they would work to ensure reduction of dependence on foreign oil. At the end of the day, all that President Obama said amounted to declaration of US interests that the world had to accept or leave. It brought nothing new to the table.
Even the funds promised for mitigation in poorer nations was made with a snigger that no one expecting aid should escape the demand for responsibility.
Talking about responsibility, who is responsible for the climate impacts in these poor countries? The pledge of President Lula to meet Brazilian challenges with own funds and the promise to assist poor countries in their efforts to take mitigation measures shone in the dark hallways of the Copenhagen talks.
With several versions of the Copenhagen Accord, coined perhaps from a phrase in President Obama’s speech, one leaves the conference wondering where all the hype about working for an ambitious deal went. If there was a deficit of anything at this conference it was that of ambition.
A disaster for the world's poor
I left the Bella Conference at 1:45 AM to meet the warm chants of climate justice activists protesting in the cold, beneath the Metro tracks, denouncing the lack of seriousness in the climate negotiations. The protesters could have been snugly asleep in their beds, but these were mostly young people whose future was being jeopardised for the political expediency of a few and for the comfort and profiteering of carbon speculators.
As we said in our final statement at the talks, the so-called accord was a disaster to poor nations. A two degrees Celsius temperature rise means sure disaster and death to millions in vulnerable countries.
As I crushed the snow beneath my feet, each step raised a question: for how long will leaders be disconnected from the voices of the people? But I took great comfort from the strength of Friends of the Earth International activists who demonstrated to the world that the time for the growth of the climate justice movement has indeed come.
Congratulations, friends. Have a great holiday season and an action-filled 2010.
Dec 17, 2009
More than five thousand people from around the world joined the Flood for Climate Justice on Saturday December 12 'flooding' the streets of Copenhagen demanding 'climate justice' and an end to offsetting carbon emissions.
Dec 16, 2009
Friends of the Earth today were refused entry to the UN climate conference in Copenhagen despite having the relevant accreditation.
Nnimmo Bassey the Friends of the Earth International Chair said:
"Our organizations represent millions of people around the world and provide a critical voice promoting climate justice inside the UN. On the inside and the outside, all the rules have gone out the window - organizations such as Friends of the Earth that support peaceful action are being barred while developing countries concerns are being trampled in the plenary."
This is a shocking turn in events and we are working on our response now to the UNFCCC.
We will keep you updated.
To learn more about today's dramatic events inside and outside of the conference centre please visit the Friends of the Earth US blog.
Dec 14, 2009
Hundreds of activists in Copenhagen took to the streets on Tuesday for the 'food system change, not climate change' march. The aim was to highlight the fact that large scale industrial agriculture aggravates climate change rather than solving the climate problem.
German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen takes delivery of 10,000 signatures collected by Friends of the Earth Germany / BUND calling for at least 40% emissions cuts by 2020 with no offsetting.
At 10am on Monday morning Anje von Broock and Tina Loeffelsend form Friends of the Earth Germany / BUND delivered 10,000 signatures collected via the DemandClimateJustice.org website calling for at least 40% cuts in carbon emissions from Germany and the EU by 2020.
The minister said he welcomed Friends of the Earth International's efforts to push governments forward.
Picking up on Chancellor Merkel’s remarks that she will not make unilateral commitments now, Anje and Tina reminded the German government that, industrialised countries have led the way in carbon emissions and now have to take the lead in reducing them in Copenhagen.
Drastic reductions of at least 40% are needed from rich countries at home without offsetting.
The minister responded by stating the German government's mid to long-term reductions targets of 80-95% by 2050. At which point Anje questioned the Minister's commitment to that pledge given the investment currently going into new coal fired power plants in the country.
"That is something we can debate back home" the minister responded.
We look forward to what will be a lively debate.
Friends of the Earth led a series of actions today in the UN climate conference in solidarity with African countries who demand that Kyoto targets for emissions reductions are protected.
Speaking to the cameras after the second action Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International said the rich countries were "using dirty negotiating tactics..trying to change the rules and tilt them in their own favour."
