UPDATE: Negotiations stalled today in Copenhagen when African nations walked out in protest of perceived attempts by rich nations to kill the Kyoto Protocol, as Talking Points Memo reports. The talks are back in session now.Watch Link TV’s live stream from Copenhagen for more on this story as it develops.
On Saturday, December 12, climate activists rallied to call for a binding climate agreement. Vigils, fasts, and protests were held around the world, and in the largest environmental demonstration in history, 100,000 activists marched in downtown Copenhagen from the Christiansborg Palace to the Bella Center, where the United Nations Climate Change Conference (Cop15) is being held.
Overall, the march was peaceful and positive, ending with a vigil outside the Bella Center, where the demonstrators were greeted by South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. However, Danish police detained more than 500 activists at the back of the line, where European “black bloc” anarchists were trying to infiltrate, as Jacob Wheeler and Chuck Olsen report for The UpTake.
Kumi Naidoo, the first African leader of Greenpeace, is optimistic and enthusiastic about a deal in Copenhagen—and the role activists will play in making it happen. In an interview with Madeline Ostrander for Yes! Magazine, Naidoo says that the “… summit itself would not be taking place had it not been for groups like Greenpeace and others who have fought for a very, very long time. The fact that we are here is in itself an expression of innovation, courage, and willingness to speak truth to power.”
According to Naidoo, activists are putting pressure on leaders by working both inside and outside the negotiations, and “delegations are reaching out to us as they try to figure out what’s happening. Sometimes we civil society folks get to know what these countries are doing and thinking before some of the other negotiators do.” Without the “sweat of activist groups,” Naidoo says, Copenhagen wouldn’t even be happening.
OneClimate posted a video overview (below) of demonstrators’ work at the Cop15 climate march on Saturday. “People are not in Copenhagen to bury the climate treaty, ” said Vandana Shiva, Director of Navdanya, a women-centered movement for the protection of biological and cultural diversity. “They are here to implement it! Let this be the time where, you, marching to the Cop15, tell the leaders, ‘We have the power… we will be the change we want to see, and no one is going to stop us.’”
In other news, Tuvalu and other small island nations introduced a proposal that would commit the world’s developed nations to reducing greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep their islands habitable. They want Cop15 to produce two binding agreements: One to extend the Kyoto Protocol and make it stricter, and another that would require the United States to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
Tuvalu’s lead negotiator, Ian Fry, made an impassioned plea to the U.S. Senate, President Barack Obama, and the entire UN climate conference Saturday, telling them that his country’s very survival depends on the decisions they make in the next week, as Jeffrey Allen reports for OneWorld. Fry’s speech brought other nations’ officials to tears.
“The fate of my country rests in your hands,” Fry told the other delegates.
This weekend’s action helped set the stage for an exciting second week in Copenhagen, as Geoffrey Lean writes for Grist. “If the conference is successful, then the more than 100 world leaders due to come to the Danish capital this week will initiate the biggest economic change since the Industrial Revolution.”
There are still arguments over the details of any final deal, such as how the measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions will be monitored and verified, who will fund it, and how to retain and improve the Kyoto Protocol.
“The likeliest outcome is a toughened Kyoto Protocol, with a linked treaty covering the United States and developing countries (at present excluded from its provisions) and new agreements made in Copenhagen,” Lean writes. “… It will be one big package, or nothing. And it may all come down to the last few hours of the last day—or night, since no one wants to move until the last minute. The outcome of the Copenhagen talks is going to be a cliffhanger.”