Protests outside the Bella Center. Photo: James DeBlasse.
Only two days of COP15 and time is getting scarce. Now heads of states are arriving at the meeting, and while writing I am listening to the president of Mali, Amadou Toumani Touré, telling the 192 other countries about how the desert is spreading over his country.
The feeling at the Bella Center is confused and tense. Representatives from environmental groups and organisations are shut out of the meeting, and outside the center there have been protests. Delegates rush through the corridors looking very tired, having been in meetings until dawn. The positions of different groups of countries are still very far from each other.
Meeting Desmond Tutu
But one of the positive things with the meeting is that while leaders are arguing in the plenary hall, people from different parts of the world actually have the opportunity to talk to each other. In these halls, standing in queues and traveling on the bus I get glimpses of what it is like in Mexico, Mali or the Maldives, I can speak to a peasant from Ethiopia, a government delegate from Nepal or an indigenous activist from Canada.
The young reporters that the organisation Plan has brought from Sweden seem to make good use of this fact. Yesterday they met Desmond Tutu, who told them about the horrors climate change means to Africa. Watch the interview here:
Journalists crowding around…well, probably only the ones standing in the middle know.
Halfway through the climate meeting, and though Copenhagen is freezing the temperature is rising. Outside the Bella Center people are queuing for hours and hours to register, and now ministers are arriving, taking over the discussions. About 36 000 persons have applied for accreditation to the Bella Center, which actually doesn’t have space for more than 15 000.
Trying to report from an event like this has been described as a journalistic nightmare. There are an immense number of seminars and side events about all possible aspects of climate change, all over the city manifestations are being held to put pressure on the negotiations. There are plenary hall sessions to follow and all the time new rumours about what is happening in the closed sessions.
What seems clear this far, though, is that the proposals that are on the table won’t be enough. According to the Climate Action Network, a network of more than 500 environmental organisations, what is now on the table would lead to temperatures increasing around 3,8 degrees.
But there is also a big pressure from the civil society. Earlier tonight the president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, spoke to people in a sports hall at the people´s climate forum. Greeted as a star, with people chanting “Three five oh” (the goal of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere that the Maldives push as a goal).
– Continue to protest, continue after the meeting, despite all odds, Nasheed encouraged the crowd.
Mohamed Nasheed talking to grassroot activists.
I can still hear sounds from the big demonstration here in Copenhagen – the world’s largest ever protest about global warming, in fact – from where I am sitting in the boat we have hired. My feet are tired after walking for hours through the city of Copenhagen and out to the Bella Center, surrounded by thousands of persons, dancing, chanting and shouting, all with the same message: Stop climate change.
According to the organisers about 100 000 persons gathered. Such an enormous crowd is difficult to grasp when you are in the middle of it, it all amalgamates to a stream of languages, banners from environmental organisations, trade unions, indigenous people from all over the world, people coming with their children, people on bicycles, people standing in their windows waving with banners… it’s powerful. And far from the clashes between police and some activists in the centre of the city, that I now read about in other media.
Lots of speakers such as Vandana Shiva from India, the Danish model Helene Christensen and Greenpeace International’s general secretary Kumi Naidoo held fervent appeals.
Inside Bella Forum environment ministers are starting to arrive for informal meetings. On Monday it’s time for the politicians to engage in the negotiations.
Adriana Savin, acting as one of the slick consultants in the climate farce Freeze. Photo: José Figueroa.
As negotiations are proceeding in the plenary hall and meeting rooms of Bella Center, the activities revolving around the meeting seems more and more as a world of its own. Every now and then I realise I’m not really aware of what country I am in. These days Copenhagen must be one of the most international places in the world. Today I have listened to delegates from the Solomon Islands, Kape Verde and Grenada talk about how their low lying islands will be affected by rising temperatures and higher sea levels. I have met activists from India, bringing 10 000 signatures from Indian children asking for climate justice, and I have spoken to an American journalist writing about how culture deals with climate change.
From contemporary art to climate farce
Culture is present in many aspects of this meeting, hopefully helping to create a deeper understanding of why we are all here. There is an impressive programme at the museums to put focus on the climate meeting. One of them shows how contemporary art has dealt with the issue. And can also be ween at the online gallery www.rethinkclimate.org.
At the alternative conference Klimaforum09 there are free films and theatre plays every evening. For example the Swedish theatre group Barbara comes over the strait to perform their play Freeze – A Red Hot Climate Farce on Saturday. I saw it earlier this year in Stockholm and liked it a lot. With the framework of a lecture they show how climate change is often being portrayed as nothing but an opportunity, but as the lecture runs out of hand it gets more and more obvious that the problem is far bigger than the three consultants have thought.
It’s a wonderfully comical play, and extremely thought provoking. So if you happen to be anywhere close to Copenhagen I warmly recommend it.
So, I have arrived! Getting off the train from Sweden at the Örestad station we had just a few minutes walk to Bella Center, where the UN meeting is being held.
So far we have just got our accreditation badges and installed ourselves in the house boat where the climate magazine Effekt will have its temporary office during the ten coming days. But speaking to people who have been here a few days, it seems lots of things are happening, from seminars and side events to grass root actions and different rumours about what is happening in the closed negotiations.
Tomorrow I will dive into the gigantic programme of both COP15 and the alternative conference Klimaforum09.