African countries stood up to these tactics and during the action Friends of the Earth International chanted "We stand with Africa. Don't kill Kyoto targets"
Dec 13, 2009
Yesterday more than five thousand people from all over the world took to the cold streets of Copenhagen to demand climate justice and an end to offsetting emissions.
The flood began outside the Klimaforum - the civil society event on climate change - with speeches from Nnimmo Bassey, the Friends of the Earth International Chair, Henry Saragih, General Coordinator of La Via Campesina and Amparo Miciano, from the World March for Women.
Nnimmo rallied the crowd with a stirring call to action. He demanded climate justice and called for end to false climate change solutions such as offsetting.
"To those who want to pollute at home and plant a tree in Africa, we say no," he shouted.
Around 5000 people, dressed in blue ponchos and carrying 'demand climate justice' flags, came to the march from every corner of Europe and beyond.
Reinford Mwangonde from Friends of the Earth Malawi said why it was so important for him to be there:
"In Malawi we now have flooding, desperate droughts and very short rains. This doesn't give farmers enough time to grow anything. Animals are also suffering because there is not enough green land. It's a daily struggle for Malawian farmers."
"Africa is at the front line of climate change and that is why I am in Copenhagen, to demand climate justice now!" he concluded.
After the speeches came the arrival of the carbon traders; sinister men and women in suits shouting:
"Come offset your carbon emissions. We're selling dirty air and buying clean air"
As the carbon traders left the stage they were pursued by the crowd, who 'flooded' the streets, chanting "No offsetting. Climate justice now!"
The Flood also carried messages from directly affected by climate change who couldn't make it to Copenhagen. These messages formed part of the 'climate capsule' that is currently on display in the Klimaforum.
The Flood ended in front of the Danish Parliament with the creation of a massive human banner reading 'Offsetting is a false solution'.
The crowd then joined an estimated 100,000 demonstrators to march to the conference centre, where the official climate talks are taking place, with their messages of climate justice now!
It was a truly inspiring day where our demands were heard loud and clearly. Only next week will we know whether world leaders have listened.
Dec 11, 2009
Amid the chaos of the conference centre a press conference was held by Kim Nguyen who had cycled from Australia all the way to the climate conference collecting messages for delegates on the way.
Kim's journey began in East Timor where the people he met people had first hand experience of the devastating effects of climate change.
"For three years the seasonal rains never came and then one year they came all at once and were deluged. The few crops they have were destroyed" he said.
He met people in the Gobi desert who told him that every year the desert expands and more and more lakes and rivers dry up.
It was in the same desert that he saw a working example of renewable energy at a local level.
"All the tents they lived in had solar panels on the top."
Throughout his travels he collected messages for the world leaders at the climate summit in video, photo, illustrations and letters.
Today Friends of the Earth took part in a number of events at the Kilmaforum - the civil society event in Copenhagen. The day began with a briefing from Young Friends of the Earth and ended with the first day of the People's Tribunal on Ecological Debt and Climate Justice.
In recognition of 'young and future generations day' at the climate conference, the daily briefing in the Klimaforum - the civil society summit - was carried out by members of Young Friends of the Earth and other young people attending the summit.
There are around a thousand young people following the negotiations in Copenhagen and the role youth can play in these negotiations is now being formally recognised.
The panel was split into regions and Mauro Ramos from Friends of the Earth Uruguay talked about the position of Latin America, particularly when it comes to climate debt.
Firstly he spoke about Bolivia and the strong position they have taken in the region.
"They are one of the few countries that propose to maintain and preserve oil reserves in their territories"
He talked about the discussions around climate debt and how it can be paid; two options being direct payments to countries and technology transfers from developing country to non developing country.
On the subject of renewable energy he was positive but cautious:
"Many private companies are seeking new business opportunities. We say it's important to keep this energy at the reach of local people."
He ended by calling on negotiators to listen to indigenous people. "Native populations are not heard… these people are totally forgotten. We have to bear them in mind for a fair world."
the feminist struggle
The first talk of the afternoon was 'feminists struggling against climate change and the privatisation of the environment' organised by the World March of Women and supported by Friends of the Earth International.
