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.

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”.

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

   

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. 

  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. 

Need to get up to speed with the central Copenhagen issues? Listen to the latest analysis from the BBC at Chatham House at this link. (twenty minute broadcast).

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