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ENVIRONMENT: Sun Greets “Flood for Climate Justice”

COPENHAGEN, Dec 12 2009 (IPS) - The sun came out in Copenhagen Saturday for the first time this week. But even though its rays were too weak to temper the bone-chilling cold, it shone brightly over the 5,000 people who braved the weather to participate in a demonstration organised by Friends of the Earth International (FOEI).

March in Copenhagen urging world political leaders to stop talking and act now.  Credit: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

March in Copenhagen urging world political leaders to stop talking and act now. Credit: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

“Flood for Climate Justice” was the slogan that gathered activists from more than 20 countries around the world, and from a wide range of social, women’s, peasant and environmental organisations, along with dozens of young local people, who came out to voice their opposition to the carbon offsetting “solution.”

Demonstrators brandished signs calling for “Climate Justice Now!” and warning that “There’s No Planet B” and “This Is a Matter of Life or Death”. Other signs praised Tuvalu, the tiny South Pacific island state that presented a proposal Thursday demanding that the climate change conference adopt an agreement with firmer commitments to reduce the CO2 emissions that are responsible for global warming.

The march took off from the venue of the Klimaforum09, the civil society conference held parallel to the 15th Conference of Parties (COP-15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, as activists were rallied by words from FOEI chair Nnimmo Bassey, Henry Saragih, general coordinator of the global network of rural workers’ movements Vía Campesina, and Amparo Miciano, Philippines national coordinator for the World March of Women.

“Carbon offsetting has no benefits for the climate or for developing countries – it only benefits developed countries, carbon speculators and major polluters who want to continue business as usual,” Bassey said.

“Friends of the Earth International denounces carbon offsetting as a false solution to the climate crisis, and urges governments to search for fair and sustainable solutions,” he added.

Carbon offsetting allows companies and countries to write their greenhouse gas emissions off as reductions by financing clean projects in other countries. The argument is that such projects will offset CO2 emissions that the financing countries continue to spew into the atmosphere.

The scheme is complemented by the sale of rights or certificates of emission in the carbon market.

Thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets of Copenhagen, many of them dressed in blue, plastic ponchos, led by a string of drums beating out Candombe, an Afro-Uruguayan rhythm, played by members of the Latin American community from neighbouring Sweden.

Spearheading the march was a large sign displaying the face of U.S. President Barack Obama, with the phrase “Hope hagen” underneath – a play on words that alluded to Obama’s appeal to hope during his presidential campaign, and the name of the climate summit host city.

Speaking to TerraViva, several activists, including the French agricultural unionist Jose Bove, expressed their satisfaction with some of Obama’s positions, but called on Washington to take more concrete action to combat climate change.

Obama is to attend the COP15 closing summit on Dec. 18.

Heavily guarded by security forces, including a helicopter that followed the mobilisation from above, the demonstrators marched up to the seat of the Danish Parliament, where they made a giant human sign forming the words “Offsetting Is a False Solution.”

* This story appears in the IPS TerraViva online daily published for the COP 15 at Copenhagen.

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