Saturday, 19 December 2009
At about 2:15am, as late night discussions continued inside the Bella Centre in Copenhagen, Pablo Solon, the Bolivian Ambassador to the UN, came out to address the one hundred demonstrators holding a vigil at the main entrance. His statement starts by talking about the latest document on the table. .
"..they are not able to present it until now. They are going to present it in the following minutes. We don't have the final text. There have been some changes.
We, as the Bolivian government, we have clearly expressed that we are not going to accept any kind of text that is cooked by only twenty five countries because that breaks all the principles of the United Nations. If we accept this then we don't have to come to a meeting like this - we just have to wait as the 25 leaders of the world decide for all of us. And we are not willing to accept that there are countries of first class and countries of second class.
So, our main concern is that what is going to happen here will have many negative effects in relation to democracy and transparency in the UN, in relation to the G77 too. Because, in order to make this so-called deal move on, they have to buy some countries and they have to break the unity of developing countries. This is a very very bad precedent.
From the substantive part, we know, we don't have the final text, but they have approved that it will be two degrees (Celsius) - the goal. And we don't accept that. Why we don't accept because that means that several islands are going to disappear. Our glaciers in the mountains are going to disappear. Africa is going to be cooked. We are approaching a situation where we cannot guarantee that we are going to be able to save whole humanity. Maybe some millions are going to die because of the decision that tonight is being taken and this is not discussed.
When they say this is an agreement that's insufficient, that's just a first step, we don't think that. We think it's a bad agreement. To have $10bn - and you know it's $10bn dollars from Japan, from EU and from the United States. In reality, in the pledges, the United States is going to give only $3bn in the next three years so, per year, they are going to give only $1bn. And they spend a great amount of money in the war of Iraq and Afghanistan - they have a defence military budget of $700bn and they are going to give $1bn for the following three years.
And when they speak that there are going to $100bn by 2020, the text that we have read is $100bn that we all have to mobilise in order to get the $100bn that means developed and developing countries - it's not that they are going to put the $100bn.
So, we are not going to accept it. We have to see how they are going to proceed now because there is a problem. This is an official meeting of the UN and this group that has drafted this text was not officially organised by anybody of the conference inside the UN. So, if we meet here together (outside Bella Centre), we discuss a 'document' - we can do that and then we can say 'oh, this is the agreement' - that's not so. We are 192 (countries) and of course sometimes in the UN we can agree that a group of countries can do something but we have to agree and we have to decide who - but we didn't decide that. We didn't say who were going to draft and now they have to do some kind of - I don't know how they are going to do it - they have to present this as the conclusion of an event where 192 countries are present.
So, we are going to have a part of the 'movie' going on this night. For us, the most important thing here is that Copenhagen was a success. Not here. Outside (cheers). Because there has been a lot of awareness, a lot of conscience, and now we have to build a very big movement. Things are not going to change in the negotiation if we don't have a strong social movement, a strong civil society mobilise in the street.
You know that the proposal of the Bolivian government - we want to organise a world-wide referendum in relation to climate change. And president Morales says lets think about the 22nd April - the international day of 'Mother Earth'. We want to see if we can organise this officially in some countries and with social movements and civil societies and environmentalists in the rest of the world. Because if we are able to demonstrate, in an action like a referendum, that we can mobilise fifty, one hundred million persons voting and saying 'this is the kind of agreement that we want' then the situation can change.
We have to put a lot of pressure here and I think what you have done was very great and, sometimes, you cannot win the first battle but we are going to win this war because it's the only way we can save our own lives and our Mother Earth.
So, thank you very much for coming here (cheers)"
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
I say "Denmark" rather than "Danish Police" as there seems to an air of acceptance here at the degree of control being applied by the forces of law and order. This evening there is news, following the inaugural outing of Denmark's sole water cannon in the streets around Christiania last night, that police have raided the "bike block" workshop and that plain clothes officers within the Bella Centre have arrested Tadzio Müller, spokesperson for Climate Justice Action, after he gave details of tomorrow's planned protests. This reminds me of the actions of Nottinghamshire police arresting hundreds of climate activists at a school on conspiracy charges, even though no action had taken place.
