By Sadie Robinson
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Copenhagen: repression but no climate progress

This article is over 14 years, 6 months old
The UN’s climate talks in Copenhagen last month were a bitter disappointment for millions of people around the world who are concerned about the future of the planet.
Issue 2183

The UN’s climate talks in Copenhagen last month were a bitter disappointment for millions of people around the world who are concerned about the future of the planet.

The talks did not reach any binding agreement to succeed the Kyoto protocol, due to expire in 2012. Many expected the talks to fail to reach a deal, but the reality is even worse.

Copenhagen did not simply fail to make any progress on cutting carbon emissions. It made the fight against climate change much, much harder.

The Copenhagen accord was declared at the end of the talks by a handful of men representing five countries – the US, China, India, Brazil and South Africa. The 193 countries represented at the talks have “recognised” it, but not approved it.

And there is no reference to transforming the accord into a legally binding agreement.

The accord states that leaders want to stop global temperatures from rising by more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

It accepts that climate change is a real and serious issue and that it requires “strong political will” to combat it.

But there is very little that details how climate change will be tackled or that commits world leaders to doing anything.

The accord promises just £18.5 billion pounds in aid to help poorer nations deal with the impacts of climate change over the next three years – just over £6 billion a year. Countries have to sign up to the accord to see any of the money.

And a lot of the money isn’t new and is in the form of loans rather than grants.

There is a “goal” of increasing the fund to £62 billion a year by 2020, with no detail of how this could be achieved.

The accord aims to establish a green climate fund to support climate-friendly projects in developing countries.

This could simply be an extension of the Clean Development Mechanism that allows richer countries to invest in “green” projects in poorer countries and keep on polluting.

The implementation of the accord won’t be reviewed until 2015. If it is not doing enough to combat emissions it will be too late to do much about it.

The talks had one immediate impact – to make it cheaper and easier to pollute. Carbon prices in Europe sunk to a six-month low after the talks ended.


Even Gordon Brown called the talks “at best flawed and at worst chaotic”. He talked of the need to “reform” international institutions. Ed Miliband, the climate change secretary, backed this up.

“The majority of countries want a legal treaty but unfortunately the UN doesn’t work on a majority,” he said.

An initial draft agreement revealed the actual agenda of richer governments – to allow richer countries to pollute more than poorer ones, to increase the power of institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and consolidate the influence of the West.

Copenhagen has set a new and terrifying low. But outside the conference, the power to tackle climate change could be seen on the streets.

Around 100,000 people descended on Copenhagen, calling for serious measures to cut carbon emissions, invest in renewable energy and invest to deal with the impacts of climate change.

They faced an astonishing response from the police – who arrested one in every hundred protesters and held many for hours under draconian new “riot” laws introduced by the Danish government.

Many had injuries yet were refused any medical help, food or access to toilets.

Copenhagen has shown us many things. Governments are only interested in passing the buck and avoiding taking any action, while relying on the forces of the state to repress those who demand that they do more.

The real power to fight climate change was on the streets of Copenhagen. It is this that we will have to build in order to save the planet.

Activists will be heading to Bolivia in South America in April, where president Evo Morales has called an alternative climate summit, for the next staging post in the global movement against climate change.

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