We approach the final day of the Copenhagen Climate Change talks and today’s timetable looks like this.

To access citizen journalist reports at the Climate Change Summit – live coverage at this link.

The Guardian blog from the protests is updated every minute. See this link:

A message from Jeremy…

“Hello from the climate summit, where the next three days will have a major say in whether children born today have a liveable world to look forward to when they reach the age where they can understand what their predecessors have done to the planet.

The outcome is far from certain, but I remain cautiously optimistic based on patterns of behaviour reminiscent of Kyoto in 1997. Then, the world came together to negotiate a legally-binding climate treaty, against expectations, in a drama that ran to the final hour.

The Kyoto Protocol wasn’t perfect, but it kept hope alive. I have posted the story of that night in history (the final pages of The Carbon War) on my homepage. On it, you can find links to my daily blogs for the Financial Times. These relay one person’s view of the unfolding story. I have also updated the triple crunch log through today, and in it you can find concise summaries of the developments in the first week of the Summit if you feel the need to catch up. I will be posting blogs daily through to the end on Saturday morning.”

www.jeremyleggett.net

is the link

I’m running out of appropriate words for what is happening (or not happening) in Copenhagen right now. This song covers it. 350 parts per million is what many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments are now saying is the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere.. For the science and numbers click here.

Faith at the summit. Odyssey Networks on the trail of the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was asked “Should good Christian people be on marches with big placards?” He answered: “In a word ‘yes'”. Rowan Williams referred to the demonstration as “one of the most important events in our lifetimes”.

Go to this Christian Aid site link for ongoing coverage and videos of the climate summit and the protests. (Includes a video of the Archbishop of Canterbury at Copenhagen).

See this BBC report. “Fury at Copenhagen Police Tactics”.

At this late hour on a Saturday I haven’t been able to locate coverage as discerning as I might like. But here is the Guardian news on this:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/12/hundreds-arrested-copenhagen-protest-rally

Note the parts which say those accused of ‘throwing stones’ weren’t able to because they were dressed in ‘cow’ costumes.

   

40,000 activists hit the streets of London demanding "Climate Justice" at "the Wave" London, 5th. December, 2009. Photograph by Frances Laing

 Two pointers for today’s International Day of Action for Climate Justice. First: check the Huffington Post today. You can upload your photos and videos and see coverage from around the world. Second: look out for the candlit vigil in your area which takes place early this evening. 3,000 events have been registered so far. It’s organised by Avaaz an effective global campaigning organisation and the message is: “THE WORLD WANTS A REAL CLIMATE DEAL”
 
 To find the venue and exact time for your location  follow this link:

"The Dragon". Climate Justice Demonstration. London Saturday 5th. December, Photograph by Frances Laing

 

40,000 Climate Justice Activists encircle the Houses of Parliament in "The Wave". Climate Justice Demonstration. Saturday 5th. December, 2009. Picture by Frances Laing

  Who doesn’t have information overload about the Copenhagen Summit?  Today I’m taking an angle which connects up the micro with the macro. We know up to  eighty per cent  emissions cuts per head in industrialised nations would be something sensible to strive towards. We know there are deep divisions and vested interests at the Copenhagen summit. A lack of political will and/or evidence of sheer greed which may prevent a constructive agreement being reached. It’s looking like the huge Copenhagen circus is not going to make it. Did we ever think it would?  

This is the last blog post I’m able to write this week. (I’m not part of a PR media circus (no-one is paying me to write this…). Let’s put Copenhagen aside for a moment and look forward. Even without a legally binding agreement, we need to carry on taking action. In our local authorities, in our political parties, meeting houses, churches and homes. As groups and individuals.   

In order to reduce emissions you need to have some idea how much you’re producing in the first place. Carbon calculators have been around a long time and you can find these online with your search engine. Some are specially designed for individual households to use and some are geared towards corporations, small and medium sized enterprises. (SMEs).    

