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Seattle + 10? One climate, one people

Joan Buades | Alba Sud

Fourth in the series COUNTDOWN TO COPENHAGEN analyzing the latest maneuvers leading up to the Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change that reveal just how much is at stake. A call to civil disobedience in defense of global climate justice.

The home stretch. After years of lead-up talks in insider jargon, the moment of truth for our common climate has arrived. Just as we suspected in our preceding column, the advisers are doing their job well and official optimism on the climate of the mega-summit on climate change is back. Obama will come, even if only for one day, and will promise U.S. reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions for the first time. Hu Jintao (China), Manmohan Singh (India) and Lula da Silva (Brazil) will also be there, symbolizing the commitment of emerging countries in the global South to more or less significant emission reduction objectives. And, what was unthinkable just recently is even looking possible: a new political agreement capable of specifying global and regional emission levels for 2020 and 2050. The regulatory details remain for a future summit, perhaps in Mexico within a year.

However, let us not be deceived by appearances. It is more important to focus on the change in priorities of the big guys in the world. Hervé Kempf says we need to look back, to the backdrop to the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) summit in Seattle. Those were the times when a hegemonic neoliberal agenda was threatening to ruin the despoiling of the South even more through the expansion of the “freedom” of trade. Unexpectedly, Seattle was a raucous failure thanks to the combined effect of the protests of an informal coalition of activists from around the world combined with the blockade by a broad bloc of Southern countries in response to fears of the definitive ruin of their agriculture and trade from the new weapons of commercial penetration without borders that the WTO was attempting to grant to corporate industrial giants. Now, times have changed: the neoliberal agenda that has served as the roadmap for handling the latest financial crisis is being pushed into the background by the urgency of the climate situation in many regions of the world. Not even soft leadership, like Obama’s, or the Chinese hermetic communist industrialism, as they were attempting up until recently, alleging domestic priorities (health care reform, economic “development”), can get them out of filing through Copenhagen and marketing a new pro-climate image to the world. The specter of a climate Seattle has forced them to make a move. The Danish government also senses that Copenhagen runs the risk of being the scenario of a new global uproar like the one in 1999 and has not hesitated to militarize the Summit in a sort of preemptive defense against public protests for a breathable, just planet.

They are not off the mark. An unprecedented awakening of official voices in the South is clamoring for climate justice now (calling in the historic debt for not having polluted like us in the North, urgently obtaining low-cost technology transfer for changing the model of “progress”). For example, Africa (which, with almost one thousand million people, produces the same amount of emissions as Texas, with just 30 million) is going to be represented by a single voice for the first time in its history.

Simultaneously, the global climate commons is also going to be vigorously defended by the thousands of participants at the alternative Klimaforum09, known as the peoples’ climate summit. One of the fasted rising citizen networks, Climate Justice Action, has issued a call to non-violent civil disobedience in the streets of Copenhagen on the key day, December 16th, to make the voice of the majority heard inside the official summit. Significantly, they are appealing to “demanding power” and “climate justice” in the face of transnational corporations that murder the climate along with complicit governments.

Neoliberal cancer never sleeps. Knowing that many checks will be written in Copenhagen to buy peace and docility in the South, the same World Bank that has contributed to colonizing and impoverishing prospects for well-being in the South is stealthily moving to become the manager of the new climate investment funds (CIFs). Deep down, as Naomi Klein inspirationally reminds us, “climate rage” is growing in the almost 80% of humanity that is poor in contrast to the rich minority that has put breathable air in jeopardy and the awareness that, this time, “life on this world of ours may well be terminated because of too many acts of obedience”. Now is the time to disobey, before it is too late.

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