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Extra Virgin -  February 2010

Hopengagen? Hardly. - December has come and gone, and with it the hopes and expectations for a legally binding climate agreement. Instead, the consensus is that the rather flaccid Copenhagen Accord, drawn up by the US, China, India, Brazil and South Africa, doesn’t stand for much.

While all present agreed that climate change is a serious problem, but we knew that already. There was much expectation that Barack Obama’s presence would solidify the agreement into something concrete, but the dreary look on his face during the speech at the summit didn’t instil much hope.
At least the US president made a fist of it. “I believe that we can act boldly, and decisively, in the face of this common threat. And that is why I have come here today. Not to talk, but to act.” There was rapturous applause, but it felt hollow.

There were groans of distress from the developing nations when it came to light that a draft, called the Danish Text, had been drawn up behind their backs. This clearly was not a step towards diplomacy, especially as it occurred in the first half of the first week of negotiations. It seemed like an attempt to have something ready for President Obama’s arrival in case the negotiations stalled.

Naomi Klein, author of 'No Logo' and 'The Shock Doctrine', gave a rousing opening speech, in which she aligned the anti-capitalist movement with the environmental movement. “We’ve been doing this for a while now, fighting against the privatisation of life itself. This is what the movement that many of us have been a part of now, for more than a decade have been fighting for. Fighting to protect that which is too important to be left to the market.”


She spoke about the idea of climate debt being a tool to take "our movement" forward and that the first world countries must pay reparations for the damage they’ve caused. “… the rich world is responsible for 75% of the historical emissions and 75% of the effects of those emissions are being felt in the developing world.” She didn’t just pull those numbers out of a bag; they come from Justin Lin, chief economist at the World Bank.

Interspersed with these interesting if somewhat gloomy talks were concerts, film screenings, exhibitions and meditation sessions. And despite the disappointment of the Copenhagen Accord, it was heartening to see the number of activists, environmentalists and scientists who came together for the alternative summit, Klimaforum09 – the people’s climate summit.

According to Klimaforum09 website their were 190 talks, 50 exhibitions and 30 climate films and documentaries.

An event staged in the name of saving the environment can't be all bad, and the Copenhagen Accord wasn't. But it wasn't the clarion call it was hoped to be, not in the least. Nobody summarised the week better than Klein. “A deal are a couple of major emitters meeting in a back room and saying, ‘I agree to let you off the hook, if you agree to let me off the hook.’ That’s a deal.”