Meena Raman from Friends of the Earth Malaysia began by updating us on the climate talks from the perspective of developing countries and women.
She said how great it was to be at the Klimaforum," a place of passion, inspiration, spirit and hope and justice" and went on to say how women's closeness to the earth mean they are at the forefront of the climate struggle:
"They see what contamination does their bodies, what pollution does their children."
She spoke with passion detailing the spin the developed countries are putting on the talks.
"They say there needs to be a new treaty to replace Kyoto which runs out in 2012. It doesn't."
She criticised the Danish government for their back room talks and other countries for invoking intellectual property rights when it comes to green technology transfer.
"These same rights were used to deny Africans life saving AIDS drugs" she said.
It's hard to get a crowd fired up on the finer points of the Kyoto Treaty yet Meena had no problem in generating whoops, sighs and cheers.
Thuli Mahama from Friends of the Earth Swaziland spoke in advance of the event saying the face of poverty is always that of a woman or a malnourished child yet these same people are adapting without attending any conferences."
They have no choice but to find ways to survive:
"In Swaziland some women scrape some sand from the ground and if they wait long enough, perhaps two hours, a small pool of water may appear. This is how women are adapting to climate change" she said.
ecological debt and climate justice
As feminist struggles continued, over the corridor, the 'People's tribunal on ecological debt and climate justice' was taking place. There, a panel including Angela Navarro one of the Bolivian negotiators, the author Naomi Klein and Ricardo Navarro from Friends of the Earth El Salvador gave their thoughts on the pursuit of climate debt and reparations - an essential element to climate justice.
Angela Navarro began by talking about the kind of climate agreement Bolivia wants. One that takes into account the fact that developed countries and their pursuit of ever greater profits caused the mess that we're in today.
"Developed countries have forgotten what a healthy relationship is with Mother Earth. In the south we are still listening to her" she said.
She then went on to offer developed countries capacity building on being more in tuned with the earth.
Finally she ended with some news on the negotiations:
"Our President is preparing a surprise for us. We need your help to make this process inclusive from the bottom up. Thirty nations don't have a right to impose a solution"
Having spent a few days in the convention centre where the official climate talks are taking place, Naomi Klein observed that the talks resembled "the final scrabble for the remaining resources of a planet in peril"
She gave encouragement to the movement calling for reparations comparing them to the people who asked for reparations for the slave trade:
"They will laugh until there is a movement... We are that movement."
Finally it was Ricardo Navarro's turn.
He spoke of a new paradigm of development that needs to take place where it's not the economists who have the final word. He urged people to resist any project that contributes to climate change and transform the system; "small scale agriculture and energy sovereignty is part of the solution."
Naomi Klein had the last word when she said:
"A common phrase in American is 'let's press the restart button.' The earth doesn't have a restart button."
Dec 10, 2009
The FoEI magician try his best to magic away carbon emissions but it just doesn't work.
Dec 09, 2009
This morning Friends of the Earth International in partnership with the Stockholm Environment Institute held a press conference in the Bella Center to launch the 40% study which shows that 40% emissions cuts in Europe are achievable.
The study prepared by Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) in partnership with Friends of the Earth Europe proves for the first time the feasibility and affordability of achieving at least 40% emissions cuts in Europe by 2020 compared to 1990 levels, without offsetting.
Dr Charlie Heaps from the SEI set out the methodology used in the report and his graph clearly showed that the current targets being proposed by Europe "leave little room for non-Annex 1 countries to develop."
Sonja Meister from Friends of the Earth Europe set out the case for why Europe really has to push for 40% and laid out some of the benefits too:
"The EU should recognise the benefits of making such cuts. Investment in renewables and energy efficiency would create seven jobs per every one in fossil fuels. There are also many health benefits."
The landslide victory of Evo Morales in the Bolivian elections, the official negotiations of the COP 15 to the UN Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen and the role of social movements here, were some of the issues mentioned by Bolivian ambassador to the UN, Pablo Solon, in an exclusive interview with Real World Radio.