As the number of spaces within the Bella Centre for NGOs and observers is reduced this week (down to just 90 by Friday for the entire "Civil Society" delegation) fears are emerging that developed countries are simply dragging their feet. There's a long long way to go and just 3 days remaining. It's hard to understand how years of talks have lead to such a weak display of will in the face of such overwhelming evidence and acceptance of the need to act.
Thursday, 10 December 2009
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
Saturday, 5 December 2009
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
Perhaps the 5th November was a bad day to chose to watch my first live commons debate. Remember, remember, the 5th November. . . Today's security measures at the Palace of Westminster however would surely thwart any kind of gunpowder or its more modern equivalent and all forms of treason although perhaps plotting can still sneak a path through the X-Ray machines.
I padded up the softly carpeted staircase to find that the public gallery was already packed with Italian tourists and groups of schoolchildren. But, by the time Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Miliband rose at 12.15 to start the main business of the day, the commons benches were almost empty. I counted about MPs in the chamber. The press gallery was almost empty.
So, was this an obscure debate about glass manufacturing? An absorbing session on the finer points of parliamentary process? No. It was actually parliament's last scheduled debate on climate change before the much anticipated COP15 talks in
So why did I chose to sit in the tourist filled gallery to watch this debate when I could have seen it broadcast live at home? The remote controlled cameras in the commons chamber will only show you so much. They don’t show the galleries. They only show long shots of the chamber or who is speaking. Only by being there can you really see the level, or lack, of animation in the house as MPs stand to catch the Speaker’s attention. Only by being there can you watch as the row of impossibly young civil servants, perched on their own benches tucked behind the speaker’s chair, pass notes along a relay of backbenchers to those on the front bench. Only by sitting behind that huge glass screen can you see MPs slumped on benches, just one hour into what could be a 6 hour debate.
When Peter Lilley, Conservative MP for Hitchen and Harpenden, claimed that a survey completed by visitors to the Science Museum’s “Prove It” climate change exhibition "after they had been through the museum and seen the graphic evidence presented in the most persuasive way possible by the alarmists" showed that people who remained unconvinced of the dangers outnumbered those convinced by a ratio of 6:1, there was a flurry of note-passing but not a single challenge. Both front benches failed to point out to Mr Lilley, as had already been reported by the Daily Telegraph, that this was actually an online survey and that it had been "hijacked" by climate change sceptics. I'm certain that a concerted and determined campaign by the many organisations campaigning for action on climate change could easily reverse that ratio. In fact, when I last looked, the ratio was already down to 2.4:1 and falling.
I was left feeling disappointed that Mr Lilley wasn't picked up or challenged on this and that this now sits on the Hansard record. I had to fight the urge to knock on the big glass wall of the public gallery to make the point and couldn't get rid of the image of Benjamin Braddock hammering on the church wall in the final scdene of The Graduate. I could just image the snarling gritted teeth as I hammered away shouting "online survey! Hijacked by sceptics!"
I’m still waiting for Mr Lilley’s office to point me towards the Pew survey reported to show that “only 15% of the
In earlier "oral questions", Mr Miliband and Joan Ruddock looked exasperated and I leant forward on my bench as Mr Lilley, chose to attack "that" advert - the £6m "bedtime story" campaign that I've written about before and that is still the subject of an ongoing Advertising Standards Agency investigation. Mr Lilley describing it as a “propaganda film” focused on what he described as the “fairy story” depicted in the advert . It just goes to show that adverts like this present such an easy target for deniers, sceptics and those who are "luke warm", giving them a gift in that bedtime stories and fairy stories are so often one and the same thing.
The lack of MPs and the lack of press left me concerned that people could well be becoming getting weary of and hardened to the use of negative and doom-laden messages and images, such as those carried by the Act On CO2 TV campaign. It left me feeling that, as the
A new direction is needed if people are to become engaged and feel empowered. Hope and opportunity have a huge role to play and many groups are now trying to bypass the semantics of the science by focussing on a positive future and the huge opportunities it gives us to radically review the way we live.
John Gummer, summed this up nicely.
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Sunday, 18 October 2009
Thursday, 15 October 2009
I've written before about the challenges of motivating a change in behaviour and that challenge remains. I'm going to be in Copenhagen in December, documenting the stories of people outside of the main COP15 talks. These may be climate change deniers operating at the periphery. They might be representatives of communities already affected by the impact of climate change. What do I hope to achieve by being there? I hope to put across the range of motivators. What makes people decide to make the journey to Copenhagen? What are their hopes and fears for the COP15 fortnight?
