Climate debt news
Copenhagen blog 8: Justice deemed too political in Copenhagen
On Monday, WDM joined climate debt campaigners from across the world to call for the rich world to repay its climate debt. People from Nepal, Indonesia, Brazil, the Philippines, Argentina, Ecuador and Nigeria gathered outside the Bella Centre, where the UN talks are being hosted. WDM South-west London and South Lakes also joined in.
The debt must be repaid in a way that doesn’t reinforce existing inequality, or go through undemocratic organisations like the World Bank. Climate debt is not only about reparations for the damage already done, but also about massive cuts in emissions, and sharing solutions instead of creating new markets of out the atmosphere. As one person said “The World Bank have already done too much wrong to the south, how can we trust them?”
The energy was amazing, “Pay up pay up pay up, pay up the climate debt” the crowd chanted, louder and louder, as the snow fell around Jubilee South’s giant masks that were representing the EU and the US, surrounded by a multitude of flags and banners. The atmosphere was only slightly marred when security guards moved fences onto the pavement directly in front us, leaving us peeking through the bars, increasing the sense of frustration from groups who already knew that in the next few days, the majority of civil society voices were going to be barred from the talks.
After the demonstration, WDM had planned to deliver a the giant ‘climate debt invoice’ we had been using in the protest to the UK delegation office, to ensure we were also heard inside the conference, as well as outside. We invited Lidy from the Freedom From Debt Coalition in the Philippines to join us. “Of course!” Lidy said excitedly, “When are we going?” We arranged to meet Lidy inside the Bella centre a short while later.
We walked though the security check to enter the UN area, where we were asked to wait for our invoice to be ‘checked’. Fine, I thought, thinking the statement was quite reasonable, and not out of line with what all participating countries had already agreed to when they signed up to the UN framework, which clearly states rich country responsibility for climate finance. The UN guard looked at the board with the UK climate debt invoice mounted on it. He pulled a face and shook his head "no, that can’t go in".
“Excuse me”, I asked politely, trying to hide my shock, “Do you mind me asking, um, why?”
“Because this is political’, he said.
We got inside and met with Lidy, who had already mobilised representatives from around the world campaigning for the climate debt that was owed to them to be paid . We told them what happened with our invoice.
“If this is the problem, then why do they let anyone here in?” one person said, waving his hand around the hall, “This is all about politics!”
After a short discussion everyone agreed to sign their organisations onto a joint letter, which we would take directly to the UK delegation. Tom, an activist from Spain with the most incredible and tireless energy to mobilise, asked if everyone would also mind us taking the letter to the Spanish delegation. Of course, we all agreed.
We walked together through the massive centre, adorned in the green "REPARATIONS FOR ECOLOGICAL DEBT NOW” bibs we’d been wearing earlier, printed and signed the letter, and headed to the delegation area.
As we reached the entrance to the temporary halls where the UK delegation office were based, we were stopped from entering. “You can’t have protests in here.” the UN security guard told us. Lidy explained kindly that we were simply going to deliver a letter. “Well, you’ll have to take those off” she said, pointing at our bibs. After taking advantage of a quick photo opportunity, we obediently removed our bibs. Lidy explained to the lady that it would be really nice if we could all go through now that we’d removed our bibs. “Okay then”, the woman said, “that’s fine.”
We delivered the letter and went back through the long white makeshift corridors to find ‘Spain’. “Put you bibs back on” Lidy challenged in such a cheeky way no one could resist. We found ‘Spain’ and walked up the corridors.
The lady from Spain warmly accepted our letter, and the Spanish speakers joked about the fact it was, unfortunately, in English. We explained that it was an urgent issue and we didn’t have time for translation. Then we continued to walk down the corridors.
Before too long, another security guard approached us. “Um, I’m going to have to ask you to take those off” he said, pointing at the bibs.
“Oh, really?” Asked Lidy innocently, “Why?”
“Because you’re embarrassing people.”
Afterwards, I asked Lidy about her thoughts. “It’s interesting to see how the annex one countries find a few green t-shirts ‘embarrassing’" she said. “They must be feeling really guilty.”
Kirsty is senior campaigns officer at WDM. She campaigns to keep the World Bank out of climate finance and against loans for climate change.