Democracy : Alive & Kicking

Sheepishly creeping in late, (well I got lost, right, because my Google Map was on the wrong scale without the street names, OK ?), I attended my second Copenhagen de-briefing meeting of the year, with strong signals of properly functioning democracy all the way through.

I learned a lot more about the poor state of international negotiations, how disadvantaged peoples and nation groups were not heard, how the official news feeds were edited, how attempts to communicate from the public assembly at the Klimaforum into the Bella Center using video streaming were met with empty delegate seats, how the elite negotiating teams from the industrialised world failed to collect enough support for their position, how people got left queueing in the freezing cold…

I also learned that Polly Higgins read the whole of the official Copenhagen Treaty for the first time and realised that it was all about pushing Carbon Trading into the very heart of the negotiations. Her reaction : “Stop the trading”. She was also inspired to launch the Planet Earth Trust.

Since I got to the meeting late, I had the teensiest feeling that I looked like I was turning into a Tasmin Omond fan club member, as hers was the first presentation made. She talked of highly organised numerous Police forces in Denmark. She talked of “direct action” thwarted by divide-and-rule strategies. She talked of how not even the Non-Governmental Organisations who had official access to the Copenhagen UNFCCC venue could get useful messaging or communications done.

Tamsin passionately urged us to talk to the people around us about Climate Change and what it’s going to mean for us all. She mentioned family more than once. We care, and so we should not be silent.

An energy bubbled up inside her that made her visibly shake. She knows we cannot fix Climate Change easily. She knows that members of the general public are labelled “protesters” and dismissed if they don’t grovel their way into the official venues, the official meetings, the official huddles, the official documents.

Her anger and frustration matched that of a Christian Aid officer I met earlier this week as she gave her own de-briefing of Copenhagen. The final “Copenhagen Accord” was negotiated amongst a select group of wealth-supported nation delegates, and was entirely unrepresentative of the wider voices of the nations, even those they claimed to deal on behalf of.

Someone this evening put it well : Copenhagen failed.

Polly Higgins used the analogy of William Wilberforce when he set about to outlaw slavery. He didn’t say “make a little less use of your slave”, like the ActOnCO2 campaign encourages us to make a little less use of our cars. (I don’t own a car by the way, I’m just using the collective term “our” as a stylistic device.) He knew that around 300 companies were responsible for the slave trade, and that they needed to be stopped.

Around 300 companies today are directly accountable via their products for 78% of the world’s excess Carbon Dioxide emissions, said Polly. We have to cut the subsidies to dirty Energy, render the use of Fossil Fuels illegal, and subsidise Renewables and Low Energy options.

Then we ate. Vegan, of course.

Then we had a workshop, using “Open Space Technology”. “It’s not a technology”, I reminded people.

We had small group breakout discussions about what the people want from the next global Climate talks : how to move money to the best things, how to engage younger people, how to use new language for the “population problem”, how to identify false solutions like BioDiesel, how to increase democracy given that all the systems in place in our society don’t work : the Media is broken, Education is broken, Government is cracked…

A small group of us floating around the venue started to talk, as we all knew each other from different settings.

We discussed how 1.5 degrees C as a target is better than 2 degrees C. How it’s a shame that people are moving over to talking about 350 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere as the right target, but not using the 1.5 degree C target as well.

I said people can understand that 350 figure, as they can find out that the current atmospheric concentration of CO2 is over 385, so that gives us an opportunity to talk about how CO2 in the air could fall some way if we drastically reduce net emissions to air.

We talked about time lags in the Climate system. How the current 0.7 or 0.8 degrees C is from emissions from decades ago having their impact. How the emissions we have made in the last 30 years or so will add another 1.2 to 1.4 degrees C globally.

We have basically overshot the 2 degree C target, it’s just that we haven’t seen it arrive yet. The Earth faces something like that warming even if we stop burning Fossil Fuels and cutting down trees tomorrow.

There’s not much point in having a target if you have no mechanism to implement it, we agreed.

I said that what the temperature target means, whether the 1.5 degrees or the 2 degrees C of the Copenhagen Accord, is this :-

No new net emissions from now on.

That should be our target.

It’s not a number or a concentration or a formula or a wish or an aspiration.

It’s a boundary. A limit. A measure of success that can be counted on the fingers of no hands and no feet.

Zero is the number. Zero net emissions to air.

Nobody understands temperatures or Gigatonnes of Carbon. But zero is a concept that people can grasp.

No car travel that cannot be calculated as being your sustainable share of emissions. No imported food that does not qualify as within a sustainable limit. No heating or lighting if that takes you over your own personal Earth-sustaining budget.

No more licence to burn. No more free licence to mine as much Fossil Fuel as possible. No automatic right to trade in Fossil Fuels. No automatic right to burn Fossil Fuels for the Electricity we need. No free licence to make cars, plastics, any kind of consumer goods.

Zero is the aim, and that requires radical, immediate change.

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