As I started my journey home on Sunday (December 20th) I reflected on what I’ve experienced and learned in Copenhagen. Some broad points can be found in a “10 Lessons from Copenhagen” article in “The Root”.
Otherwise, to tie things up, I thought I’d share some random sights, observations, and experiences that didn’t necessarily make it into any of the prior blog entries and/or that happened in the past three days as I’ve endeavored to get home!
Being in Copenhagen itself has been interesting in terms of how the city embraced this summit and how the summit embraced Copenhagen, in a love hate relationship. My landlords, for the apartment I rented, shared that Copenhagen had never hosted a meeting of this size. They stated that the city had been preparing for two years and had brought in help from neighboring countries to design and execute the plan for hosting a gathering of this magnitude and import.
All around the city there were billboards and posters advertising the commitment Copenhagen had to seeing positive outcomes from the summit, as well as touting the city’s existing and ongoing allegiance to green energy. In the airport there were signs advertising the green energy measures and the plans for continued improvements in conservation. There were also signs all around about “Hopenhagen”. Different agencies had erected various displays related to the climate summit.
Conference goers enjoyed free public transportation passes, issued at the summit, which enabled us to bypass the otherwise exorbitant costs (by our standards) for getting around the city in the most energy efficient way, outside of cycling (as most people in Copenhagen do) and/or walking.
On the other hand, as I mentioned before, the less than cordial side of Copenhagen rose to the fore during the “People’s Assembly” demonstration where civil society activists seeking justice were met with tear gas, attack dogs, and gratuitous beatings by baton.
Due to inclement weather, I ended up enjoying 3 extra days of Copenhagen hospitality. Unlike the US, the land of delineation of responsibility, they didn’t have such a strict policy that says you’re out on the street if flight delays/cancellations are an “Act of God”. KLM put me up for three nights in a lovely hotel in central Copenhagen with all meals paid and provided free transportation to and from the hotel from the airport! They also upgraded me to first class for my whole trip home. Now that’s what I call hospitality!
On the other hand, before my flight was cancelled I had gone into the airport, checked in, checked my bags and had gone through security. Security was a bit different in that there wasn’t the male-female sensitivity when you needed to be patted down due to setting off the metal detector. My search was so involved that at the end I didn’t know whether to ask for the guy’s medical license or to ask for his hand in marriage! Good grief! It was only when I was going through the second time (today when I actually made it out of the country) that I noticed a small discreet sign off to the side that said “you have the right to request a female officer”. I will definitely keep that in mind for next time and I advise my sisters to do the same!
Back to more grave matters, though some claimed success in developing an “accord” at the end of the summit, most were disappointed by the lack of legally binding agreement with clear and aggressive targets agreed upon by each nation respectively. Today (now Wednesday) in the news the analyses, reactions, and planning for moving head continue:
- In the Financial Times today the headline is “Climate Change Alliance Crumbling”! The article goes on to say, “Cracks emerged yesterday in the alliance on climate change formed at the Copenhagen conference last week with leading developing countries criticizing the resulting accord. “ In the article it states that Brazil labeled the talks “disappointing” and complained that the financial assistance from rich to poor countries was insufficient. South Africa called to failure to produce a legally binding agreement “unacceptable”. The environment minister of Sweden, the current European Union President stated that the accord was a “disaster” and “a great failure.” The Environment Minister of India was marginally more positive by calling the accord “a very, very small step forward”. Of course, the caveat is that 100 nations signed the accord, but many are saying it is only because folks thought that “something” was better than nothing. Even today as I was riding home in my taxi, on NPR President Obama was compelled to adjust his assessment of the outcomes of the conference when he stated that many were disappointed by the lack of progress and that the primary objective was not to go back any steps. That was a sad statement indeed.
- Yesterday Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, announced the “World Conference of Social Movements” in response to the failure of the Copenhagen Summit , to be held on Earth Day, April 22nd 2010 in Bolivia. According to President Morales, the key aim will be” to support a large-scale international mobilization to defend the environment, especially water.” One key focus of this meeting will be food due to widespread famine which is already occurring with the threat of more decline as climate change progresses. President Morales was one of the more outspoken leaders calling for accountability from high emitting nations and continues to be an iconic leader and proponent of the rights of “the people”.
To sum up, and set our sights ahead, I’ll reiterate that my favorite parts of being in Copenhagen and participating in the summit were referenced in the 10 Lessons article under “The People, United, Will Never Be Defeated” and “President Obama Can’t Do It Alone, But WE CAN Do it Together…and WE MUST!” We as civil society have a lot to do in moving ahead to get this thing on course, keep it there, and hold leaders accountable to preserving the common good they were elected to uphold. As per the civil society refrain from the summit, we must push for “System Change, Not Climate Change.” Three emerging groupings are most relevant to this reading audience:
US Communities of Color—Through Thursday’s press conference, last week’s joint press conference with the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, at the People’s Assembly, the various rallies and actions by the Indigenous Environmental Network, and through numerous other events, US Communities of Color made their voices known and presence felt at this summit. The Movement Generation for Change/Right to the City/Grassroots Global Justice played a significant role in organizing a delegation to participate, as did the Indigenous Environmental Network, and then there was a group of intrepid students from Georgia area schools, Morehouse College and Georgia State University whom I must give a shout-out for participating. We have all committed to staying connected and keeping the work going to continue to raise awareness that there are affected communities within the United States (otherwise known as in the belly of the beast) and that the US identity in the discourse should not be defined narrowly to the #2 leading emitter. We decided that the US Social Forum 2010 and its Ecology Justice Track will be our next milestone for organizing in-country and as it relates to COP 16. In the meantime I urge our communities to continue gathering stories illustrating differential impact, local self reliance, and resistance.
Gender—Throughout the conference were meetings, caucuses, informal discussions, articles, etc addressing the intersection of gender and climate change. However, all agreed that it was not enough, that the intersection was not addressed in the media, and that there was little integration of mainstream with most gender related content only being highlighted by “women’s groups”. The Black Women’s Roundtable on Climate Justice, the From Katrina to Copenhagen Initiative, Women of Color for Climate Justice, Gender CC, Mobilization for Climate Justice Gender Justice Working Group, and other efforts examine gendered differentials in climate change impact and uplift the unique roles of women’s leadership in mitigation and adaptation. The UN Commission on the Status of Women will be an opportunity for more joint planning and action.
South-North Collaboration—Recognizing our common struggles and common aims, affected communities from the global south and the global north were intentional about convening spaces, joint actions and collaboration for moving forward. Through such events as the joint press conference between African American and African leaders during the first week of the conference, numerous joint actions in solidarity, the People’s Assembly, the South-North meeting to discuss our mutual concerns and how we can work together, and groupings such as Climate Justice Now, we created space and opened doors for future work together. The UN Commission on the Status of Women and the US Social Forum’s Ecological Justice Track and Caucus will be the next convening spaces involving international allies and we will use these spaces to build towards COP 16.