I don't want to fly to Copenhagen. I've already forfeited a friend's wedding in Barcelona in the last year as part of my pledge to cut out short-haul flights. What's the cost of not flying? It's ridiculous! A £51 fare on EasyJet from London to Copenhagen is up against a £320 foot passenger ferry ticket from Harwich to Esbjerg (you get to share a cabin with five strangers for that tidy fare) or roughly £250 on various train tickets to get from St Pancras to Copenhagen. No wonder people opt to fly when the price scales are tipped so far in favour of budget air travel. How do you go about prizing people away from RyanAir (don't get me started) and EasyJet and onto high speed rail when ticket prices fail to reflect the TRUE environmental costs of air travel?
So, more posts coming soon - please keep reading. Generally on the theme of "what does it take to get people to take responsibility and take personal action" rather than "what should somebody else (generally a politician) do". Some great pieces on food security in Sunday's Observer Food Monthly to get you in the mood.
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
My mind wandered as he continued. One thing that I find slightly frustrating and perhaps counterproductive in attempts by many world leaders to stir up passion and action on climate change is their failure to talk openly about the thing that really motivates most of humankind to act. References to "saving our planet" and "saving the earth" unfortunately leave many people feeling disengaged and distanced. Some people will only ever engage with issues that they face directly each day and that obviously affect them personally. They will fail to see how "saving the planet" really has any relevance to their lives.
Don't get me wrong. I'm certainly not one of those people who thinks only of human survival. I believe passionately that we have a duty to look after the world we have inherited and to think about, understand and care about the impact we are having on the planet. But, I'm also realistic enough to recognise that this isn't what drives everyone. Many observers have recognised that bombarding people with messages of doom and destruction can leave us feeling powerless to act and to switch off, become defensive or even hostile.
Monday, 21 September 2009
Thursday, 10 September 2009
Image - Christian Aid
But how do you make something like loss of sea ice or the melting of the Greenland ice sheet tangible to a member of the public. How do the public relate to images of icebergs calving into the warming waters of the Arctic? How do such images relate to their lives and, more importantly, how do such images make people think about their own impact on global climate change or influence their behaviour? It's very easy to adopt a bear, ease your conscience, and then do nothing about your own CO2 emissions.
The new ad campaign from Christian Aid goes someway to connect familiar melting ice imagery with the direct impact climate change is already having on the lives of people all over the world. From the "Africa Iceberg" image to the latest "Cracked ice, Cracked Earth" image (shown here), Christian Aid are trying to focus our attention on the immediate impacts of climate change. Displacement of populations, failed, unseasonal or extreme rainfall, loss of livelihood. All of these things are happening now and the challenge is to persuade people to act before, as can often be the case with human nature, they feel catastrophic impacts of climate change themselves.
It's a challenge that photojournalists need to accept and I hope to help make that connection between our actions as individuals and the direct impact those actions are having on individuals somewhere else.
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
After earlier protests at RBS head office in Bishopsgate and at the offices of EON's PR agency Edelman, activists moved on to BP's HQ in St James Square before heading across the Hungerford Bridge to pay Shell a visit.
After speeches, several protestors climbed up onto the ledge above the main entrance. The "S" from Shell's sign was quickly removed leaving the building branded as "Hell Centre".
As campers returned to Blackheath this evening, some passing via the 10:10 campaign launch at Tate Modern, they will be hoping that today's actions have given their message a higher profile than it seems to have achieved over the past 5 days.
Today's Guardian editorial piece sums up the challenge ahead in persuading individuals, businesses, organisations and Governments to change their behaviour in order to avoid dangerous climate change: "All great causes involve a tension between collective belief and individual action".
Friday, 28 August 2009
This one on The Guardian's use of a Flickr site to try to capture free images from people inside the camp written by Jonathan Warren. Browse his site for other pieces on media access.
And this one on general media access to the camp from Marc Vallée.
The camps own media guidelines.
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
Several "swoop groups" assembled at significant points around London including the headquarters of Shell, the Bank of England and Stockwell Underground station.
