Saturday, December 19, 2009

Great commentary from the Guardian

Copenhagen negotiators bicker and filibuster while the biosphere burns
George Monbiot
The Guardian (UK)
19 December 2009

First they put the planet in square brackets, now they have deleted it
from the text. At the end it was no longer about saving the biosphere: it
was just a matter of saving face. As the talks melted down, everything
that might have made a new treaty worthwhile was scratched out. Any deal
would do, as long as the negotiators could pretend they have achieved
something. A clearer and less destructive treaty than the text that
emerged would be a sheaf of blank paper, which every negotiating party
solemnly sits down to sign.

This was the chaotic, disastrous denouement of a chaotic and disastrous
summit. The event has been attended by historic levels of incompetence.
Delegates arriving from the tropics spent 10 hours queueing in sub-zero
temperatures without shelter, food or drink, let alone any explanation or
announcement, before being turned away. Some people fainted from exposure;
it's surprising that no one died. The process of negotiation was just as
obtuse: there was no evidence here of the innovative methods of dispute
resolution developed recently by mediators and coaches, just the same old
pig-headed wrestling.

Watching this stupid summit via webcam (I wasn't allowed in either), it
struck me that the treaty-making system has scarcely changed in 130 years.
There's a wider range of faces, fewer handlebar moustaches, frock coats or
pickelhaubes, but otherwise, when the world's governments try to decide
how to carve up the atmosphere, they might have been attending the
conference of Berlin in 1884. It's as if democratisation and the flowering
of civil society, advocacy and self-determination had never happened.
Governments, whether elected or not, without reference to their own
citizens let alone those of other nations, assert their right to draw
lines across the global commons and decide who gets what. This is a
scramble for the atmosphere comparable in style and intent to the scramble
for Africa.

At no point has the injustice at the heart of multilateralism been
addressed or even acknowledged: the interests of states and the interests
of the world's people are not the same. Often they are diametrically
opposed. In this case, most rich and rapidly developing states have sought
through these talks to seize as great a chunk of the atmosphere for
themselves as they can – to grab bigger rights to pollute than their
competitors. The process couldn't have been better designed to produce the
wrong results.

I spent most of my time at the Klimaforum, the alternative conference set
up by just four paid staff, which 50,000 people attended without a hitch.
(I know which team I would put in charge of saving the planet.) There the
barrister Polly Higgins laid out a different approach. Her declaration of
planetary rights invests ecosystems with similar legal safeguards to those
won by humans after the second world war. It changes the legal
relationship between humans, the atmosphere and the biosphere from
ownership to stewardship. It creates a global framework for negotiation
which gives nation states less discretion to dispose of ecosystems and the
people who depend on them.

Even before the farce in Copenhagen began it was looking like it might be
too late to prevent two or more degrees of global warming. The nation
states, pursuing their own interests, have each been passing the parcel of
responsibility since they decided to take action in 1992. We have now lost
17 precious years, possibly the only years in which climate breakdown
could have been prevented. This has not happened by accident: it is the
result of a systematic campaign of sabotage by certain states, driven and
promoted by the energy industries. This idiocy has been aided and abetted
by the nations characterised, until now, as the good guys: those that have
made firm commitments, only to invalidate them with loopholes, false
accounting and outsourcing. In all cases immediate self-interest has
trumped the long-term welfare of humankind. Corporate profits and
political expediency have proved more urgent considerations than either
the natural world or human civilisation. Our political systems are
incapable of discharging the main function of government: to protect us
from each other.

Goodbye Africa, goodbye south Asia; goodbye glaciers and sea ice, coral
reefs and rainforest. It was nice knowing you. Not that we really cared.
The governments which moved so swiftly to save the banks have bickered and
filibustered while the biosphere burns.

There is no deal

I'm not entirely clear on what is being reported at home, but there is no deal, there is a pseudo deal to make a deal, but as far as most of the world is concerned, this is NOT A DEAL. I'm reposting some thoughts from Prof. Michael Dorsey of Dartmouth College's Climate Justice Research Project below:

I am so very sad to see this "report" below is nothing more than rubish --from the US State Dept. peddled by CAN. And that friends is the ONLY word: garbage.

This is nothing but US propaganda--in the full sense of that word.

There is NO final text in the eyes of the majority of the planet's nations--especially those from the small islands, from Africa and the so-called lesser developed countries.

Small Islands, Africa are STILL here at 10 minutes to 5AM... battling against this "agreement".

It is an honorable fight indeed. One to remember by those that dare carry fond memories of Obama to their grave.

So much below is such a worth distortion words cannot even suffice.

"Danes are making copies" --far from utter nothing more than a boldfaced lie. One of the battle all night is the "agreement text" was NEVER circulated.

