Today, I feel like an observer at the apocalypse.
Admittedly, it’s hard to feel perky and upbeat when struggling with a heavy cold and sleep deprivation. But, even objectively, things are not good.
Here inside Copenhagen’s Bella Centre, the climate talks are going nowhere. Developing nations walked out yesterday lunchtime in protest at industrialised countries’ continued secret negotiations, and their attempts to shelve the Kyoto Protocol (which, despite its flaws, is the only legally binding agreement on the table). They returned to the process later on in the day, but even though talks went on until past midnight, no countries have shifted their positions. There appears to be deadlock.
Meanwhile, the negotiations to bring forests into the global climate regime (known as REDD) descended, in the words of one NGO observer, into a ‘total bloodbath’ in the early hours of the morning, with what was already a shoddy deal riven with loopholes substantially weakened.
The future of humanity hangs in the balance. But people here seem much more excited by the presence of a series of ‘climate superstars’: Arnold Schwarzenegger is today’s star of the show, with Al Gore getting practically mobbed yesterday, and Prince Charles’ imminent arrival keenly anticipated.
Yesterday the Bolivian Ambassador to the UN denounced the undemocratic way in which rich countries are behaving: “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… It seems the only ones who have taken the “red pill” and are aware of the reality are those who marched in the streets on Saturday, who have denounced the rich countries for trying to stitch a deal that will undermine their obligation to tackle this urgent climate crisis."
And what of those out on the streets? Well, we thought we were getting a bit of a reprieve yesterday, when the cops grudgingly allowed our Tar Sands demo outside the Canadian Embassy (though they wouldn’t let us near the door) and then a larger, more raucous No Borders protest. At least no-one was pre-emptively arrested, caged and pepper sprayed like at the weekend.
But then, last night, at a party for activists, the Danish police went into attack mode once again. Naomi Klein spoke about tomorrow’s Reclaim Power action, where thousands will march to the Bella Centre and attempt, nonviolently, to get in (or as near as possible) and hold a ‘Peoples’ Assembly for Climate Justice’ that will have all the legitimacy that the real talks do not. Shortly after she’d finished, the social event was raided. Teargas was fired, and there were more mass arrests.
It’s hard to escape the conclusion that it is now illegal in Denmark to express strong opposition to false climate solutions and denounce the negotiations as unjust, unaccountable and inadequate. However, tomorrow, me and everyone I know here is going to do just that. All this police intimidation on the streets, and attempts by rich governments to squash all opposition and ram through a terrible deal at the summit, is having the opposite effect. It is just making our movement more determined to stand up for climate justice, even if it has a personal cost.
We may be staring into the abyss, but personally, I plan to go down (nonviolently) fighting.