Unexpected alternatives: civil society
December 20, 2009
Unexpectedly being able to spend only a few hours in the official Bella Conference Center during the whole week, I had to find other venues. One overall interesting one was the KlimaForum – “The People’s Summit”. Here, in the center of town, a very different atmosphere reigned. It was basically another universe. I felt *slightly* overdressed with my suit among the many civil society reps and grassroots activists from all over the world. Here one could hear vivid discussions in the hallways, pick up all sorts of info material of many shades and eat great, cheap organic food. On the program was a multitude of events and workshops on every imaginable issue related to climate change. The reason why this was another universe was already expressed in the slogan of the Forum: “System change, not climate change”. Here market mechanisms (emissions trading) and technology hopes (e.g. CCS) were less seen as the solution; rights-based and reparation (“climate debt” of rich countries) approaches dominated; and concerns for the poor and climate-vulnerable were high (“survival is not negotiable”).
Next to the KlimaForum a NGO convergence space was set up as a Bella-alternative, where the negotiations could be followed live and groups organized events. Last night I witnessed a particularly interesting one, at which various speakers – Bill McKibben of 350.org, an indigenous chief, a 1000 hour climate fasting 25y old girl, an African singer… – convened a candle vigil. (Each of the hundreds of candles represented 10,000 signatories of a climate petition.) As outcome of the negotiations was expected to be quite unsatisfying/a failure, the speakers tried to give inspiration and hope to the attendees (“the first truly North-South global justice movement in history”; “just the beginning”).
The past week was one I will definitely not forget! Moreover, getting into the Bella only once wasn’t so bad. As the whole city was filled with all sorts of climate people, the conference in effect took place all over Copenhagen. Meeting interesting people, researching for my thesis, and expanding my knowledge on climate negotiations and civil society activity made my week. What a week!