Looking back over COP15
Press articles present varying degrees of acceptance on the final outcome of COP15; I have decided to pick a few diverging points of view, for memory’s sake:
From European Commission President Barroso’s speech to the Plenary of the Copenhagen conference on climate change:
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is now obvious that we will not get all we had hoped for. But what remains on our side here in Copenhagen is a critically important milestone in the battle against climate change. We are making progress on transparency and internationalisation of domestic action…We have secured a fast start funding programme for the next three years worth at least $30 billion dollars to fund adaptation, capacity building and the fight against deforestation particularly in the poorest and most vulnerable countries. We also have a clear long-term climate funding objective providing $100 billion a year by 2020 to meet the initial needs of developing countries.”
From EurActiv on Saturday 19th: EU looks beyond ‘weak’ Copenhagen climate deal :
“The face-saving deal, dubbed the 'Copenhagen Accord', failed to bring a binding agreement on tackling climate change, which Europeans said they expected before the UN conference opened.”
From EWEA’s CEO on Saturday 19th:
"In the end, after two years of negotiations, the Copenhagen Accord is a disappointing failure. It does not produce a legally binding treaty or deliver a plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It does not contain one word on 2020 or 2050 emission reduction targets or any reference to how or when a legally binding agreement can be reached. The only thing it achieved was a non-committing text 'to hold the increase in global temperature below 2°C degrees.”
From GWEC’s Secretary General, Steve Sawyer (Reuters):
"This allows us to fight another day".
But before getting too embroiled in the outcome of COP15, let us go back to some memories from the heart of the city’s alternative hub.
I found myself on my way to Christiania, the hippy quarter in Copenhagen on the night of Monday 13th December, with a long lost friend from my university. We arrived just a few moments after activists clashed with police forces, and hence, could not go in. Blue lights revolved, lighting the whole street and neighbouring apartment buildings, a taxi reversed with tremendous speed down the road next to us, bottles lay shattered on the road and armed policemen were blocking the end of the road, which turned into a lane leading down to a gate which marked the entrance to this self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood of 800 odd residents.
Christiania is regarded as a large commune and measures over the last few years aimed at normalising the legal status of the community have led to conflicts. We had heard that there was supposed to be some party organised in there that night, after a day of peaceful demonstrations in the city centre to speed up the pace of the negotiations.
Everyone tells you to go there, including the Danes, but clearly, we had not chosen the right night, as the police were not letting anyone in and some fight was going on. After being interviewed by a film student on the police force presence on the spot and on the state of the COP15 negotiations, we decided to try a back road, and walked past a little pottery shop, under the level of the street, with a man still working in it. My friend was very keen to go in and knocked in the door. The man opened up and let us in. He explained to us that he started as an apprentice in his twenties when he got fired from the bank he was working in with a few hundred other employees. As he had always liked playing with clay when he was a child, he decided to go to art school to apply it to his pottery.
It was a pleasant conversation, one of those you remember, as it such brief and genuine encounters which mean you can connect with a place and truly appreciate the moment. The place was filled with all kinds of pots of different shapes and sizes, scattered about the pace on shelves and on top of a large oven. Real craftsmanship. The name of the place is Per Bo, after the man.
We came out about half an hour later with bags of handmade Danish pots in our hands and proceeded to walk down the main street towards the Christianshavn metro station, just to realise that reinforcement police forces had arrived and were blocking the whole street. They let us through, with our paper bags of pots, though we would not have been able to go back down that street.
The pressure had risen since we entered the pottery shop. It was now gone midnight and we proceeded left down the next main street, noticing an endless row of police cars. Feeling the excitement rising, we chatted and joked amongst ourselves until we realised that we had crossed a bridge and could see no sign of the riverside cafe bars that the potter had directed us towards. As I did not have long before my last metro and then train back to the hotel, 13 km outside of Copenhagen, we decided to turn around and head back towards Christianshavn.
Walking back past the police cars, we crossed the road and looked for a snack bar, we still had not eaten. We went in a kebab bar and I got a falafel durum. Turning our heads we saw that what was going on was on the TV, up in the corner of the bar. “Breaking News”. I later read that 200 people were arrested that night, there in Christiania. I spoke with a young woman next to me who was texting a friend of hers who was in Christiania at a party, seemingly oblivious to the hell which had broken out between activists and police forces.
She was at the party, and texted her friend saying that the police had sprayed teargas. On the TV, the street we had walked down to the gate of Christiania and walking past the camera the young man with a pompom hat who had also stepped inside the pottery shop with us. It was a strange feeling to point to TV and tell my friend: “Hey look! That’s the guy from the pottery shop!”
We walked back towards Christianshavn and stopped opposite the road that we had first walked down, when we were still planning on entering into Christiania. The little Pharmacy with the unicorn we had gone past on our way there was surrounded by policemen. The road was now blocked off with police lines, policemen and police lorries. Young people were crowded around us, wanting to go back in there, someone said he was sleeping in there. These people lived in there. Annoyed with the police, there was a tension in the air, as people felt cornered, almost singled out as being the problem.
Although we do not know exactly what was going on in Christianshavn, there was clearly a confrontation between activists and riot police around street barricades. It should be pointed out that over 1,700 arrests have taken place.
To sum up my COP15 experience in a few words, meeting people, be it in the Bella Centre, sitting in the audience at side events, or in the city of Copenhagen itself, is what made my trip to Copenhagen a positive experience.
Whether the politics will follow is another matter. I feel it is crucial to focus on what moved you and gave you encouragement in difficult and pressurised circumstances like these, for me, it was the people and the sense of a common and shared cause, fought for vehemently.
Eleanor Smith, European Renewable Energy Council