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Take climate fight to Copenhagen

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Campaigner Jørn Andersen spoke to Socialist Worker about the protests that will greet world leaders at the UN climate summit in Denmark
Issue 2173

Jørn Andersen is from the Climate Movement in Denmark – known as Klimabevægelsen. He is also part of the coordination group of the 12 December Initiative – a broad coalition of organisations preparing for the demonstration at the United Nations (UN) climate summit in Copenhagen on 12 December.

What preparations are being made for the protests in Denmark?

A whole range of organisations were already preparing their own interventions, but we felt we needed to unite for a huge protest where ordinary people could join us in creating a massive, loud and visible demonstration of the world’s will to act.

In December last year climate movements in Sweden, Denmark, Belgium and Britain, together with Friends of the Earth Europe, sent out an open invitation for a Global Day of Action demonstration in Copenhagen.

In March Klimabevægelsen invited anybody who was worried about the outcome of the UN climate talks to prepare for a broad-based demonstration.

The response was incredible. At the moment more than 40 organisations in Denmark and over 50 internationally are supporting the demonstration.

Uniting such a broad coalition around specific demands is not an easy task. But, we are all united on several things – the need for urgent and ambitious solutions based on global justice, and on social justice.

So there is a main slogan, “Planet First – People First”. And there will be some specific demands that are not settled yet.

We have started local mobilisations in some cities in Denmark and we hope this will spread to all major cities.

Will there be demonstrations, counter-summits and other activities?

The main demonstration will leave from Parliament and will go as close as possible to the Bella Centre where the talks will take place.

There will be feeder demonstrations from Friends of the Earth and others before the main demo.

Cities outside Copenhagen will hold local demonstrations on 5 December. Århus and Odense already have demonstrations arranged. These will be built at the same time as mobilising for Copenhagen on 12 December.

There will be lots of actions throughout the summit period – from religious services to civil disobedience actions directed at the summit or major polluters.

During the summit there will be a Climate Forum 09 – an European Social Forum-like alternative summit with debates, exhibitions and teach-ins. The Climate Forum will decide on a declaration to be presented to negotiators as well as to participants in the demonstration.

Who is involved in the preparations for the protests?

The people come from a diverse range of organisations and networks, including climate and green networks, civil society groups, parties of the political left and trade unions.

The demonstration is intended to become a truly international event. One way of achieving this is to get formal endorsements from as many organisations and networks and from as many countries as possible.

We urge you to check on our website to see whether your organisation is supporting the demo. If not, push for it to offer support. Mobilisation internationally is starting to speed up.

On 1 October there was a “Kick off” meeting in Norway’s capital Oslo with over 70 people organised by the Norwegian Social Forum and involving major political, trade union and green movement leaders.

A train is being organised from Brussels in Belgium. It will bring more than 900 people to Copenhagen from Britain, France, Belgium and other countries. There will also be buses from Britain.

In Malmö, Sweden, a broad coalition has been set up to mobilise and organise transport and accommodation. And Klimataktion, the Swedish Climate Movement, has been mobilising for some time all over Sweden.

What reaction have you got to the call for a protest?

We expect tens of thousands of people to join the main demo. And we expect thousands to join the Climate Forum.

Thousands will probably take part in a Christian service with Desmond Tutu on 13 December. And thousands will take part in civil disobedience or other sorts of actions through these two weeks.

Politicians, the media and the police have so far focused on saying that anybody protesting during the summit is a potential troublemaker. They have painted an image of thousands of “violence prone loonies” coming to Copenhagen to “smash the city”.

They are trying not to talk about their inability to do anything seriously about the climate crisis. So they try to blame the protesters.

However, this is not going to work. We are trying to use the next weeks to go to the streets, to schools, universities and workplaces to argue for broad participation in the protests.

What will happen at the UN meeting?

The main conflict is between the peoples of the world, who are increasingly demanding solutions to the climate crisis, and the world leaders, business leaders and neoliberal ideologists, who want “business as usual”.

But they know they can’t continue to do that forever – so they talk a lot. World leaders say they want to reduce carbon emissions.

Even DONG and Vattenfall, two of main energy suppliers in northern Europe, say they want to reduce carbon emissions.

But they don’t want to do it now. They want to set targets for 2050 – or maybe 2020 if they are non-binding.

We should be clear that the UN climate summit will not solve the problem. There will be an agreement of sorts because not doing so would lead to an enormous loss of prestige.

But the deal will be a continuation of the market based “solutions” set out in the Kyoto Protocol, which after ten years have failed miserably in making real reductions where it matters – the countries of the Global North where the bulk of world emissions have taken place.

The deal will be non-binding and it will not be based on principles of social and global justice.

Why is it important for people to go?

I think the most important reason why people should go is this – the summit will not solve the problems. But world leaders will try to spin the result as a “huge step forward for humanity”.

If tens of thousands of people are protesting outside the summit, this spin will become much more difficult to uphold.

A huge demonstration could become a powerful start of the movement necessary to take up the struggles after the summit, whatever the outcome of it will be.

I see the demonstration as much more than an “event”. The mobilisation for it is a chance to forge links between individuals and organisations – locally, nationally and globally – to prepare for the struggles ahead.

We need to spread the arguments for fair, ambitious and binding climate action outside the present green and climate networks. We need to put concrete demands on our own politicians. And we need to involve much bigger forces in the process.

After the summit lots of people will realise that world leaders didn’t solve the problem, and the argument for “action from below” will make sense.

If we can build links to people outside the “usual suspects” of green, climate and left milieu over the next few weeks we will be in a much stronger position to build for the struggles ahead.

For more information on the main protest in Copenhagen go to » and for information on the Climate Forum go to »

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