Copenhagen blog 1: Action on climate debt in the UK | World Development Movement

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Copenhagen blog 1: Action on climate debt in the UK

By James O'Nions, 5 December 2009

Kirsty Wright, WDM’s climate campaigner reports back on a tour around G77 embassies on her way to Copenhagen.

I write this as the train is pulling out of Cologne station. I’m on route to the UN climate talks in Copenhagen. It’s late, and I’m tired, filled with anticipation about what’s to come, and if I’m honest, also exhausted and slightly overwhelmed by the past few weeks.

In the run up to Copenhagen WDM have been working with the Jubilee Debt Campaign and activists all around the UK to make sure the government hears our demand for climate justice. In the process of becoming wealthy through a high carbon development model, the UK along with the rest of the rich world has built up an historic responsibility for causing climate change, and has left little space for the rest of the world to develop in the same way. This means we now owe a massive climate debt to the rest of the world. Over the past few weeks, thousands of people have joined us in sending climate debt invoices to Gordon Brown, along with messages of support to the G77 countries (a group of 130 developing countries negotiating together for a fair outcome in the talks). Yesterday, we delivered these messages.

Climate debt invoice outside Downing Street

Our day began at Downing Street, where we hoped to present our message to Gordon Brown. Unfortunately, Brown himself didn’t accept our invitation to meet, so we brought our own Gordon, who we presented with a giant climate debt invoice, attracting a fair bit of attention from passing tourists.

Pay the climate debt bus

After leaving the boxes filled with the thousands of ‘final demand’ climate debt invoices at Downing Street, Jubilee Debt Campaign’s chip-fat fuelled Routemaster climate debt bus, itself a veteran of G8 meetings in Genoa and Gleneagles, met us for a tour around the G77 embassies. The rest of the afternoon saw a strange combination of dignified meetings, cups of tea and diplomatic chit chat, before we hectically dashed through the Friday afternoon rush to the next embassy. During the afternoon, we visited the Indian High Commission, the Bolivian Embassy, the Bangladeshi High Commission and the Philippines Embassy. At each we handed over messages and talked about our support for the G77 to stand strong in demanding a just deal.

Outside the India embassy

The Philippines embassy was preparing for their Christmas party that evening. As we sat in the waiting room to go to the official reception we were shown the karaoke machine they had brought in for their Christmas party. I mentioned that WDM would also be having our Christmas party at the same time, and told them that we would be partying in solidarity with them, as well as standing in solidarity with them for a just deal at Copenhagen!

With the Philippines Ambassador

Ambassador Lagdemeo was interested in what we had to say, and spent a good deal of time quizzing us on our perspective on the talks and the position of the UK in particular. “We are grateful to everyone for the support, and hope they realise as we do that we are already suffering in the Philippines because of climate change.” he said, as we passed him the thousands of messages of support “We hope they realise how difficult life has become as a result of the irresponsibility of a lot of people.”

Over the past few months, Copenhagen has been heralded as ‘the most important meeting in history’, the ‘event that could determine the future of the planet’. If this is true, then at the moment it’s not looking too good. Rich countries are offering far too little and demanding too much. The chances of a positive coming out from the official talks are currently looking so remote it’s not worth thinking about. Rich countries are heralding false solutions and market mechanisms, and pushing for climate finance to go if the form of loans through the through the untrustworthy, undemocratic world bank, an institution which is itself a part of the problem having been responsible for pushing a high carbon economic model onto the global south. This is understandably perceived by the global south as another means of the rich world maintaining control, certainly not helping to build the trust needed to move forward.

On the other hand, I’m feeling quite sure that we will see the emergence of a movement that matches the urgency of the issue over the next fortnight. Over the next couple of weeks, WDM will be in Copenhagen, joining the Klimaforum alternative summit, and working with Climate Justice Now and Climate Justice Action to mobilise around the conference. We’ll also be commenting on what’s coming out of the negotiations themselves. Every day we’ll be posting blogs, giving a first hand impression of what’s happening, both inside the conference as well as outside.

Watch this space!

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Written by

James O'Nions

James is senior activism officer at WDM. He manages the activism team which supports our network of local groups, organises WDM's main public events and produces our supporter magazine, Action.

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