Climate Change. Copenhagen Summit. “Our children won’t forgive us if we fail” Gordon Brown and the ‘Wave’

December 9, 2009

  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. 

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