The COP15 climate change conference was meant to be a significant moment in the global response to the threats of climate change, convening governments after years of negotiation and producing results. The mobilisation to it was huge on all fronts. Delegations from 193 countries, NGOs, scientists, journalists, lobbyists, as well as anarchists and activists either talked about or came to Copenhagen in December to push their own agendas. It quickly became clear even to the uncynical that we could not expect a deal that would either be effective in curbing the economy and its energy consumption and resource use and thereby go against the whole point of capitalism, or be fair to less dominant countries. As we could see from the total failure of the Kyoto protocol and the creation of a new market in carbon trading and opportunities to make profit touted as responses to climate change, international governments’ efforts are the opposite of the radical changes we need to even begin to address what is happening.
Amongst the critics and protesters of the summit, there was a broad range of opinions, as you will usually find at international summit mobilisations. The Klimaforum, a two week conference in Copenhagen running in parallel to the summit, was funded by the Danish government and affiliated to various NGOs but claimed to ‘represent ordinary citizens’. It was massive, held in a proper fancy conference venue and generally big budget with nearly nearly 200 talks, music, exhibitions and the like, all to ‘raise awareness of the urgency of the threats’, and to create a Peoples Declaration intended to ‘inspire’ the leaders at the COP15′. Without much represented from the political spectrum inbetween, on the other side you had the anarchists and climate camp type people converging in cold disused factories. The grassroots mobilisation seemed mainly to be coordinated by two networks: Never Trust a Cop which organised both actions and included a collective dedicated to the practicalities such as food, convergence spaces, prisoner support and accomodation, and Climate Justice Action, a new global, politically slightly vague network with a focus on mass organising.
The police cracked down, heavily.
Days of mass action around particular issues, a large demonstration dominated by NGO banners and speakers, as well as bits and pieces of clandestine sabotage around the city expressed our dissatisfaction with the COP15 to varying degrees, while the Danish police successfully created a police state. With new laws brought in just before the summit giving the police the power to premptively arrest anyone on suspicion they may do something illegal in the near future, and with huge numbers, loads of tear gas and pepper spray, dogs, batons, barricade breakers and everything else you could imagine at their disposal, the police cracked down, heavily. About 1900 arrests were made, and people were held in custody in purpose built wire cages.
Maybe we didn’t have the numbers we were all expecting, maybe we weren’t organised or imaginative or brave enough, maybe 6 stop and searches a day left the anarchists badly equipped, maybe it was just too damn cold – but I found that we just weren’t strong enough to hold our own and to express our anger and our desire for an entirely different world. It was good that there was protest at this sham of an international gathering, and it was important that we delegitimised this particular process of responding to climate change. But we didn’t exactly win. Some people have published glowing report backs of how a new global climate justice movement came together in Copenhagen and what a success it was. It’s almost weird how divergent people’s views of what happened are. Personally, I found it an interesting experience though I have come away feeling the opposite of excited or empowered, as well as alienated from the wider climate movement, and suspecting that those of us with radical critiques of the dominant system ultimately failed to get across what we want.
It’s almost weird how divergent people’s views of what happened are.
Meanwhile in the Bella Centre, venue for the COP15, NGOs such as Friends of the Earth were chucked out from the summit, delegates from the global south expressed their disgust at the dodgy dealings or walked out, news of backroom negotiations between the rich countries and prearranged deals were leaked and in the end, no binding agreement could be reached, unsurprisingly. The Copenhagen Accord, a document vaguely promising to to take action to keep any temperature increases below 2°C and pledging some money to poorer countries to deal with the global environmental impact from the Western world, was drafted by the US and some others and was ‘recognised’ but not agreed upon.
Also, although most arrests were preemptive and not many charges were brought forward, some people remain imprisoned awaiting trial and need our support. As of December 30th, there were 7 still inside. The Danish Anarchist Black Cross group are forwarding mail, drawings, donations and messages (however, no books, zines, or food) so please write to
2200 Copenhagen N