I feel we’re at the point in Britain where we need to demand that every public institution should, as a matter of law be required to measure (and publish) their annual carbon count and their planned carbon reduction targets. We’ve done it with M.P’s expenses. Yes, well carbon counts for M.P’s M.E.P’s , M.S.P’s and Welsh Assembly Members too, why not? Of course many organisations have done this already on a voluntary basis: I visited Manchester Metropolitan University this week and noticed their new building was kitted out with solar panels. Some realised long ago that measures like this stand a chance of future-proofing investments.   

"The Wave". Campaign Bus. Climate Justice Demonstration. An initiative supported by thousands of organisations. London Saturday 5th. December, 2009. Picture by Frances Laing

But at present progress is a post code lottery. Our local papers tell the story of how Cheshire West and Chester authority spent 14 million on a brand new headquarters building (HQ) despite the fact that the old building did the job perfectly well. There has been a public outcry and I’ve yet to see a credible energy audit for the new acquisition. Our city signed up to the Nottingham Climate Change declaration some years ago. This is a statement of intent and a voluntary agreement. It does not seem to have made a significant impact on local authority policy. So much for international agreements – political, philosophical or otherwise.   

At this point we should also have carbon emission reduction measures for every school, hospital and public building. Carbon emissions reduction should not be an add-on for schools. A lack of ‘Climate Change Numeracy’ costs lives.   

We may need greater incentives for private companies to publish their carbon count. We need education, but we also need enforcement and engineering.   

If you’re running a household – you need to watch the pennies. On a macro level – wasting energy means wasting public money. And anyone who produces large amounts of carbon emissions is ultimately putting everyone else in danger.   

We’re still in the middle of a global recession and we don’t know when this is going to ease up. It makes sense to avoid waste and cut down on energy costs. At it’s best, this is what good government energy-saving policies are designed to do. There needs to be a shift in thinking. And yes, I know you can’t legislate for that but I’m saying it anyway.   

"The Wave". London. Climate Justice Demonstration. Picture by Frances Laing

Transition Towns movements are trying to cut carbon from the ground up.

Cornwall Transition Banner. "The Wave" 5th. December. London. 2009

 Judging by the banners on last Saturday’s demonstration in some places (like Sheffield) they are thriving. We need more of this.   

More banners and more evidence of the diversity of the groups calling for change. World Wildlife Fund, lots of Women’s Institute banners…  
“Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament” banners were visible too – along with banners from local wildlife trusts. Here’s the scene near Westminster tube station…CND makes some important points here:
 
  • “Nuclear power is not carbon emission free! The whole nuclear cycle from uranium mining onwards produces more greenhouse gases than most renewable energy sources with up to 50% more emissions than wind power. Even if we doubled nuclear power in the UK it would only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8%. This is because nuclear power only contributes to electricity generation which only accounts for up to a third of all carbon emissions (transport and industry account for most of the rest).
  • Climate change is happening now. A new nuclear power station will take at least 10 years to build and longer to generate electricity. Wind farms can be up and running in less than a year.
  • It’s expensive. The nuclear industry is massively subsidised by the British public. Sizewell B, the UK’s most recent power station cost the taxpayer around £3.7billion just to install Decommissioning and cleaning up all of our current nuclear sites is costing more than £70 billion.
  • It’s not sustainable. The reserves of uranium ores used to generate nuclear power are going to run out. There is only 50 years worth of high uranium ores left in the world. There may be only 200 years left of all uranium ores including poor uranium ores which take more energy to mine and process and thus release more carbon emissions.”

