Eco-warriors seek to crank up heat on climate talks
Paris -- Thousands of activists are set to converge on Copenhagen for the December 7-18 world climate conference, using digital technology, people pressure and the Little Mermaid to make their opinions heard.
The Internet and mobile phone are being harnessed as the key organisational tools for rallying opinion ahead of the most critical environmental meeting since the UN’s Kyoto Protocol was forged in 1997.
Protests are being variously staged by environmentalists, aid groups and hard-left radicals.
They fear the Copenhagen showdown will fail to stave off the peril of climate change, haul billions out of poverty or curb the excesses of capitalism.
"What kind of society do we want? Do we want to share resources or throw up walls to protect ourselves? This is what is spurring the mobilisation," said Anne Bringault of the French branch of Friends of the Earth.
The Danish capital is bracing for around 30,000 delegates and other visitors during the course of the conference.
They include heads of state and government — 98 so far, according to Danish sources — who will arrive on the penultimate day with the declared aim of sealing a deal.
Lobbying starts this Saturday with a "flash mob" — flash mobilisation — in major cities, in which participants are alerted by mobile phone about the time and place to assemble.
The time will be 12:18 pm, referring to December 18, the conference’s close.
In London, demonstrators will hold a carnival-style procession to the Houses of Parliament.
A militant group called Camp for Climate Action says it will also camp out. Participants will advised of the location by SMS text messages at the last minute in the hope of thwarting police, its site says.
At the conference’s halfway point, on December 12 and 13, a special train will arrive in Copenhagen, laden with demonstrators who will form a "blue tide, like drops of water."
Religious communities will sound church bells and pound a drum 350 times, urging political leaders to reduce carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere to a safe 350 parts per million.
A campaign called tcktcktck.org will hold a candlelit rally, while WWF will stage another "Earth Hour", in which cities around the world will be enjoined to switch off unneeded public lighting for an hour to save carbon emissions.
Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid, the harbour-side statue inspired by the figure in Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, is set to play an unwitting role in protests with one green group planning to bestow an "Angry Mermaid Award" on the most nefarious corporate lobbyist undermining the climate talks (http://www.angrymermaid.org/).
Peaceful and colourful demos of this kind, many of them shaped with an eye for the 5,000 journalists expected in Copenhagen, are traditional fare at the annual meetings of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
But there is also a risk of confrontation, with reports that hard-edged anarchists from Germany, the "Black Blocks", who staged violent protests at the NATO summit in Strasbourg and Kehl this year, will take part.
In addition, the German branch of Climate Justice Action says it has mustered 1,500 militants who will stage an act of "civil disobedience" on December 16.
They intend to "push" their way into the Bella Centre, a conference venue that has been declared UN territory for the duration of the talks, and disrupt proceedings, it said in an emailed press release.
"The outcome of the UN summit will bring neither justice nor effective protection against climate change," the group’s Ines Koburger predicted. "Since the first world climate conference in 1992, CO2 emissions have shot up around the world rather than fallen."
Bringault and other mainstream groups hope that any talk of clashes will not overshadow concerns about climate change felt by many millions of people.
"Let’s not whip up fears about violence," she said. "Society is already over-focussed on security."