"Good compromises" this is this is the audacity of nihilism, shock, and distort.

I have never seen such hubris by Europeans and American in some time.

Truly baseless skullduggery.

Words are truly insufficient.

Watch it live--:

There seems there will NOT be a Copenhagen Accord.

And more from today:
1. Developing countries did not block the Obama-Danish text – they merely proposed that it be put on the Agenda for the next meeting because they had no reasonable chance to review it.
2. The text was negotiated by a small and exclusive group of countries at the highest level and then presented to the over 190 countries minutes before the final plenary meeting.

3. Developing countries across the world had concerns including small islands like Tuvalu, mountainous countries like Bolivia and large African desert states like Sudan were opposed to agreeing to accept the documetn because of its substance
· It does not include emission reduction numbers for developed countries - the key to actually stopping climate change

· It includes a 2 degree stablisation target even though over 100 countries have said that they need 1.5 degrees and that 2 degrees means death for Africa, for small island states, for anyone living near glacial mountains

4. Rememeber that before Copenhagen everyone was talking about binding emission cuts? This document does not at all - why? Because one country blocked that being a part of any agreement and that country was the United States.

5. Ed Milliband has said we should not take a step backward - let's be clear developing countries are saying we should stop and take stock before we take a step in the wrong direction - remember this so called 'deal' was cooked up without them and annouced while they were in a meeting so they had to read about it from the BBC - it's fair enough for htem to want to keep it on the agenda and think about it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Is no deal better than one whose own drafters admit it is "insufficient to address the threat of climate change"?

Here is the text of the proposed deal, as it was about an hour ago - click on the images to enlarge:

And some quick commentary here:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

For those wondering what they can do - consider signing this petition

I am reposting a letter sent out over the Avaaz listserve earlier today. Avaaz is a great group that does a lot of outstanding work, particularly when it comes to mobilizing citizens to send a strong message to government. Read the letter, check out the sites, and consider adding your name to the petition!


Dear friends,

Canada is blocking crucial UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen and secretly rolling back our efforts to fight climate change. A massive national outcry has stopped Harper before, the planet needs us now.

Enough is enough. As the world enters a desperate 36 hour effort to stop catastrophic global warming in Copenhagen, Canada is receiving the global "fossil award" for wrecking this crucial summit! And new leaked documents show that while the entire world is increasing cuts to carbon emissions, the government is rolling back ours.

A massive national outcry forced Harper to stop blocking the Bali talks in 07. But Harper's friends in the oil companies know that Copenhagen is the make or break moment for climate. It will not be easy to win this time, but to save the planet and our country we have to.

Let's mount a tidal wave of pressure on Harper with the largest petition in Canadian history - click below to sign, and forward this email to everyone. We have 36 hours:

The petition and names of the signers are actually being read out by youth in the summit hall, and another group of youth have done the same in Harpers own office! The Canadian delegation has become the object of international disbelief and ridicule in Copenhagen, but we can show the world that the Canadian people still hold our values of being good neighbours and global citizens.

Harper is undermining our deepest values and proudest traditions. But this is about more than our reputation. Studies show that climate change is already taking up to 300,000 human lives a year through turning millions of farms to dust and flooding vast areas. We can no longer allow Harper to make us responsible for these deaths, or put Canada's economic future in jeopardy by sacrificing our green competitiveness for a brown economy based on the dirtiest (tar sands) oil in the world.

Copenhagen is seeking the biggest mandate in history to stop the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. History will be made in the next 36 hours, and our country is the problem, not the solution. How will our children remember this moment? Let's tell them we did all we could.

With hope,

Ricken, Laryn, Anne-Marie, Iain and the Avaaz Canada team

More information at these sites:
CBC -- "Tories pondered weaker emission targets for oil and gas":

Mail and Guardian -- "Canada's climate shame":

Toronto Star -- "Who are the Yes Men and why did they punk Canada at Copenhagen":

Macleans -- "Suddenly the world hates Canada":

Fossil of the Day Awards:

Some thoughts on non-violent civil disobedience

As I reread the postings of the past few days, it occurred to me that to someone not following the events closely, the intention of the demonstration at the Bella Center yesterday and thus the full context of our interaction with the police might not be clear. Yesterday's post was written very soon after we left the action and my main goal was to get out an account of what had happened, rather than provide circumstantial background or thoughtful analysis - so I thought I’d attempt to do this now (Stick with me - the good stuff's at the end!).