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Banner at Climate Justice March "The Wave". 5th. December, 2009. Photograph by Frances Laing

Food and food production is also a huge issue for climate justice activists…  

Banner. "The Wave" Climate Justice Demonstration. Dec. 5th. 2009

 All in all, those of us on modest incomes (with a minimal carbon count) I’m sure are fed up though of being lectured about saving resources. We breast-fed our children (carbon neutral). Chose cloth nappies rather than disposables (Ed. Miliband didn’t even manage this). We installed energy-efficient boilers and loft insulation. We walked or cycled instead of taking four-by-fours on the school-run. We converted disused land to grow food and kept allotments and kitchen gardens. We taught ourselves how to ‘grow our own’ organically(see this link). We’ve been carefully seperating (and composting) our household waste for years. We’d like to see our elected representatives put their households in order  now, thank you very much. That’s what we pay you for, after all. 

"The Wave". Climate Change March. December 5th, 2009. Picture by Frances Laing

Five ideas and useful links to stay informed and act on climate justice. (It’s not too late to do your bit…)

1. WWF – petition and update on progress during the summit http://wwf.org.uk/voteearth
2. Christian Aid – email to Gordon Brown http://www.christianaid.org.uk/copenhagen
3. Friends of the Earth – register to be updated during the summit http://www.foe.co.uk/climatetalks
4. Avaaz.  global on-line campaigning organization promoting vigils around the world on 12 December to keep pressure on the negotiatiors at Copenhagen.  http://www.avaaz.org/en/
5. Stop Climate Chaos – for links to everything else: http://www.stopclimatechaos.org   

  On the way to Saturday’s  Climate Change march people read various papers and leaflets.  A Guardian headline  told us:  “Our children won’t forgive us if we fail”. (Gordon Brown). Emotive, isn’t it? Especially for the likes of me. As  the mother of a four year old child, I spend a lot of time considering my actions. What do I give my child to eat? What will I say about Climate Change?   

Protestors prepare for the 'Wave'. Climate Change demonstration. London, December 2009. Photograph by Frances Laing

   I sometimes say: ‘mummy used to work for Greenpeace Germany’s North Sea campaign’. Perhaps in future I’ll tell my child how Greenpeace stopped acid waste dumping in the North Sea - twenty years ago – and (in another campaign) show her the photos of me chaining myself to a gas exploration rig in the Wadden Sea - in a protest against habitat destruction and the lack of a coherent European Energy policy. 

I’ll explain – when I started out twenty years ago how I learned about something called the ‘Precautionary Principle’. Which in simple terms means: ‘Don’t do something unless you are certain it will not cause harm’. I don’t pretend to be a saint – (my vices are many and varied). But applying the Precautionary Principle makes sense in parenting and politics too. Where is this philosophical and political principle at Copenhagen?  

Climate Change Negotiations outside Methodist Central Hall. The Wave, London. Photograph by Frances Laing

 I tell my daughter about the importance of ‘marching’ together and acting as a community. Together you stand a chance of changing things for the better.  

Dare I say I’m taking a more realistic approach than Gordon Brown.  I explain to my child that sometimes – as progressive people – we’re going to fail. But that doesn’t mean we stop trying. Generation after generation needs to keep the pressure up. We’re building on what went before. We’re getting ourselves ready to make our voices heard again. Shouting louder.    I’ve heard people say that protests and marches don’t change anything. What they forget to mention is that all those people who march have friends, relatives and family. When they go home – activists talk to their communities and carry the news and the issues with them. They are multipliers.     

It’s obvious there’s a need to look very closely at what political leaders are saying and how they’re saying it. They are the ones who are supposed to be acting on our behalf – they have the mandate to negotiate at Copenhagen. On the face of it, our Prime Minister has lent his support to a progressive deal at Copenhagen. On You Tube he has signalled his support for the ‘Wave’.

 But Prime Minister Gordon Brown gave a twenty-five minute video interview to the Guardian this week. I watched it twice today and analysed it.     Brown starts out in this interview by focussing on four  ‘big issues that will need to be resolved over the next six months – in order to have a truly global society’. One he says is the ‘economic recession’, the other three are: ‘nuclear weapons’, ‘terrorism’ and ‘climate change’. Climate Change being the most ‘comprehensive of all the challenges that the world faces’.     