Dec 08, 2009
The ice is melting - literally. Sam Fleet began day one of the COP in the Bella Center where the official negotiations are taking place.
The day began at 06:30; a rushed breakfast followed by a crowded metro. We arrived at the Bella center to find Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) had installed a melting ice sculpture of the Mermaid statue, calling for climate justice at the entrance.
The atmosphere inside the centre was intense, and one of excitement. It was a huge transformation from the empty atrium I had seen the night before, into something akin to a train station at rush hour. It was entirely possible to spend the day exhausting yourself running around like a headless chicken, rushing from one spot to the next, without achieving anything.
The communications and media teamed discussed their strategy, although judging from the huge number of journalists and camera crews marching around the centre, it seemed there would be no difficulty getting coverage; we just had to provide the spokespeople – something FoEI has no shortage of, representing 77 countries.
I left after lunch in order to head to the Klimaforum – the global civil society counterpart of the official UN conference in the Bella Centre – where the second half of the FoEI communications team were based.
After a brief unintended detour through the centre of Copenhagen, past the Hopenhagen concert arena – a huge corporate sponsored initiative – I arrived at the Klimaform just in time to help out and take pictures at the FoEI opening press conference, with our chair, Nnimmo Bassey.
Nnimmo was then rushed in front of Associated Press, and German, Danish and Swedish TV channels, before taking the stage at the opening event for the Klimaforum. I passed through, en-route to a coordination meeting to watch the Danish Chime Transform - Lisbeth Diers playing on instruments sculpted out of ice. An enchanting performance, compounded by the fact, that near the end of the show, whether by design, or accident, the instruments began to shatter in the musician’s hands – melting under the hot stage lights.
A simple message: climate change waits for no-one. Act Now!
Call the on the Danish government - the hosts of the summit - to broker a just and transparent climate agreement.
Desperate to get any kind of deal, the Danish Prime Minister has been leading meetings with rich country negotiators to agree the wording of agreements before proposals are even on the table.
We need to make it clear to the Danish government that this isn't acceptable. And as the hosts of the talks, their responsibility is to ensure a fair and transparent process , not to broker a deal at any cost to the millions of people in developing countries who will suffer most.
Email the President of the Conference of Parties now.
This action is hosted by Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland.
There is no shortage of energy and creativity in the Bella Center as hour after hour a new protest fills the corridors from the straight forward banner to rather complex magic tricks.
Our magician try his best to magic away carbon emissions but it just doesn't work.
Young Friends of the Earth promote the Angry Mermaid Award
Offsetting protest in the Bella Center atrium
Take me to your climate leader
Dec 07, 2009
On Sunday 7 December the Friends of the Earth International delegation to the climate negotiations met in person for the first time these two weeks to discuss our strategies and get to know each other.
Attended by campaigners, communicators, coordinators and Young Friends of the Earth Europe it was great to finally have everyone in the same place and put faces to names - over the last year we've had numerous phone conferences and exchanged hundreds of emails.
The day began with an introduction from Nnimmo Bassey the Chair of Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) giving one of his motivational speeches that never fails to inspire whilst at the same time putting a smile on every face.
Then it was the turn of some of FoEI's wisest climate minds to give their take on the critical negotiations ahead.
Meena Raman from Friends of the Earth Malaysia talked about the sky grab
that is taking place by developed countries and the Bolivia delegation's recent assertion that there is "little atmospheric space left for developing countries".
We heard about the European Union's position and the various negotiating groups that have formed around the world - the G77, Africa, ALBA, the Umbrella group and AOSIS to name a few.
We also heard about the tactics that some countries are using to divide unified groups by offering bi-lateral deals rather than dealing with a block as a whole.
One of these strong blocks is Africa who, last month in Barcelona, refused to continue formal discussions about offsetting and insisted that the talks focus on real carbon-reduction targets for rich countries.
Finally Kate Horner from Friends of the Earth United States assessed the US position. Asked whether the arrival of President Obama to the talks was a positive step, she expressed concern that in an effort to stay on the right side of the charismatic President some countries may make concessions that would not be in the interests of the kind of agreement developing countries need.