I waited with the Stockwell "Blue" group as we all waited to hear of the final location for the camp. As noon came and went with no mass text received, news came in that other groups were on the move around London in an effort to create confusion over the site of the camp. Finally, after two hours of waiting, the message arrived and we headed from Stockwell to Greenwich station before walking up to Blackheath where the signature tripods were already up and the Herras fencing was almost complete.
With a commanding view of Canary Wharf, one of London's key financial hubs, the site will now serve as a base for a week of workshops, talks and actions. The climate at the camp this afternoon was one of well-organised and efficient activity - site maps became districts as tents, work spaces and composting toilets were assembled and tested. Bath tubs and kitchen sinks stood stranded, awaiting plumbing.
Something was missing - conspicuous by its absence. Policing. By the time I left the camp before this evening's 6pm media curfew, I'd seen about 10 police officers around the edge of the camp as well as couple of patrol cars. Even the late appearance of a police helicopter went almost unnoticed as it hovered about a mile to the east of the camp.
"This is so much easier than last year" a woman commented as she wheeled her bike around the zig-zag entrance barriers. A reference to the airport security style stop-and-search points operated by Kent Police at 2008's Kingsnorth camp. Her amazement was met by a cheeky "I can frisk you if you like!" from a fellow climate camper waiting at the gate.
The Met's soft policing policy appears to be playing out although today's statements about "letting the camp set up" peacefully still leave questions and doubts about how policing might change in the next seven days. How will the police respond if direct actions are launched from the camp?
With Climate Camp 2009 just a single 202 bus journey away from me this year and my recent camping plans for the Yorkshire Dales cut short by overflowing campsites, I'm tempted to join the camp and find out more about the plans for Copenhagen. Only 99 days to go now and early talks appear to have stalled over the developed nations' reluctance to act first.
Tuesday, 25 August 2009
It makes me realise just how easy it is for us - to leave Happisburgh behind and head to London and its perceived invincibility. There are vast areas of the world where the march of the sea inland goes completely unchecked and where the number of people displaced will be huge. Add in the potential sea level rises from the various climate forecast scenarios and the world will have to deal with migration of populations on a massive scale. London and other major cities may well experience what is happening right now in Bangladesh, Alaska and the Nile Delta.
A recent article in the Guardian's G2 magazine really summed up the impact of sea level rise, increasing salinity of groundwater and the fragility of water supplies, by looking at the Nile Delta. Jason Larkin's images help portray an area under serious threat and Jack Shenker's report really brings home how people might only wake up to the impact of climate change when they are personally touched by its consequences.
There will be more from Happisburgh and some latest images over the coming months.
Tuesday, 4 August 2009
In a statement read out on their behalf, they thanked everyone for their support and promised to speak directly to the media once all the protestors had left the plant and were reunited.
The rush back proved unnecessary as the now familiar faces of the "balcony boys" were spotted in their usual place. As the gathered red-green alliance digested the news that the occupiers could now be removed, there was some frustration and disagreement about what to do next. Union reps said that it was a workplace dispute and therefore up to those inside the plant to decide what happened next. Climate campaigners were keen to highlight the other key message of the campaign - that this is about Green Jobs and the UK's wind energy manufacturing capabilities.
Some confusion remained this evening about who was left inside the building. One unnamed workers opted to leave by a back exit but Chris Ash, Mike Godley and Seb Sikora emerged, after being searched by police, to an emotional reunion with families, friends and supporters.
As I crossed back to Portsmouth, the irony of this being Cowes Week was not lost on me - a week where everyone relies on the power of a free natural resource - the wind - to propell their boats. And a week that could also seal the closure of the UK's only wind turbine manufacturing facility. Other Vestas facilities are this evening being occupied so the story looks set to continue.
Monday, 3 August 2009
Members of Workers' Climate Action today glued themselves together to block the main entrance of the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in a show of support for the Vestas workers.
Vestas are due to resubmit papers to the court in Newport at 10am on Tuesday in a repeated attempt to evict remaining protesters from the factory. Attempts to serve notices last week were rejected by the judge as Vestas failed to present paperwork correctly.
Protesters are expected to gather for a march to and from the court. The workers in the factory have said that they will leave peacefully if Vestas secures the paperwork they need to evict them.
I will be in Newport on the Isle of Wight to follow the story and will be posting images on this blog.
