No Planet B

We can dream of sunshine and rainbows, but there is no Planet B

There’s a get together for negotiators at the middle weekend of each COP known as the NGO party. I ran into Tony La Vina, chair of the REDD text working group, at the cloakroom on Saturday night, looking sorely in need of a drink. The text was still not finalized so he can look forward to more of the same from today (Monday), by which time he’d clearly hoped his task would be over. To make matters worse, neither of us could get past the cloakroom to get that refreshing drink.
The venue was full.

This was not the first time that key negotiators had been turned away by security on Saturday. You may have read about the rally in Copenhagen city centre, at which up to 1,000 protestors were detained. This was matched by smaller protests near the conference venue itself, organized by prominent NGO observers such as Global Witness (now, along with EFF, a member of the UN-REDD board). The beefed-up security in response to these actions led to some of the REDD negotiators themselves, including those from Thailand and Malaysia, being prevented from attending the discussions. Whether the blame lies with the protestors or with over-zealous security, surely this is a perverse outcome. If protests are holding up the very people who are working tirelessly to address the issues we all care so deeply about, what exactly do they achieve?

I was involved in a number of demonstrations myself 20 years ago (protesting against Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Poll Tax’ in the UK), so I completely understand the passion and anger which drives those involved in Saturday’s rally, and the crescendo of protests which is sure to build in the coming week. But it is important that this emotion is channeled to the right targets. With a very few exceptions (Saudi Arabia springs to mind) the negotiators at COP15 are in full agreement with the messages these protestors are delivering – for example, my personal favourite; ‘There is no Planet B’.

Yet much of the anger appears to be directed at the negotiators themselves, indeed at the entire negotiation process. Odd. It may be slow, and far from perfect, but those who are pushing against a constructive solution are not here in Copenhagen. They are in radio studios in the American Midwest, they are in the corridors of Congress on Capitol Hill, and they are in kitchens and living rooms around Europe, reading news reports of scientific fraud and carbon scams. If you feel passionate about this topic, talk to your friends, argue with colleagues, write to the paper, lobby your politicians. Take back the mantle of righteous indignation from the climate change deniers, who currently wear it so blatantly and dishonestly. But let negotiators get on with their job. Trust me, they get the message.

Posted by Ben Vickers

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1 Comment

  1. Erica

     /  December 15, 2009

    Thanks for writing about this. I’ve noticed that the news coverage has been gradually dropping on the substance of the negotiations in favor of writing about the protests — so it’s good to get your guys’ perspective. And apologies for the radio studios in the American Midwest. I’ll get on that.


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