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Copenhagen is Not the End

Nathan Allonby shows how the climate change agenda has not been derailed by the meltdown in Copenhagen

Nathan Allonby
Published in Namaste Magazine

Posted 5 February, 2010

Many people mistakenly think the Copenhagen climate summit failed and that now it's all over. In fact, the Copenhagen conference was only one step in a process that continues unabated - 2010 is planned to bring major new measures.

Do not assume that the crisis over climate science has derailed this - the process is too large and has too much bureaucratic momentum to stop. The next steps are already planned, years ahead.

Anyone who sees the photograph of 10,000 delegates and 5,000 observers assembled at the Copenhagen conference will realise immediately how deeply established this process has become.

Given the intense, global media coverage, the demonstrations, protests and the so-called debate, it is surprising how few people really understand the UN programme or what the proposals are, still less what they may actually represent in practice.

This alone should make us pause for thought - idealistic young demonstrators, campaigning for something they do not properly understand.


Most of those protestors would be horrified to realise that they may have succeeded in diverting attention from the real environmental problems of the planet, including a gigantic exercise in corporate looting, which will rob perhaps a billion people of their homes, forcing them into slums and sweatshops. Most of all, they would be horrified to find they may have been campaigning for the end of the democratic mechanisms which protest seeks to influence and by which the public can bring change.

As an environmentalist, for decades I have wanted action to stop the destruction of the planet. However, what we saw at Copenhagen terrified me.

There is every reason to be concerned about our planet: - destruction of the rainforests, the oceans dying, breaks in our food chain, toxic pollution, exhaustion of resources, extinction of species, the "Silent Spring" and the disappearance of songbirds. These are the real issues that lie behind the activists' concern about global warming. Man's impact on the planet is real and undeniable - action is needed. In the eyes, hearts and minds of activists, global warming is the issue that encapsulates and symbolises all the others. They feel that action on global warming will lead to action on all those other issues. But Copenhagen and the UN climate framework do not address any of the other - arguably more real - issues. Activists should notice how global warming has pushed all other issues aside, out of attention. Action on global warming could end up as a substitute, displacing action on every other problem.

There was a well-orchestrated chorus, cheering for Copenhagen - lots of attractive, young people, shouting in the street.

The UN climate proposals were claimed to be about justice, about redistribution of wealth, from rich to poor, about protecting the planet, about protecting the future. They were claimed to be about saving people's lives, indeed saving the whole of humanity.

It may be true that the science behind the claims has been exposed, but that is the least of the issues. It is, however, deeply symptomatic of everything that's wrong with the debate. If you think you are going to get anywhere by arguing about science, then think again. This is no longer about reason - it's about feelings and adrenaline.

There is no debate - we have entered a situation where rational debate seems impossible. This is a very dangerous situation for democracy.

The UN climate framework will overturn the very concepts of democracy, national self-government and the right of self-determination.[1],[2] The transnational decision-making process to be introduced by the UN has serious implications for democracy. Democracy does not exist at an international level, only in national governments. Making a transnational decision-making process is to replace democracy with something with no democratic control or accountability. This new process will effectively have authority over decisions in large areas of public policy, even down to local areas. There have been serious proposals, discussed inside the British Parliament, that this could even come down to the personal level, with personal carbon accounts administered via ID cards.[3]

This is only one of a series of moves by the UN, where it has changed from the previous role of protecting nations and their right of self-determination, to a new role assuming power over nations and taking on a right to determine and intervene in internal policies. We have to realise that the UN, although founded in aspirations of peace in justice, is not a democratic or transparent body and its role has often been deeply controversial. Arguably, it is a system controlled by the very people that have been responsible for serial wars, economic exploitation and famines. Look at the history of UN military interventions: - Rwanda, Congo, Haiti, Somalia, Yugoslavia. At best, the UN did no good, with many people arguing that the UN did real harm, acting as a tool to rip apart nations.

More than half the UK population doesn't believe the official story of man-made global warming. But you wouldn't think that, to look at newspaper coverage, or "protests" on climate change.

There should be an outcry, but instead this is being greeted with fanfares. It is very worrying to see such a large gap between public feeling and visible, organised demonstrations.

In this context, perhaps we should mention that government ministers, such as Ed Miliband, have talked about encouraging demonstrations such as this, in support of UN action on climate change.[4] An era where the government organises demonstrations, in support of controversial policies, would itself mark a transition to a new post-democratic phase of society. This situation feels so unreal - and it is unreal. What we all need is a healthy dose of realism. Here is the message that needs to be put across to climate activists.