It was a lot to take on board but the overall message was simple, a just agreement will be difficult to secure but is not impossible.
young friends of the earth just keep on going
During lunch, Young Friends of the Earth Europe (YFoEE), never ones to put their feet up, carried out a teaser action in street calling on people to join the Flood for Climate Justice on Saturday 12 December.
In the afternoon we divided into smaller groups: communications,
actions and lobbying, and we discussed how we could best perform the tasks we had been assigned, which for me is communicating to You.
Just after 5pm we were done, a little tired, but raring to go for two weeks of long days and late nights certain in the knowledge that only a just agreement in Copenhagen will do.
Take action with Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland by calling on the UK climate secretary to sign up to the right agreement in Copenhagen.
Call on him to sign up to:
- Emissions cuts of at least 40% by 2020 on 1990 levels for all developed countries.
- A new financial mechanism to support developing countries in tackling climate change.
- Offsetting to be scrapped - including the the use of carbon trading in tackling deforestation. Offsetting is unjust and fundamentally flawed.
Take action now!
Naomi Klein praises the work of the climate justice movement and urges everyone not to leave the climate up to developed countries and corporations.
Dec 06, 2009
Sam Fleet from Friends of the Earth Europe reports on an entertaining journey to the Danish capital all powered by renewable energy, champagne and jazz.
At 08:00 on Friday morning my colleague and I found ourselves in the waiting room for the Climate Express from Brussels to Copenhagen. We were to be ‘eco-passengers’ on the Train to Copenhagen, and would travel direct, powered from renewable sources, with a plethora of events to entertain us en-route, before arriving in Copenhagen 14 hours later.
After dodging the camera crews, we settled into our seats, and prepared flyers and posters for the Friends of the Earth International ‘Flood for Climate Justice’ to spread around the train. I joined the champagne breakfast, accompanied by jazz, in the dimly lit dining car, as the train sped past the still, grey, sleepy Belgian countryside. During the day, a range of talks and presentations across two carriages would cover a range of topics, from climate science to urban transportation, and would continue right up until arrival in Copenhagen at 23:00.
The Climate Express was not as fast as the name implied: train-spotters in Aachen took the opportunity to film the unique Climate Express as it stopped to give way to numerous freight trains.
I photographed Tom Picken, the international climate campaigner from Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland, as he handed over our 40% study, showing that 40% emission cuts are possible in Europe, to the CEO of Eurostar, Richard Brown.
what are we doing in Copenhagen?
The majority of MEPs disembarked in Köln to return to Brussels, and were replaced by more passengers for the stretch to Copenhagen. The media moved from the front of the train to the rear to get a different perspective and the FoEE representatives found themselves in front of an Italian camera crew. The question being asked from the crew was simply, “What will you be doing in Copenhagen?”
Tom provided a sane and sober response – urgent and deep emission cuts for developed countries, without offsetting; money for developing countries to adapt to the effects of climate change; forests out of carbon markets; public money to fight climate change through the UNFCCC, not the World Bank.
When they unexpectedly turned the camera on me, they received a mumbled, embarrassed and red-faced “demand climate justice”, which will no doubt be edited out. A good reason for all those in the FoEI delegation to familiarize themselves with the official FoEI messages and keep their cool in front of the cameras!
The Climate Express took on a very relaxed atmosphere towards the end of the journey, with the media circus calming down, and those remaining on the train until Copenhagen taking what would probably be the last chance for an evening nap. The same Italian TV crew from earlier debated whether the organic tagliatelle to be served for dinner would have been cooked since Köln, and therefore be well past its best – which was thankfully not the case.
My second embarrassing media interview commenced immediately after stepping out of the train into the Copenhagen drizzle, when a Japanese camera crew filmed me holding the ‘seal the deal’ bag that we had all been given on boarding. I tried to convince them that climate justice was more important than just any old deal, but it was lost on them.
For the rest of the COP I will try and stay behind the camera. Blogging is more my thing.
If you want to read our Copenhagen demands you can do so here.