Brown accepts: “There has been a wave of opinion…based on scientific evidence that has convinced me and I believe the vast majority of leaders and governments around the world that we need to act. If the talks break down…it will be a huge failure of leadership if we can’t get an agreement“. 

But watch what happens to each of the big issues during the course of this interview. Brown speaks of the desirability of a ‘more diversified energy sector’. The Guardian interviewer points out we have a ‘lamentable renewable energy industry in this country’. Brown says: “we’ve made a decision on nuclear which other countries are not prepared to do, but equally “that is about reducing emissions“.  

My reaction is – we already know there is considerable opposition to the planned installation of new nuclear power plants in Britain. Some of us are convinced this is not an effective way to reduce our emissions and that this is not a sensible way forward. 

Brown says: “It is possible to do a ‘heathrow’ (airport/third runway… F.L) whilst at the same time  having to take other action to reduce aviation emissions and emissions generally..”. 

I say: there is huge public opposition to this plan too. 

As far as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is concerned we know that the U.K. is not fully meeting it’s obligations. 

Brown maintains: “We’re trying to build a global society with a shared ethicwhether it is talking about the recession or nuclear weapons or terrorism and the institutions that are capable of  managing that global society, we talk about the G20 and the non-proliferation treaty”.  

I say: the U.K. is sending thousands more troops to Afghanistan in a move which John Pilger has described as: “a very bad war which exemplifies the moral and intellectual contortion that has led humanity into the bogus ‘war on terror’ and an era of great peril”. (see John Pilger’s introduction to the pamphlet ‘Afghanistan – why we should get out’ www.stopwar.org.uk ) 

Is this what Gordon Brown understands by a ‘global society’ with a ‘shared ethic’? 

Watch the Guardian interview with Gordon Brown in full at this link. 

Reminding myself that this blog aims to focus on “News that doesn’t normally get out” – I travelled down to the ‘Wave’ on Saturday – the Climate Change protest – with the Cafod coach from Chester. Copenhagen and Climate Change are important and ongoing stories. I’m telling some of these stories in blog posts this week. With pictures.

Four Girls. Cafod Coach Number 17 from Chester.

As some of you will know, I was trained by and worked for Greenpeace Germany two decades ago. My own work then focused on the protection of the North Sea. But Climate Change issues were never far away and each week all Greenpeace Germany staff would get an update and discussion on this very central issue in environmental politics. That’s twenty years ago now. There is so much to say about all this. More than could possibly be related in a single blog post as you can imagine.  In passing I’m just noting an important fact here – at least two decades went by before these issues reached mainstream politics in Britain. Some of us (most notably politicians) have been wasting time. 

Not so the activists on the coach, there were some new faces but most had all been engaged in various ways with social justice and climate justice issues for decades already. We had a 4.a.m. start. In the past I’ve organised similar coach trips myself – respect is due and a big thank you to the Cafod coordinator – the organisation is tiring and it can’t be easy having a journalist sit next to you all day.  Most of the people on our coach wanted to attend the ecumenical service in the Central Methodist Hall in London at 11.a.m.   We were making good progress towards London when we hit traffic gridlock. “That’s part of the problem, isn’t it?”, I said, (unhelpfully no doubt).

Eventually we reached our venue but the service had already started and there was “no room left at the inn” for the people on our coach, due to the huge numbers of people queueing up to attend the service. The venue could accomodate 2,000 people comfortably (and with respect for fire regulations) I believe there were another 1,000 people left outside who would have liked to be at the service. Good news as such that so many people wanted to get in but sad for those to whom being there would have meant so much.

On arrival at the Methodist Central hall – I quickly donned my bright yellow press jacket. Ironic. My press pass meant I was the only person from our coach who managed to get into the event. As a convinced Quaker (of merely eight years) – I’d normally be the last person keen to attend an ecumenical service led by two Archbishops…But I did my job, got pictures and I hope these blog posts convey something of what was said for all those people who couldn’t be there in the hall, or at the march itself.

