It's the second to last day of the climate conference and I have the
worst case of laryngitis of my life. I open my mouth and nothing comes
It's frustrating because I was just at Hillary Clinton's press
conference and desperately wanted to ask her a question – or six. She
said that the U.S. would contribute its "share" to a $100-billion
financing package for developing countries by 2020 – but only if all
countries agreed to the terms of the climate deal that the U.S. has
slammed on the table here, which include killing Kyoto, replacing
legally binding measures with the fuzzy concept of "transparency," and
nixing universal emissions targets in favor of vague "national plans"
that are mashed together. Oh, and abandoning the whole concept (which
the U.S. agreed to by signing the UN climate convention) that the rich
countries that created the climate crisis have to take the lead in
Unless every country here agrees to the U.S. terms, the
Secretary explained, "there will not be that kind of a [financial]
commitment, at least from the United States."
It was naked blackmail – forcing developing countries to choose
between a strong fair deal that stands a chance of averting climate
chaos and the funds they need to cope with the droughts and floods that
have already arrived. I wanted to ask Clinton: Is this not climate
structural adjustment, on a global scale? We'll give you cash, but only
with our draconian conditions?
And who is the U.S. to call the shots when it carries the
heaviest responsibility for emitting the gasses that are already
wreaking havoc on the climates of the global south – what happened to
the principle that the polluter pays?
But…no point raising my hand, no voice.
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I feel a bit like a walking metaphor because this is the day
that pretty much all the NGOs have been locked out of the Bella Center,
making this a much less interesting place. Almost all the side events
have been canceled and people are scrambling to find alternative spaces
around the city in which to meet. Some youth groups staged a sit-in
last night to protest their expulsion.
As the big shots arrive and civil society is expelled, it may
well turn out that months of activism and negotiations don't matter
much in the face of raw power plays like the one Clinton launched this
morning: sign on our terms or get nothing.
Bolivia's Ambassador to the United Nations, Pablo Solon put it best:
"It seems negotiators are living in the Matrix, while the real
negotiation is taking place in the ‘Green room,' in small stealth
dinners with selective guests."
The image from the Bella Center that will forever stay with me
is seeing security guards refuse entry to Nnimmo Bassey, chair of
Friends of the Earth International, who has been fighting Shell and
other oil giants in the Niger Delta for decades, losing friends like
Ken Saro Wiwa to the struggle and being jailed himself. Meanwhile, the
oil execs walk the halls of the Bella Center with impunity.
Even if I could talk I'd be speechless.
Research support for Naomi Klein's reporting from Copenhagen was provided by the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute