Reality Hits COP 6
by Ell Southern
Den Haag, Wednesday 23rd November 2000
Earlier today a group of individuals, unioned by their disgust of the blatantly profit-driven COP6 Climate Conference, decided to intervene and forcibly participate in these discussions which are systematically closed to them and the vast majority of people in the world. The outcome of the COP6 conference is designed to neglect the social needs of the many and only represent the economic interests of the few. On Monday, there were still 36 points of disagreement, one being 'the definition of a forest', and by today the discussions have reached crisis point, with many points still not agreed on. They are still, after 6 years, debating how to implement and further undermine the totally inadequate Kyoto agreement and increasing numbers of people demanding answers for such time wasting and self interest.
The Netherlands Environment Minister and head chairman of COP6, Pronk, had set aside two meetings this afternoon to decide some key points by tonight. One of these meetings became the setting for an incredible and moving demand for global justice and market accountability. The group entered the meeting defiently and determined, strode right to the front stage, took over the microphone and directly questioned the delegates in strongly spoken spontaneous speeches. They hung banners and demanded an immediate 80% reduction in carbon emissions, calling the conference a farce and a trade fair. UN security moved in and brutally began removing the protesters, who linked arms to stay together for protection from the attack, still shouting their messages. A table fell from the stage in the struggle as more and more security piled in to pull, stamp and drag people away from the group. Security succeeded in dumping a few of the people outside the door, with most managing to hang on through the violence. Those outside stayed there in solidarity with those being kept in the room as the delegates were ushered out. The protesters on the stage challenged the delegates to stay and witness how those who criticize the corporate agenda get treated, but everyone except the protesters was forcibly removed, and the room was closed to the press.
On the main staircase, a smaller number of people had climbed the four pillars and held a position on two long beams for all to see. They hung a huge blue banner saying 'Carbon trading? Profit (tick) future (cross)', made speeches to loud applause from young people and shouted together "Climate talks, corporate talks, media talks, MONEY TALKS, blah blah blah blah". They held their ground, together with those in the conference room, for around two and a half hours. Meanwhile various nimble fingers roamed the building creating disruptions.... And the US head delegate Frank Loy got pied during a live international press conference. A moment to savour for a long time to come.
Eventually the people in the conference room were sent a message that Pronk was chairing a meeting with the press and NGO's, and wanted them to come and speak in it. After non-hierarchical consensus decision making by the group, they decided to do so and chose two spokespeople from them to represent their views. They were escorted to the new conference room under heavy UN security. They entered the very large and packed room, where a representative of ASEED, the most radical critics inside the COP6 Conference, was speaking about how they had had their accreditation to the Conference taken away for reasons still unknown. In an amazingly symbolic scene, the two from the group sat beside Pronk, and could speak. The spokesman read from a flyer the group had made and distributed, accusing corporate lobbyists of hijacking dialogue on climate change while other voices struggle to be heard. Demanding a drastic cut in carbon emissions, he cited 60% worldwide and 80-90% in rich countries as being necessary to halt climate change, and stated that dialogue should be started again, with the life of the planet and all its present and future inhabitants placed at centre stage. The spokeswoman summed up in a precise, clear worded and powerfull statement the failures of the conference having listened to it for days. She quoted findings from eminent scientists' figures that the urgency of the climate crisis is not being met, and accused the delegates of addressing this urgency in terms of market opportunities. She wondered how many delegates actually listen and engage, and added that it is now up to the elite of the world to sort it out and to stop dumping the consequences of climate change on the poor. She repeated that the conference is a farce and a trade fair, declared that the group rejected it and that they were leaving. The whole group then stood and poigniantly left, with one woman holding a hand written sign saying 'enough'.
This group of people have done what nobody else has done inside the conference: actually rejected it outright. Instead of opposing, being indifferent or supporting its agenda which are the three reactions so far, they suggested the setting of a new agenda for climate debate. The Ministers, lobbyists, and business people inside COP 6 cannot dismiss this intervention as mindless or violent, but are confronted with intelligent and determined people. There was a joyfull reunion on the stairs with the people from the beams, and they all left together, met by a police escort when they left the building.