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
So, it's with great interest that I'm following the ongoing occupation by 25 workers of the Vestas turbine blade manufacturing plant on the Isle of White. 625 "bright green" jobs are at risk on the island as Vestas plan to close the blade-making facility citing UK "regulatory and planning" obstacles to onshore wind as the main reason. 1,900 Vestas jobs could be lost across Northern Europe as "...conditions in Northern European markets have failed to meet expectations".
The "red-green" protest, named in recognition of the common ground established between unions and the environment movement, has attracted a huge amount of attention. It clearly highlights, as already experienced by the UK solar industry, how inconsistent and poorly joined up policies can scupper a seemingly blooming sector. The protest looks set to become a major demonstration over the weekend as numbers are swelled by the arrival of further environmental activists and people who were planning to attend the now-cancelled Big Green Gathering in Somerset. A legal move by Vestas to evict the workers has just been adjourned until 4th August giving more time for protests to grow.
Vestas have stated that the UK plant manufactures blades for the huge US onshore market where large scale wind farm developments are being built (BP claim to be developing a wind farm in Texas the size of Berkshire) and that it makes sense sense to shift production closer to the market. An original 2008 plan to convert the Isle Of Wight plant to produce larger 44 metre blades more suited to UK onshore and offshore turbines has now been halted.
It seems crazy, when the UK has one of the best wind resources in the world and a Government that has announced a huge programme of offshore windfarm development, that the workers at Vestas have to take this kind of action. These are workers equipped with precisely the skills that will be needed to help the UK Governemt fulfil its 2020 renewables target. Vestas, in their latest press release, have left the door ajar for 150 research and development jobs at the plant. As far as large scale manufacturing is concerned, they appear to be adopting a "wait and see" approach until the UK develops into a "strong and stable market".
As usual, it is the renewables industry and, more importantly, the green-collar workers employed in the industry, that have to deal with the uncertainty of inconsistent policy and mixed messages.
There is now a petition on the 10 Downing Street website in support of the Vestas workers.
Wednesday, 15 July 2009
Mid-term targets, missing from the G8 leaders' declaration, include a 34% cut in CO2 emissions from 1990 levels by 2020 as well as generating 15% of our energy from renewable sources by the same date.
The transition plan was accompanied by three key planning and strategy documents:
- The Low Carbon Industrial Strategy
- The Renewable Energy Strategy
- The Low Carbon Transport Plan
Monday, 13 July 2009
The latest stage of improvements to TfL's Overground services began earlier today as the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, helped to deliver the first of the new 'walk-through' trains that will be soon be arriving in Crystal Palace.
The extension of the old East London Line to Crystal Palace is scheduled for completion in June 2010 with four trains per hour running from Crystal Palace to Highbury and Islington.
Friday, 10 July 2009
Observers are already highlighting the key shortcomings of the declaration as a lack of interim or mid-term emissions targets; the failure to establish a clear road map to achieving 2050 targets and a lack of agreement on the baseline date for controlling emissions (ranging from 1990 to 2006).
Despite the G8 declaration, Canada has already stated that it will stick to its original plan of 60 to 70% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, compared with the G8's 80% declared ambition.
The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has also criticised G8 leaders for failing to identify interim 2020 emissions targets.
Thursday, 9 July 2009
Waiting for the full announcement but not filled with hope that it will lead to smooth or productive discussions in September or, ultimately, result in a workable and effective protocol in Copenhagen in December.
See G8 official website for declaration (Paragraphs 60+ relate to climate change and clean energy):
The people who live along the river are used to its rise and fall through wet and dry seasons and have adapted to the seasonal floods that shift its course and enrich the flood plains with nutrients to grow crops. Rituals and ceremonies associated with the river are embedded in local culture and people are used to having to move away to allow the Zambezi to do its work in late March and early April.
But rainfall in recent years has become more erratic and the communities living alongside the river as it snakes through western Zambia are now feeling the effects of climate change. More than 30 people died in just small part of this region when the floods arrived early and with great force. This is just one small example of how communities and countries who make the smallest contribution to global emmissions of greenhouse gasses are quite often the first to be on the receiving end of the resulting impacts.
Coverage of the recent early floods near Mongu can be found at:
I plan to use this blog to highlight other stories like this, remotely from my desk in London or in person from the scenes, and to bring home the impact that climate change is already having on populations around the world.