Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Planetary Slavery alive and well in Copenhagen

3 days left of this year's COP 15 climate negotiations in Copenhagen, and negotiations are at stalemate. The voice of the people is loud - but the problem is you can only really hear it 1 mile or so down the road from the Bella Centre, where the official negotiations are taking place, in Klimaforum, where the People's Climate Summit resides. It's a bit like the Edinburgh Festival - the more innovate stuff happens on the fringe. So it's become the people v's the politicians: the former is to be found downtown in old warehouses and a public gymnasium in the red light district, the latter is outside the city housed in a sterile conference centre surrounded by maximum security (I know - I failed to get in to hear a side event last week).

There was a small chink of light. This year a climate express train ran from London to Copenhagen with select invited peoples such as various UN Climate Ambassadors (Roz Savage), film makers (Age of Stupid), some UN bods, loads of press (from Treehugger to Die Welt) - and me. So, I had a chance to have a private audience with Achim Steiner of UNEP - an opportunity I would not have so easily stepped into otherwise, but few of the 100,000 who marched on the streets on Saturday will ever have the chance to burn his ear.

COPs are remarkable events. It works like this: inner circle are the negotiators and the country reps - they are the participants. Then you have the NGO's - they have observer status (quite literally as well as metaphorically, the NGO's are on the periphery of the negotiations) - they are both housed out at Bella. Back in town there are a host of others - lobbyists (650 oil lobbyists are reported to be in Copenhagen) of all hues, activists, organisers and particpants of the coinciding conferences, topical shows, exhibitions, speaker events, films, food, reports, workshops and the best ever flamenco.

These are the conclusions I have reached whilst here:

We must stop treating the planet as a business.
Our legal basis for all environmental protection is failing to protect the planet. Instead, it is clear that the environment rarely benefits - rather it is only business that really benefits. The COP negotiations are proving to be little more than a profit making machine, with money to be made by trading and power being vested in privatised and/or governmental entities. If we used the internationally recognised (and simple to implement) Public Trust Doctrines of law to protect the planet we would have a true and effective system of governance. But the problem is too many people at the COP negotiation table believe that the only way forward is to treat the planet as a business. This is despite the fact that we actually have the legal mechanisms we require to protect the planet - but they are not being used.

If the politicians are not going to stop the trading, we the people will have to demand it.
Last week, Bolivia offered to present the People's suggestions into COP15. What was remarkable was the convergence of belief that the group had. The Klimaforum drafting group were 100% adamant that the trading has to stop. We all wanted a) big polluting business to be made illegal, b) fossil fuel subsidies to stop and c) a global fund for restoration by communities to be set up. What we came up with in 9 hours was a far more ambitious proposal than that which the politicians have been drafting for over 15 years. Will Bolivia present the proposals made by the people?

Replace Sustainability with Responsibility.
The REDD negotiations have been stalling due in part because of the inability to define sustainability - it is a word that causes more problems than solutions. Replace sustainability with responsibility and the outcome is vastly different and vastly improved. When we stop perceiving the planet as a business but instead take responsibility, then we step into the role of stewardship. Step into the realm of stewardship/trusteeship of the planet and responsibilities can be identified and acted upon.

Let the people's voice be heard.
Our political process is not reflecting the reality of those who care. For something this important there is no real democracy. The negotiations happen behind closed doors, security is high, emergency laws are created out of fear to tighten crowd control and the politicians do not hear what the people have to say. There is no proper mechanism for the people to be heard, which in a so-called democratic world is nothing short of an infringement of the human freedom of expression and speech. Rioting is not the answer, but what else remains? Desperate times bring desperate measures. Politicians, I ask you all, let us speak, listen to what we have to say and then act on our behalf.

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