Which action to take in Copenhagen?
This coming December, thousands of people – not only young greens – will meetin in COPENHAGEN, DANBMARK to show their support for stronger climate-action as well as climate-policy. Some will dress up as clowns and demand a “Stop Clowning Around!” – as FYEG (and other organisations) did in Pozñan 2008. Others will cheer to the world-leaders that they came together to find a Post-Kyoto Agreement why some others will try to storm the summit and tell the “elites and rich” that their way of reluctant top-down climate-policy is bu****it. Most people however will just demonstrate for “better climate – better politics –better actions”.
Where do I stand? Where do you stand? Where does someone global, young and green stand on the question What are you doing in Copenhagen?
This coming weekend (13.-15. March `09), several dozens of activists meet in Copenhagen to discuss possible actions. The Berlin Pre-Meeting last month concluded on four different options:
1. lock them in (at the end of the summit we shut down roads until a ‘good’ agreement comes out)
2. lock them out (we don’t legitimize the COP and try to block them)
3. go in – shut down cop15 (we demand more voice and better ideas – so we go in – effectively bringing the whole COP to a collapse)
4. Climate change remains handmade (we show that the UN is not doing enough/not the right thing and do an action against climate change elsewhere, but at the same time)
A majority was clearly against Option 1 and 2. Many were reluctant facing Opt. 3 while also some argued against Opt. 4.
Here the letter of the German Preparation-Meeting to the international network:
International Network of love, dear Klimax
This letter is from the discussions of the German Climate Action meeting on the 7-8 February in Berlin. We are there in preparation for the discussion of forms of action for Cop15 aimed at the March meeting in Copenhagen to be held to some results.
We know that the „lock them in“ approach based on our meeting on strong criticism met already Klimax advertised. We still want to be a critical discussion on the forms of action and therefore formulate our criticism. Our discussion is based on four possible forms of action for mass action. We have on their respective advantages and disadvantages discussed.
1. lock them in
2. lock them out
3. go in – shut down cop15
4. Climate change remains handmade
[the rest i have no translation from…]
Here a longer version of the Do-it-yourself Version:
DIY climate politics
When we discuss action concepts for the climate summit, we are faced with a dilemma. The young climate movement – even the part that is willing to take
part in direct action – is split in the question of how to relate to the summit. One part sees in the summit an attempt by a global system of domination –
the very system that is responsible for climate change – to legitimate itself. Others, given the lack of alternatives and the need to achieve immediate
changes – want to exert direct pressure on the negotiation process to force the participants to arrive at a better result. In terms of public perception, the dilemma is that we might either be coopted by the participants of the summit (“there are thousands of people out there who demand that we come to an agreement in here”), or to be isolated as a radical fringe. A movement that does not let its actions speak clearly for themselves runs the danger of its message being misrepresented at will by those in power (“in Copenhagen, tens of thousands of demonstrators demanded a more far-reaching climate change treaty, but the intransigence of the Chinese government blocked any agreement”, or also “just like the tens of thousands of demonstrators on the streets of Copenhagen, the governments of the European Union are aiming for more ambitious emissions reduction targets. The compromise with the US government is bound to disappoint many”). On the other hand, a message needs to be not only clear, but also understandable: hardly anyone would understand why we are taking action against this summit, which, according to public opinion, is there to ﬁnd solutions for the problems of humanity. And only a few beyond a radical left
that is already convinced would join such actions. We want to introduce a suggestion that offers a solution beyond these dilemmas.
Many overestimate the importance of the climate summit. Within the UN it is the major industrialised nations as well as capitalist lobby organisations that
set the tone. Decisions are ultimately only symbolically binding, and even if contravening them results in ﬁnes, these are petty compared to the concrete
power relations and proﬁt interests that determine how climate policy is being negotiated country-by-country. If we want to really protect the climate –
within or beyond this system – we need to intervene into these power relations. We have no other choice but to ﬁght, country by country, to protect
the climate. Letʼs be even more concrete: assume the negotiations in Copenhagen would result in a 90% reduction of global CO2-emissions until 2020,
expressed in concrete reduction targets for countries (e.g. on the basis of allocating a speciﬁc amount of CO2 per capita), and enforceable through
hefty ﬁnes in the case of contravention. When we read this we realise how entirely unrealistic it is. But letʼs ignore this certainty for now, and imagine
what the world would look like in light of such an agreement. Letʼs recall the decisions about debt reduction for Africa taken at the G8-summit in
Gleneagles, or the age-old UN-decisions about development aid (footnote: in the 1970s, industrialised countries promised to spend 0.7% of their GDP
on aid. With the exception of a few Scandinavian countries, todayʼs quota hovers around 0.2-0.3%). Nothing would have happened by 2020. However
high the ﬁnes, they would pale in comparison to the reductions in the proﬁt margins of dominant corporations in case of a 90% reduction. But it is exactly
those reductions that are unavoidable if we are to seriously protect the climate. For years, governments would have ignored the exhortations of
some courageous NGOs about how the emissions reductions targets would be missed, and, come 2020, would blame the other governments for the
failure. So: either we take care of it ourselves and force coal ﬁred power plants in our neighbourhoods to go ofﬂine. Either we ﬁght for free and
ecological public transport in our region. Either we manage to force through reparation payments for regions affected by climate change, and to hand in
hand tear down the border fences of the global North, or nothing happens at all.