Firstly, if you are looking for a solution, do you go to the people who made the problem? If you wanted economic and social justice, would you go to be people who have carefully installed a rapacious system of exploitation? If you wanted to protect the environment, would you go to the people who systematically dismantled environmental protection, to make greater profits? In short, how will it fix the system to give these failed leaders more power, by creating a new world authority, run by them, with no elections, no democratic accountability, no checks and balances? Wouldn't that make things worse, not better?

Secondly, at every democratic election, these people let you down, and did something different, often opposite, to what they promised. Why would you trust them now? Isn't it more reasonable to expect them to disappoint you again? How does it feel to be duped, time after time? Do you really want to invite this again, only this time on a disastrously larger scale?

Thirdly, look at the current plans of our global leaders - what they plan is the opposite of what they say.

The Copenhagen treaty is supposed to provide money and investment to provide new lifestyles for people displaced "by climate change."

Most population displacement worldwide is not due to climate change, but due to engineered events - such as government action (land seizure, grant of mining rights, special economic zones, etc.), financial policies and war. In most of these events, the West is implicated, even the wars (Congo is a good example).

Around the world, billions of people are being displaced from sustainable lifestyles that have endured for thousands of years, to be forced into urban slums, living in indescribable squalor, to work in sweatshops. They are being forced from zero-impact lifestyles into dependency on mineral fuel and scarce resources. In India alone, at least 400 million people - roughly equivalent to the population of Europe - will be displaced from farming into urban slums.[5],[6] This is largely planned and engineered, not the by-product of natural forces, such as climate change. Our world leaders plan this, to force these innocent victims to work in service to the Western economy, to fuel global economic growth.

"Aid" to Third World nations - who does it help? Do the people who live sustainable lifestyles need financial investment? No - they need to be left alone. They haven't needed investment for thousands of years - that's what 'sustainable' means. Is it lack of investment that threatens indigenous people around the world? Or is it the investment itself that threatens to displace them - the new dams, roads and development projects? Is this investment actually creating the infrastructure of exploitation? Is it helping to build the slums and sweatshops into which its victims will be forced? If you want to see a good illustration of this, look at Haiti, where the population were forcibly urbanised, to create a pool of cheap, exploitable labour, and to expropriate (steal) the land for plantations.

Fourthly, we know that the main thrust of the UN climate framework has actually been to create a whole new multi-trillion dollar economy in trading carbon credits—money that will ultimately come from us.

We have already had leaks from the G20 conference of the world leaders' bad faith - their plan to turn aid into exploitation, and to use their new powers to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich.[7]

At Copenhagen, we saw the leaked "Danish text" which would have permanently enforced inequality between rich and poor nations, and frozen developing nations out of decision-making power.

Fifthly, we have seen how international bodies work already. How many environmentalists think the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has been a good thing? So why ask for more of the same? Governments hide behind international bodies and use them as the opportunity to "launder" policies, exploiting the fact that international negotiations are confidential and unaccountable. At WTO meetings, our governments have pressed, unseen and unreported, for policies that would be unacceptable to their voters at home, but then go back and pretend "It wasn't our fault, the WTO forced us to do it."

Finally, this is time to ask, what have we learned about democracy? Have we learned anything from all the mistakes we made in the past? Have we learned anything from all the leaders who lied to us? Do we want to trust our leaders with unlimited power, and ask no questions, or have we learned we tie them down with checks and balances, and force them to make specific commitments?

For 30 years, we have watched as globalisation made every environmental problem worse, made action on environmental issues harder, led to increased corporate power and a democratic deficit. Now we are told globalisation is the only answer to the world's environmental problems.

To a large extent, we have to blame certain environmental campaign organisations for their lack of focus, in failing to promote attainable, specific, realistic solutions. Instead, they have led us, directly and indirectly, into the arms of the UN climate framework, a broad, indiscriminate and, ultimately, a false solution - a deception. This is exactly the type of chimera or mirage that real campaigners should have warned us against, instead of cheering on.

What we see at every turn is a battle of corporate interests against national interest, the citizens and the environment. The environmental movement used to fight against globalisation - now it is cheering for it. What happened there?

We don't need the UN - we need to master our existing democracies, to make our politicians deliver the policies we really want. We need to bring our politicians to heel, not give them more power. The UN framework will make it less likely we will get what we really want - that should be the message for all environmental activists.

The UN climate process - what happens next?