The publicised purpose of the demonstration yesterday was to enter the Bella Center in an act of non-violent civil disobedience aimed at opening up the negotiation space to the public. Our decision to participate in this action was guided by the fact that this week, numerous accredited NGOs have been shut out of the Center and thus each day there is diminishing civil society oversight within the negotiations room. I do not exaggerate to say that decisions about the future of our planet are being made behind closed doors and without accountability or transparency. Further, some allies who are still being permitted into the center have been reporting back on the exchanges that are happening inside, and the picture they paint is one of Northern countries committed to developing a carbon market without much of a care about whether or not it does anything to reduce CO2 emissions, as Southern nations that are already feeling the effects are pleading for real action on the part of the developed world and financial support to help them both adapt and mitigate the effects they are already feeling. This information is substantiated by the frequent walk-outs staged by members of the G77 to demonstrate their disgust over the bad faith participation of the developed world.

We decided to attend this event knowing that an act of civil disobedience had been planned and knowing the police would be present and would presumably be attempting to stop people from entering the center.

What ultimately happened, however, is that the police moved in on us as soon as we arrived in the area - a point at which no one was breeching any of the barriers that have stood around the building all week and where, again, no one was doing anything violent or illegal. Further, rather than simply acting to prevent us from entering the center (which would have been extremely hard for us to do given the one entrance to the building, the fence, the line of police vans in front of the fence and the several hundred police officers present), they acted immediately with violence and in a manner that can only be assumed to be designed to escalate the situation, not defuse it. Given the reaction of police, the decision was made almost immediately to abandon the plan to enter the Bella Center and to instead hold the transparent and open meeting outside, where a legal demonstration permit entitled us to the space. Although this decision was announced repeatedly, the police continued to press in on the crowd, beat people seemingly at random (for example, if they were not moving quickly enough for the police’s liking because there were people in front of them and they had no way of moving any faster) and fire tear gas and pepper spray indiscriminately into the crowd.

I hope you are all still with me, cause here’s sort of the point of why I wrote this post:

I know that there are many, many people who will say that the Bella Center is a private space and “we” had no right to even announce a plan to attempt to go in there – the public is not allowed in and we should respect that. Further, there are others who will say that, like it or not, rightly or wrongly, we have no right to be outraged by the actions of police, given that we knew it was likely to be a contentious situation going in. I’d like to briefly provide my thoughts on these two points.

1) We have no right to be there: I encourage all of you to consider what it means that so many in society are content to allow governments to negotiate life-changing agreements behind closed doors, without the oversight of civil society. I would also ask you to consider this in the case of Canada in particular, where recently released government documents show that our government has been lying to its citizens about their plans on capping emissions. We are the ones who will bear the consequences of the decisions made here in Copenhagen, and yet we are being denied any voice in the process. I contend that the notion that anyone does not have a right to be fully informed, witness to and participant in these negotiations is a complete fallacy – the closed doors are a way to ensure that governments are not held to account for what they say or the position they present, their intention is to let governments make decisions that will affect their citizens without involving citizens in that process at all. Of course I get the idea that we elect representatives to ensure our views are heard in parliament, but how do we know they are doing a good job advocating for us if we aren’t allowed to know what they are saying? There is a reason proceedings in the house of commons are open to the public and broadcast on CPAC. The great social movements of previous decades were founded on the notion of non-violent civil disobedience and I'd encourage you to question what it means for a government to tell its people, you aren’t allowed in, you have no right to speak, you cannot know the content of the negotiations we make on your behalf.

2) We had it coming from the police: We were peaceful and committed to non-violence, it was not necessary for the police to be so aggressive in order to prevent us from entering the center. It was clear to me that the goal of the police was not to prevent us from entering the center (which could have been very easily done by simply standing in a line in front of the entrance, or in front of the fence in front of the entrance, or in front of the line of the police vans in front of the fence in front of the entrance), but to punish us for speaking up and attempt to intimidate us into silence. Whether you agree with my particular set of political beliefs or not, I think most people can appreciate that it is a scary, scary thing indeed when the police act violently towards a group of peaceful people not because of a HARM they are causing, but because of the MESSAGE they carry. If we accept that people who wish not to have their rights violated by the police should simply not do things to anger the police, that seems to be the end of most of the freedoms a person can hold. I refuse to accept the idea that it is foolish or too radical to expect that I should be able to engage in non-violent, non-harmful public action without facing a violent reprisal from the police.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


This is what democracy looks like?

Following yesterday night's post, we attended the march to the Bella Center this morning. I can say with total honesty that I did not see one agressive or violent action on the part of the demonstrators. The police were a different story however. We had a demonstration permit that allowed us to go right up to the fence surrounding the Bella Center and to legally occupy space on the street outside the center, despite this, the police started pushing in on the crowd almost immediately upon our arrival and crowding people into the center for the intersection from all sides, pushing them up against police vans so they had nowhere to move, and then beating the people on the outside of the group for failing to move. I was among the many, many peaceful, law-abiding protesters who were cornered by police in this fashion - having no where to go even if I wanted to leave and was then pepper sprayed while in the middle of this police-created mob. Unable to see anything, I had to rely totally on Steve to guide me out of the crowd (after the sprayed everyone they had cornered, they backed up to let us move); had we somehow lost hold of each other at that moment, I don't even know what would have happened - it was absolutely a recipe for disaster. I would like to mention, however, that everyone took great care of each other, with those the spray had missed guiding others out of the central area and offering water and calling the volunteer demonstrator medics over to put eye wash that neutralizes the effects of the spray in peoples eyes.

