Copenhagen: The rising tide of climate justice

Lauren Carroll Harris, Copenhagen

14 December 2009

*One hundred thousand protesters braved near freezing temperatures and took
over the Danish capital, Copenhagen, to crank up the heat on world leaders
at the United Nations Climate Summit (COP15) and demand climate justice. *

The protest, in a carnival-like atmosphere, brought together a broad range
of groups — from the explicitly anti-capitalist to the lobbying NGOs — and
was led by a group of indigenous activists on a 4.5 kilometre march to the
Bella Center, where the COP15 is taking place.

The demonstration was the main focus of a fortnight of climate justice
protests, and was proceeded by a 5000-strong “flood” of Copenhagen,
organised by Friends of the Earth.

The protest involved mainly youth. The many groups included Jubilee South
and Action Aid (who both call for reparations from the First World to repay
their ecological debt and aid sustainable development in the Third World),
the French New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA) and the Danish group Attac, which
carried a banner saying “Don't let corporate lobbying destroy our climate”.

An Australian contingent highlighted the issue of global dependence on
fossil fuels for power, chanting “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, quit coal now!”

A satirical contingent of green capitalists raised the issue of greenwashing
—dressed tastefully in white, they carried platters of grapes, glasses of
champagne and placards reading “Greed is green“, “Bangladesh: buy rubber
boots“, “Stop global whining”, “We heart green capitalism” and “We love
green, but we love fossil fuels more”.

The lead banner screamed, “Carbon trading: the final solution”. One faux
banker urged the crowd to “go home and buy some carbon offsets”.

Protesters chanted: “Carbon trading: big lie.”

Despite the widely acknowledged, clear failure of the COP15 talks, the
sentiment among protesters was jubilant, positive and determined. Protesters
chanted “Our climate — not your business”, “Our world is not for sale” and
“Change the system, not the climate” — in fact, radical politics dominated
the crowd, if not the platform.

Official speakers included model Helena Christensen and Greenpeace
International executive director Kumi Naidoo.

Environmental activist Vandana Shiva pointed explicitly to capitalism as the
source of the current environmental crisis, telling protesters: “THIS is
what democracy looks like, and the COP15 is trying to kill democracy.”

The demonstration indicated a complete rejection of the green posturing,
market-friendly solutions and inaction of the COP15, and showed that
solutions to catastrophic climate change will come not from leaders who
represent big oil and coal, but the grassroots. It will be centred around
social justice.

The demonstration descended upon the locked-down Bella Center as the sun
fell. The crowd was so huge that most could not see the platform or hear the
speakers — instead, the demonstration morphed into a radical, candlelit
street party.

Though there was an unrelenting police presence and a reported 400 arrests,
the majority of protesters remained unperturbed. Demonstrations will no
doubt continue through and beyond the Copenhagen talks.

From: International News, Green Left Weekly issue
#821<http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/2009/821>9 December 2009.