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is part of the United Nations Environment Programme, which includes Agenda 21 and dates from the Global Forum at Rio de Janeiro in June 1992.

The UNFCCC website states that :

"The intergovernmental negotiation process primarily encompasses the Conference of the Parties (COP), the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP), Subsidiary Bodies meetings and a series of workshops.

The COP is the "supreme body" of the Convention. The CMP is the "supreme body" of the Kyoto Protocol. The Convention established two permanent subsidiary bodies: the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI).

COP meetings happen every year, and Copenhagen (COP15) was the 15th in the series. The COP16 meeting is planned for December 2010 in Mexico, COP17 for December 2011 in South Africa and COP 18 in 2012 will be held in Asia.

It is likely that COP16, in Mexico this year, will attempt to reintroduce the mandatory carbon controls that failed to be agreed in Copenhagen 2009.

However, those wanting to protest need to get in earlier. Talks in Bonn, 31 May -11 June will be the ones to watch. The failure to achieve a legally binding agreement at Copenhagen can be traced directly to the failure of the Bonn Climate Change Talks in August 2009.

The COP meetings sign agreements, but the real work, hammering out new proposals, actually happens between these, at the string of meetings that take place almost every month, mainly in Bonn.

Here is the timetable of major events for 2010:[8]

January 31st: deadline signatories to the Copenhagen Accord to submit national emission reduction and mitigation actions;

May 31 - June 11: the first round of talks leading to COP16 - the Bonn Climate Change Talks and SB 32, the 32nd session of the UNFCCC Convention subsidiary bodies;

November 8 - November 19: the second round of talks (venue to be confirmed, but probably Bonn);

November 29 - December 10: COP 16 in Mexico City

Bonn Climate Change Talks will be preceded by another important event - the "1st World Congress on Cities and Adaptation to Climate Change" organised by ICLEI.

ICLEI is yet another desperately controversial body, responsible for implementation of Agenda 21 objectives at a local level; as such it represents the involvement of the UN at a detailed low-level within nations.

Agenda 21 is what it says - nothing less than an ambitious programme to set the agenda for the 21st Century, worldwide. It sets out programmes in areas as diverse as "Combating Poverty" and "Changing Consumption Patterns," to "Land Resources" and "Sustainable Agriculture & Rural Development," to "Strengthening the Role" of "Women," "Children & Youth" and "Trade Unions."[9] This is a programme for the UN to set the detailed framework of life within every nation.

Bonn, during 28 May - 11 June 2010, is going to be an obvious focus for protest against globalisation and world government.

How do we stop this?

1) Raise awareness
   -This is an issue of justice and freedom, against globalisation and corporate theft

2) Stop the cheerleading for the UN environmental programme
   -A carefully crafted illusion of overwhelming support has silenced opposition
   -Doubters are actually the silent majority
   -Demand the environmental organisations drop their support for the UN programme
   -Tell them they have destroyed their credibility and failed to put forward real alternatives

3) Protest!
   -The anti-globalisation movement has been one of the most powerful and effective voices in the protest movement
   -This movement now needs to protest against the UN FCCC at Bonn as it once did against the WTO at Seattle.

Nathan Allonby is an activist and occasional author on environmental and civil rights issues. He is an engineer with interests in sustainable energy and overseas development who has worked over 20 years with community groups in the UK and overseas.


[1] "UN Ready to Lead Environmental World Government" by Rebecca Terrell. The New American. December 1, 2009.

[2] "Has Anyone Read the Copenhagen Agreement? U.N. plans for a new 'government' are scary" by Janet Albrechtsen. Wall Street Journal. October 28, 2009.

[3] "Briefing note, Summary of work to date on Domestic Tradable Quotas (DTQs)" by Richard Starkey and Kevin Anderson. Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. Prepared for "Climate change: everybody's baby," Meeting at House of Commons, 24 November 2004, hosted by Colin Challen MP.

[4] "Miliband calls for populist push in battle against climate change" by Gaby Hinsliff and John Vidal. The Observer. April 26, 2009.

[5] "Displacing farmers: India Will Have 400 million Agricultural Refugees - Neoliberal Reforms Wreak Havoc" by Devinder Sharma. Global Research. June 22, 2007.

[6] "World Bank roots for urbanisation, migration" by K. Balchand. The Hindu. March 13, 2009.

[7] "Leaked G20 Documents Shed Light on Global Carbon Tax" by James Corbett. The Corbett Report. November 12, 2009

[8] ""The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development - Agenda 21" Information Habitat.E