After this initial rush, it seemed the police had backed off a bit and might allow us to hold the 'people's assembly' we had planned in the street (which, once again, we had a legal permit entitling us to be in), as it was announced that many delegates from inside the center were going to come out and meet us. Soon after, however, they announced that these delegates were actually being prevented from leaving the Bella Center (we also later learned that (this is a quote from an email I was forwarded by one of our contacts working in the BC): "Norwegian govt delegate prevented from speaking to FoE Norway representatives at protest and all media banned from speaking or interviewing any FoE members. Any FoE members on the premises of the Bella Centre are being physically escorted out the premises." FoE is Friends of the Earth, and unbelievably popular and well-respected international NGO.

After this, we noticed that the police were lining up along the road, near where we (and many others were standing) and then they started walking in towards us, herding everyone into the center intersection once again (on the other side of which was the Bella Center along with a fence and several police vans). This made no sense - they were forcing us all into the center, where the mix of pepper spray and tear gas was so thick, clouds were actually visably hanging in the air, as you can see here:

with no way to get out - not exactly an approach designed to calm down a tense situation. I actually asked one of the officers where we were suppose to go and how they expected people to get out and he told us to go around a corner that was almost totally cut off the people were packed so tightly.

Eventually we made it around this corner. On the way, we passed an individual crumbled on the ground, as a medic tended to him or her, along with several people running in the opposite direction from us, coming from a group on the other side of the wide road, yelling that they needed medics. Again, I'll point out that the only medics on the scene to anyone who had been sprayed or gased, beaten by police, or otherwise injured in the crush of people were demonstrators themselves who had voluntarily worn medic armbands and brought first aid supplies. At this point, we agreed that with such a large (but still peaceful crowd) being forced into such a small space, and with the police behaving so recklessly, it was best to leave. We came prepared to be arrested, but seriously injured is a whole other ballgame. As we broke free of the crowd, we could see a police line down the road, but as the crowd had thinned a bit in this area, we thought maybe they were letting people through.

As we got closer, we saw a line of people on their bicycles across the street facing a line of police vans. Again, we were still in the area where we had a legal demonstration permit. We then saw the police vans drive forward and run into the line of people on their bicycles. Then, so fast I didn't even see where they came from even though I was standing right there, a group of officers with dogs appeared and the people from the bikes started running with the police dogs chasing them. We then learned that the police were not letting people out this way either - the way that the police on the other side told us we could go to get out - the police had surrounded the demonstrators on all sides and were moving in, pushing everyone to the centre of the intersection. Ultimately we got out (along with many others) by making our way through some undergrowth and wading across a brook and walking through a parkland area.

If the police's goal is to dissipate the demonstrators I really don't understand how they thought what they were doing would be at all effective. I also don't understand how people wanting to have their voices heard (freedom of expression? democracy? anyone?) is so dangerous that such violent action was necessary against peaceful individuals? Again, I can say with absolute truth that I saw not one demonstrator engaging in a violent act; it was clearly our presence alone that was enough for the police to act with such force against us, despite our legal right to be here. Right now, I am mostly hoping that the combination of force outside the bella center on such a large group of peaceful people, combined with the actions inside the center of revoking accrediation for respected NGOs, forbidding anyone (including press) from speaking with certain groups and essentially holding parties captive in the building so that they couldn't join demonstrators outside will be enough to ensure that this gets widespread and accurate coverage in the mainstream media. People have to know what certain state's are willing to do in order to convince themselves and others that everything is fine and they are in control and they are handling the problem, even when the people who are already suffering the impacts of climate change show us we are not fine, and the science tells us that things are not being handled appropriately (current targets would mean a ppm of CO2 of 770 in 2050, even though we know 350 is the upper limit for healthy life on earth) and their reaction shows that they are not actually in control of the process, because in a democracy people are not treated like criminals for simply attempting to share a point of view and leaders LISTEN to their people, they don't try to intimidate them into silence.

Violent Police Action Against Legal, Peaceful Demonstrators

Details of our personal experiences to come, but police are going ape-shit (If I might be so poetic) and Avaaz, Friend of the Earth, Via campesina, and tcktcktck have all had their accreditation suspended for apparently, symathizing with the demonstrators....