If the protest in Copenhagen is to be more than just a one-off event, but to instead mark the beginning of a determined climate movement, then we
need to take actions that express this message both really and symbolically. We therefore propose that, alongside a large demonstration, the central
direct be about taking practical action to protect the climate. We do not yet have a concrete proposal for an action, and believe that this can only come
from Copenhagen. But we are nonetheless sure that an appropriate target – whether a coal-ﬁred power plant, a refugee camp or a company
headquarters – near Copenhagen can be found, in order for thousands of people to lay siege to, blockade or occupy at the same time as the public
theatre of the summit talks reaches its high point. This action will not only be symbolic, but in fact shut down, prevent or delay an important source of
emissions, or attack the militarised politics that exist around the effects of climate change. Such an action would have a number of advantages:
In light of the urgency of taking concrete steps to protect the climate, the action is easy to communicate. The participants can concretely refer back to
the experiences of the blockades in Heiligendamm and the G13-occupation. Also, both the sector of the movement that have not yet given up hope for the
outcome of the summit, as well as the sector that does not want to articulate any demands for those in power can participate in this action.
The concrete goal of our actions makes it clear who is on what side. We are enforcing the protection of the climate against the interests of industry, while
the robocops will fail in their attempts to stop the radically democratic masses. The action cannot be coopted.
The media, bored by the actual summit, will jump on our action. We produce precisely those images and excitement that they can sell. Even if the global
media once again do not carry the content of our message, the symbolic image of our action will speak for itself: governments talk, we act! However,
this argument only holds if we manage to convince more than a radical minority of our action. We need to make it the central event of the summit
We need more than a summit event. Our action will allow people to have exactly the kind of experience that they need to strengthen local protest. As a
global signal we will communicate to the climate movement a sense of: “this is how to protect the climate.”
Felix (Linksjugend [’solid]) & Jonas (Avanti – Projekt undogmatische Linke, part of Interventionistische Linke) on behalf of the German Cop15-
And here a Danish version for Action:
This action concept is an attempt to utilize many of the different action concept suggestions in a coordinated way and mutually supportive way. This is not meant as a mean to silence debate or bring about anything conclusive. We do not consider this a compromise either, but actually believe that it would be best for us to agree on having a diversity of actions…
The action concept suggestion consists of four parts, partially overlapping and partially separated in time and space. These four parts is as follows:
1. Chirurgical actions that strike against a selection of representatives, heads of states, lobbyists, etc, denying them access to the conference.
The selection of targets will be based on their attitudes towards how climate change should be handled and their power and influence over the decision-making, e.g., the most reactionary and influential persons are targeted first.
Practically, these actions might take shape of blockading the transport of the selected targets at any given point in the journey from their accommodation to the conference – from hotel room to car/public transport, blockading the transport at any point on it’s way to the conference, and finally, trying to stop the target-person at arrival.
The reason for this sort of action is not only to function as a leverage in the process of making a new convention by ruling out delegations who are only trying to profit from the process, but also to de-legitimize certain ideas and false solutions.
2. A mass-action surrounding the conference and blockading all ways in and out, in order to put pressure on the participants of the conference to make the ”right decisions”. This is a platform from where many different scenarios and types of actions can have its beginning/roots.
3. If point 2 doesn’t produce the desired results, entering the conference with our own delegation might be an alternative.
If/when the COP15 does not deliver any feasible solutions to climate change; our delegation should enter the conference.
If the delegation and it’s manifest on how to handle climate change are expelled or arrested, we could shut down the conference, since this would prove that the conference neither can provide solutions nor is willing to listen to other voices.
The scenario in point 2 might be a launching pad for shutting the conference down, if we consider this necessary. ”Necessary” in this context meaning the only feasible way to stop the conference from turning into a spectacle of green capitalism and corporate greenwash.
4. Global direct action – We have to keep in mind that the world and the struggle to stop climate change neither starts nor stops with the COP15, and that climate change is a global problem with a global solution, not a western problem with a western solution.
We need to strike directly at the source of the problem – coal power stations, airports, the petrol industry, organizing a synchronised chain of actions across the globe, starting as soon as the COP15 begins to prove itself useless or counterproductive. This will not only send the powerful message to the ruling elite, that the average person on the street can organize for themselves, take control over climate change and stop environmental destruction ourselves. Not only this, but it will also be a valuable process to build contacts between grassroots all over the globe.“
We do not believe that we are neither overestimating the importance of the COP process nor do we think that whatever deal they may come up with will settle the problem for good. Taking matters into our own hands is something we need to do eventually no matter what happens. Fighting ‘from country to country’ as some suggested is definitely a good idea, but so it was five years ago. Why then has nothing happened? We see the COP15 as a legitimization show for the elite, but also a steppingstone and a movement builder for us.