Environment

Thousands join 'flood' demonstrations for climate deal

PETRE WILLIAMS-RAYNOR Reporting from Copenhagen, Denmark

Sunday, December 13, 2009    

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Thousands of people from across the world, including members of the disabled community, turned out to the 'flood' protest here yesterday, engineered to put pressure on world leaders to hammer out a comprehensive and legally binding climate deal by the end of this week.

"We don't want offsetting [such as the financing of 'green' energy projects in developing countries to facilitate increased greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries]. We don't want governments to continue polluting the way they have. We want binding targets for each and every country, Mark Jackson, of the environmental non-governmental organisation Friends of the Earth, Liverpool, told the Sunday Observer.

He added that protest action was necessary to help compel governments to act now in the interest of the planet and its people.

"For me you need to keep coming and protesting to keep pressure on the politicians. In the United Kingdom, we put pressure [through protest] on Ed Milliband [the climate and energy minister to get Gordon Brown (the British Prime Minister] to come [and it worked], Jackson said.

The whole idea, he said, is to realise "the possibility for an agreement at some point" .

At the same time, Jackson said the wearing of the blue ponchos donned by hundreds, himself included, and the theme of the march were symbolic of sea level rise associated with climate change that threaten many countries.

Such countries include those of the Caribbean, some of which are already grappling with what many suspect are the results of a changing climate due to the increase in the quantity of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. These include incidents of extreme weather events such as fiercer or otherwise more frequent hurricanes, as well as droughts. They also include the presence of diseases such as dengue due to increased global temperatures in such islands as Cape Verde where they previously were not.

His sentiments were echoed by Romuald Bokey out of Sweden.

"I think that we need to deal with climate change now. We want to urge the politicians [through our protest] to take the needed action now. So far, as I understand, the talks have not been successful," he told the Sunday Observer.

"We are actually campaigning for tax on animal products because it is so detrimental. Emissions [notably methane] from the livestock sector is higher than emissions from the transport sector," Bokey added.

Protesters in the demonstration -- dubbed the Noah Flood for climate change -- walked some six kilometres from the city centre to the Bella Centre, where the two weeks of talks began last Monday and are continuing this week. Along the way, their numbers grew to, by some estimates, 20,000 or more.

Many individuals were dressed in garb designed to grab the onlooker's attention in order to spread such messages as "Climate Action Now" ; "Finish Forestry" ; "No False Solution" ; and "Give Us Hope" .

Aaron Janowsky, of Youth Movement for Future Energy out of Germany, noted that such messages were critical.

"The motto of our group is "Escape the planet", said the youth who was dressed in a so-called "space cap" contraption.

"We want to show the world that we support any movement to a greener future," he added.

The protest, which culminated with a candlelight vigil, was organised by hundreds of civil society groups under the banner of TckTckTck campaign. Collectively they are lobbying for what they have called "a three-point real deal" that is:

* fair through securing $200 billion in climate financing for poorer countries;

* Ambitious in that it peaks global carbon emissions by 2015, and returning atmospheric carbon dioxide levels below 350 parts per million; as well as

* binding in so far as it is legally enforceable.

Meanwhile, Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu, in a press release issued by the group Avaaz.org, has urged action on the recommendations.

"Millions of people, especially the very poor, are already suffering due to changing weather patterns, droughts and floods," he said. "None of us will be immune from climate change we are all in this together and there is no time to lose.

Negotiators have this past week been engaged in talks that will continue with the involvement of heads of governments, including United States president Barack Obama, next week.

But whether they will realise a mutually beneficial arrangement and one that is legally binding remains unclear. On Friday the chairs of the ad hoc working group on long term co-operative action under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the adhoc working group on further commitments for developed country parties to the Kyoto Protocol presented proposals for the outcome of the conference.

Those texts -- which provide various emission reductions target options and possible provisions for adaptation, financing and capacity-building in the developing world -- will be among the documents debated this week.

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