Copenhagen Diary #7: Blah Blah Blah, Act Now!
At yesterday’s march for climate justice in Copenhagen. We’ve had the first day of sunshine for a week. Entering Parliament Square, the crowd is massive. We find our group pretty quickly, the marchers with the green builders hats stand out. A speaker on the platform punches out her lines, each one broken by a roar of agreement:
“Nature does not negotiate.”
“You should not play politics with our plant.”
“We want a real deal in Copenhagen.”
As we march, banners fly in the wind. They say:
“Politicians talk, leaders act.
“Act now, change the future.”
And my favourite: “Unions have solutions. Just transition.” This one on a massive green banner spread across the width of the march, and held by the Belgian unions in their green builders hats with stickers that say, “union solidarity. Just transition”.
We’re behind a truck with youth activists dancing on board, music and song. They lead a chant, two lines:
“Stop, stop, global warming”,
so we repeat the line. Then,
“No more fossil fuels”.
And we exchange glances – those of us representing power station and utility workers and miners – and that line kind of dries in the mouth. You think back suddenly to that policy paper on your desk back somewhere, that calls for “a balanced low carbon energy system, combining renewables and new build nuclear with carbon capture and storage for fossil fuels…”. It doesn’t quite work as a slogan.
100,000 people then, marching six kilometers to the UN conference, arriving in darkness beneath the metro flyover, with a huge inflatable Greenpeace snowman hauled sideways to get under the bridge. Amazingly, the musicians play on, the singing and energy still high. We disperse slowly.
Warming up later on with hot coffee and slowly taking stock of the scale of this demonstration, a mobilisation double the size of the recent march in Madrid, or the 50,000 at the Wave in London last weekend, we wonder if these marches will make a difference.
Today we met at the LO Denmark office, a strategy review, with most of the 316 ITUC delegates present. I was glad to greet Paul Noon from the TUC General Council (and General Secretary of scientists’ union Prospect), who’s with the PSI group this afternoon.
In brief, from now, we have to manage the final rewording of the just transition paragraph in the conference negotiating text, with a friendly US move to improve it with references to decent work and the opportunity to create “millions of green jobs”. Dave Foster from the Blue Green Alliance points out that this bit of language will appeal to the US domestic audience. Fair enough, President Obama, but we’d rather keep some text with a global appeal.
Ministers are meeting now, with a new overall shared vision text due out soon. Aside from the JT text, of course, we’re concerned about the total CO2 cuts on the table. Sophie Dupressoir of PSI estimates a range of 13% to 19%, well below the 25% threshold, and half of the upper point on the scale of 40%. This sinks in with our group. PSI has amendments to the KP text and is hoping to strengthen the conditions attached to green investments in developing nations (CDM credits). We want “co-benefits” attached to the billions of investment that has to flow southwards – decent jobs, skills, training and union rights, integral to the projects themselves.
As the ITUC points out, its clear from the outcome of the last two G20 summits that unions can influence the global economic agenda. Our demands for green stimulus and jobs packages are ways out of both the economic crisis and, fundamentally, the climate crisis.
As another placard said yesterday, “Blah Blah Blah – Act Now!”