Copenhagen 2009: the predictable failure

Michael Lowy

We – I mean the Marxists, the Ecosocialists, the radical climate justice activists – were quite pessimistic about the so-called United Nations Conference on Climate Change and had predicted that Copenhagen would end in a failure. We argued that the capitalist system doesn’t know any criteria other than more accumulation, greater expansion and higher profits, and therefore is unable to take the minimal measures necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change. And since we knew that the vast majority of the “world leaders” present in Copenhagen are nothing but faithful servants of the capitalist’s interests, we thought that the Conference would limit itself to vague promises about a 50% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2050. In one word, we believed that the Copenhagen mountain would give birth to a mouse.

Well, I must admit that we were wrong. We were not pessimistic enough. The Copenhagen conference did not give birth to a mouse but to a cockroach. Kyoto was already a big failure, since its aims were ridiculously low – a reduction in 5% until 2012 – and the methods used, such as the “market of pollutions rights”, absolutely unable to achieve any significant progress. But Copenhagen is much, much less than Kyoto, which at least acknowledged the need for internationally agreed commitments.

What happened ? China accused the US of not committing itself to any meaningful measures to reduce emissions; the US accused China of not accepting any international commitment to reduce emissions; and Europe explained that they couldn’t take any initiatives without the US and China. The only thing they all agreed, and happily so, is on the urgent need to do nothing.

So we have got only an ugly cockroach, called “The Agreement of Copenhagen”, concocted by the “world leaders” before hurriedly leaving the Conference by the back door. It is a completely void document saying that, as everybody knows, one should prevent temperature of raising beyond 2°C. Not a word about limitations of gas emissions, no percentages of reduction mentioned, not even as a wishful thinking, not even in a very far future. Nothing. Nihil. Zero content.

So, where is hope ? The only hope that exists is in the 100 thousand people that demonstrated in the streets of Copenhagen, coming from Denmark, Scandinavia, Germany, Europe and the whole world, asking for radical measures, denouncing the irresponsibility of the “responsible leaders”, claiming for climate justice, and proposing to “Change the system, not the climate”. Or, in the thousands who peacefully marched till the doors of the Conference, trying to open a dialogue with the “official” representatives, but were received by tear gas and police clubs, and saw their spokesmen – like Tadzo Müller - arrested for “incitation to violence”. Or in the thousands who took part in the discussions of the alternative KlimaForum, which adopted a resolution denouncing the pseudo-solutions of the system (“carbon trade”, etc). There is also hope in political leaders like the Bolivian President Evo Morales – among the very few exceptions – that showed solidarity with the Climate Justice movement, and denounced capitalism as the system responsible for disastrous global warming.

Conclusion : many years ago, the famous poet and singer Joe Hill, from the American International Workers of the World ( IWW) said, just before being shot by the authorities on fake accusations : “Don’t mourn, organize”. We must return to our countries, and organize people, in the fields, in the factories, in the schools, in the streets, to build a large international movement fighing against the system, to impose radical change, to save, not “the planet” – it is not in danger – but life on this planet from destruction.


From Eeurope Solidaire Sans Frontieres