Whilst listening to important leaders of churches in Britain I imagined the scene at Copenhagen right now and recalled Jess Worth’s brilliant article I had read in the ‘New Internationalist’ (December 2009) on the way down to London. Worth said:

“Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of Copenhagen, where politicians, bankers and corporations compete for the best campaign slogans, Coca Cola entreats the world to sign its ‘Hopenhagen’ petition, while Shell sponsors glossy magazine pull-outs reminding us we only have ’10 days to save the world’….don’t be dazzled by this extraordinary show…

…because it is clear that the political will just doesn’t exist, either in the U.N. or at national governmental level, the global climate justice movment is re-evaluating its strategy and upping the stakes. If laws become unjust, it is our responsiblity to change them…

Copenhagen is the last chance – for the bloated and corrupt UN circus to deliver genuine action on climate change. WHEN IT FAILS, IT WILL BE TIME FOR THE REST OF US TO TAKE OVER”.

The ‘rest of us’ that Jess Worth is talking about includes faith communities. The first  picture shows the Archbishop of Canterbury addressing the ecumenical congregation.

The Archbishop of Canterbury addresses an assembled ecumenical congregation in London before the 'Wave' the Climate Change March in December 2009

The event was filmed. I emailed the Archbishop’s Press Office yesterday. They have an audio version of this sermon which readers can listen to if they follow this link. A transcription of the sermon will be posted here shortly, so check back in a few days for more details.
There is much substance in this sermon – worth listening to more than once. I particularly liked what Rowan Williams said about the ‘task of believers’. He said:
“The task of believers is to transform the face of the earth” and “there is no choice to be made between looking after human beings and looking after the planet”. This task he said “might mean making ourselves a little less comfortable – but so what – if there is life and good news for others”.

Umme Kulsum, Cafod partner from Bangladesh and delegate to the Copenhagen Climate Change conference sharing her perspectives on Climate Change.

The congregation also heard vital eye-witness testimonies from Bangladesh. No less than 150,000 people had been displaced recently due to worsening climatic conditions.
It wasn’t easy to take photographs whilst the service was going on – but I managed to get up to the balcony to hear the Archbishop Vincent Nichols say the words which appealed to me most: “We must live simply, so that others may simply live”. This photograph gives you some idea of the size of the congregation.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols: "We must live simply so that others may simply live".

In the corridors of the church, thousands of placards lay waiting to be taken up by the congregation as they headed out on the crest of a ‘Wave’ with the hope of saying goodbye to the old ways and welcoming the Good News of change.

Placards. Ecumenical Climate Change Service before the Climate Change March 'The Wave' Methodist Central Hall. December 5th. 2009

Cafod placards. As is often the case, the diversity of placards across the whole of that day’s event shows how broad grassroots support really is. Each different placard representing a secular or faith-based movement, local or national committee, charity, political party or trade union.

Placards. Central Methodist Hall. 'The Wave' Climate Change Ecumenical Service Climate Change March, December 5th. 2009

Placards. Methodist Central Hall. Climate Change March, December 5th. 2009

During the service an ‘Act of Repentance’ was read out. As so many people could not attend I hope no-one objects if I share the text of it here:

Act of Repentance “The Wave” Service, 5th. December, 2009

Loving God, we confess that we have sinned through thoughtlessness and greed. By the destruction we have caused and the actions we have failed to take.

When we look you in the eye, do not forgive us if we excuse ourselves for our ignorance, for our weakness. For our own deliberate fault.

We are truly sorry.

We repent of all that we have wasted and the bounty we have squandered. Knowing that it is the poor who have paid the greater price.

Create a new willingness within us to turn back the tide of impending judgement, to honour international agreements and to play our part in your future.

Grant that we may serve You in newness of life, to the glory of Your name through the wonder of your creation. Amen.

Helen Garton