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Copenhagen report VI Copenhagen report VI
by Euro Reporter
2009-12-14 07:07:40
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40,000 activists march on Copenhagen for climate justice

With only one week to go for the UN climate conference, thousands of demonstrators showed their concern for the environment yesterday (Saturday, December 12th) in the Danish capital of Copenhagen, site of the COP15 summit. Though many news sources such as CNN, the BBC, the Guardian and the London Times initially had the figure as ‘thousands’ or even ‘tens of thousands’, the southern Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan reported an impressive tally of 40,000 protesters. Sydsvenskan, which is headquartered only a short train ride over the sound from Copenhagen in the Swedish city of Malmö, referred to the demonstration as record setting. It also reports that the Danish police have arrested 700 climate activists on the streets of Copenhagen during the day. A few protesters threw stones at the police or through windows and some streets in Copenhagen were cordoned off.

As of Sunday, the Guardian reported that over ‘900 campaigners were arrested in Copenhagen last night as police were accused of overreacting to sporadic street violence’ But despite the arrests and pockets of violence, the climate march was largely peaceful. In fact, it has been described as something that brings out people who do not normally consider themselves activists or do not even belong to any environmental organizations. The concern for the environment and climate change is generally seen as a larger issue that cannot be ignored, even by usually complacent members of the public.

The Guardian calls the march and rally ‘the worlds largest ever protest about global warming’ and part of a global effort to ‘demand governments across the world agree a binding new global deal to tackle climate change.’ Environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace were out in full force as were many other organizations and individuals including former Irish president and UN high commissioner for human rights Mary Robinson, model Helena Christensen and actor Helen Baxendale.


Obama has no power to make climate deal: US lawmaker

US President Barack Obama is heading to the Copenhagen climate talks with empty promises on curbing US greenhouse gas emissions that he cannot fulfil, a top lawmaker said Sunday. “He doesn't have that power to do that. And people in other countries don't realize that," Republican Senator James Inhofe, a leading critic of global warming legislation, said on Sunday. Inhofe said he wanted to press the message home in the final week of the Copenhagen conference that Obama will not be able to follow through on a pledge to cut emissions by 17 percent by 2020 off 2005 levels as he will not get the necessary legislation through Congress.

"That's (the) reason I'm going, to make sure people in these other 191 countries know the president can't do that," Inhofe said. The House of Representatives in June narrowly approved a plan to cut carbon emissions along those lines, but the legislation is now stuck in the Senate, which is not going to take it up again until next year. It is likely to face stiff opposition from Republicans, who with their allies in big business, fear the costs of implementing emissions cuts will hit profit margins.

"It's dead on arrival at the floor," said Inhofe. "Everybody knows that.”And we're not going to have legislation. So it has to come down to what the president can do without legislation. And I think that is highly limited." But Democratic Congressman Ed Markey, the author of the House cap-and-trade bill, said he believed there was an impetus towards sealing a deal to curb emissions by imposing limits on industry. "There is real momentum now building for a bipartisan bill to pass through the United States Senate," he said. He disagreed with Inhofe saying the president had the authority to make commitments to tackle global warming now the administration has decreed that greenhouse gases endanger public health.


Hidden truth

The Copenhagen Climate Change Conference makes evident potential catastrophic effects of climate change, including its enormous economic and human tolls. It also clearly shows how poor nations in Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America and island states will suffer most from the inevitable floods, droughts and other weather disasters. But there’s more that needs to be made clear in Copenhagen. If we look closely, there’s a hidden truth with huge implications that we must bring to the attention of conference delegates to ensure that allocated funds actually protect those most vulnerable to these natural disasters.

Studies show that women are 14 times more likely to die in natural disasters. One heart-rending study of a Bangladesh flash flood found that 90 percent of casualties were female. Many factors contributed to this high casualty rate, all were avoidable. A woman’s role in this Southeast Asian nation, as in most of the Middle East and parts of Africa, is one of dependency — so of course; these Bangladeshi women were not taught to swim. But perhaps the most important factor was that they lived and died in a culture where women are so rigidly controlled that they aren’t permitted to leave their homes without being accompanied by a male family member. When the flash flood occurred, they sadly stayed and drowned.

Such cultural restrictions are inhuman, not only to women, but to children. Yet, their implications for any Copenhagen climate pacts are still generally ignored. Also ignored are studies showing that when women become involved in disaster-response planning and training there are far fewer casualties — not only of women, but of children and the elderly. One study even found no casualties when women engaged in disaster-response preparedness. It’s incumbent upon us to bring this information to the attention of U.N. officials such as Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and to official national delegations and nongovernmental groups attending the Copenhagen meeting.

In contributing funds for disaster training and response, the U.S. should insist that a sizable portion be given to women’s organizations. This is essential if our monies are to be used effectively and equitably. We can use the Copenhagen conference as a way of changing restrictive traditions that are egregious human-rights violations (forbidding persons to leave their home alone is a form of house arrest!). We can also help the U.N. carry through on its promise to institute gender architecture mainstreaming. This will promote equal partnership between men and women, and show that when we speak of democracy and human rights, we really mean it.

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