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Happy New Year

Frosty CATAfter the well-deserved Christmas break,  CAT staff began trickling back into the offices today, picking there way though the icy puddles that have descended on Llwyngwern quarry. Minus 11 temperatures have meant that all CAT’s cold water pipes are frozen and at the Quarry café in town the pipes have burst. Still the sun is shining and in top office we started the new year with a big office clean.

2010 is a big year for CAT; the multi million pound Wales Institute for Sustainable Development will be opening in spring and will see a packed programme of courses, conferences and events. CAT’s ground breaking report Zero Carbon Britain 2 will be released, setting out a clear policy framework for a rapid decarbonisation of the UK by 2030. The visitors centre circuit will reopen on March the 27th after being revamped, jiggled around and remodeled.

As well as these events CAT will continue to run courses on a wide range of topics and the graduate school continues to thrive. 2010 is also an important year for the climate, rapid action is needed if we are to avert the worst effects of climate change and stay below a 1.5 degree temperature rise.  At CAT we hope to continue to inspire, inform and enable people towards practical solutions for sustainable living.

Happy New Year and we hope to see you soon

No deal in Copenhagen

There was no deal in Copenhagen, don’t believe the hype, it was a total, chaotic failure. Every leader and delegation that was present knows that the world faces environmental catastrophe if they do not act now on climate change. The UN process was unable to find a way forward and the process failed to produce anything meaningful.

What happened in the closing hours of the climate talks is vital in understanding the imbalances of the world we are living in. On the 18th of December, the plenary hall podium was given to Obama, he selected 16 guests who would have the exclusive right to speak. The rest of the world’s countries had only the right to sit and listen. The following press conference announced to the world that the US-led climate deal was agreed upon, it was called the Copenhagen accord and would limit temperature rises to less than 2C. CNN announced a breakthrough and world headlines screamed “ meaningful agreement.”

But there had been no agreement in Copenhagen; it was far from a done deal. Ministers and delegations were still sitting around the tables arguing until the next morning. At the final plenary, the chair of the discussions Rasmussen introduced Obama’s Copenhagen Accord in glowing terms saying that it had been produced by a “representative group of leaders from all countries around the world.” He then attempted to limit responses to 60 minutes- it was at that point that Venezuela started banging on the desk demanding to be heard, followed quickly by Bolivia, Sudan, Cuba and Tuvalu- refusing the accept the so- called “deal.”

As the climate chaos website states “ This mess is largely down to the actions of some industrialised countries – the arrogance of a few powerful leaders who took over and twisted the negotiations to their particular needs is truly astounding.” As Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, stated last night, “If the climate were a bank, they would have bailed it out already.”

So where now?

Copenhagen was a bitter disappointment for many, it was heart breaking to see the despair in the faces of friends made over the two weeks in Copenhagen as the news came in about the lack of deal. For many from the Alliance of Small Island States, Maldives or Africa this COP was about the survival of their country and peoples in the face of climate change. It is clear that solutions exist to the climate crisis, many of the side events, workshops and presentations that took place during COP15 showed positive and real things that can be done here and now. The Centre for Alternative Technologies report Zero Carbon Britain is one such solution. The report outlines clearly how we can rapidly decarbonise the UK by 2030.

At the Klimaforuma a declaration entitled “System Change – Not Climate Change was produced, “What people and the planet need is a just and sustainable transition of our societies to a form that will ensure the rights of life and dignity of all people and deliver a more fertile planet and more fulfilling lives to present and future generations,” it states. The signatory organisations called on governments to take urgent climate action, most importantly the “complete abandonment of fossil fuels within the next 30 years, which must include specific milestones for every five-year period.”

Continue reading “No deal in Copenhagen”

Finding Hope in No-Hopenhagen – Kelvin Mason

Worse than hopeless

First prize in the COP15 Greenwash Awards must go to Siemens and Coca-Cola for branding the host city ‘Hopenhagen’. In the centre of Copenhagen Siemens set up their faux city, brightly lit in a mendacious green. There they extolled the virtues of a range of unsustainable technologies from super-fast electric sports cars to bio-fuels. Coke posters proclaim the mega-corp’s sugar and exploitation suffused product as ‘Hope in a Bottle!’ Hopenhagen makes one sick, literally.

There was never any hope of mitigating climate change or attaining climate justice via COP15. The nature and scale of the political, economic and social transformation required would have meant world leaders meeting in the Bella Centre consigning both capitalism and themselves to the dustbin of history. Even the most optimistic deal initially on the table would not have been enough, and what was handed down was much less: unabated environmental destruction across the world for generations to come. ‘Fiasco’ was the dominant summary of expert commentators in Denmark.

Without wishing to otherwise criticise their warrior-like efforts, the second most hopeless slogan at COP15 belonged to Greenpeace: Politicians talk, Leaders act. Yes, indeed. History reveals that national leaders across the world have a solid record of taking action, regularly acting to perpetuate social injustice, war and environmental degradation.

A little way down the Christmas consumer packed high-street from Hopenhagen there was ‘Brad Pitt Saves Planet Earth’, the emblazoned golden casting caravan for a movie that, apparently with no hint of irony, will feature what it says on the can (sic). There too was a melting polar bear made of ice and sponsored by Panasonic, who also missed the irony of routinely building stand-by lights into their electronic equipment.

The brutal policing of protests that were predominantly peaceful and creative was shocking. Police readily handed out what the Danish press delightedly termed ‘baton soup’. At the slightest provocation, Police kettled protestors and used tear gas and pepper spray. Agent-provocateurs mingled with protesters and there were numerous reports of them fermenting conflict. Police used the ‘Rascal Package’, legislation rushed through to justify draconian measures against climate activists, laws previously rejected as anti-terror measures. Stripped of their shoes and jackets, people were imprisoned in wire cages in freezing conditions without access to either toilets or a telephone. With their hands cable-tied behind their backs, some arrestees experienced the indignity and discomfort of wetting themselves.

Meanwhile, most of the mainstream media rewrote the same old stories, caring nothing about the quest for new truths or whether the colour in them came from the protesters’ Santa suits or their blood: wildly red is widely read is all.

Around 1 500 people were arrested during COP15. Arguably, the most hopeless indication of all for humanity was that the press reported sixty-percent of Danes approved of the Rascal Package. Add to that the fact that even the most popular and peaceful public rally at COP15 attracted – at the very most – 100,000 people (there are some five and a half million Danes, most surely with some stake in the future) and so it goes: wonderful, wonderful Hopenhagen.


Qualitatively, if not in terms of limits to temperature rise or concentrations of greenhouse gases, there was hope around COP15. For a start, all those who put their efforts into the creative resistance of Climate Justice Action and the alternative Klimaforum09 did a great job: the organisers, the facilitators, the cooks, the first-aiders, the legal observers… Everyone. There were numerous affinity group actions as part of CJA, involving a diversity from penguins through Santas and Rebel Clowns to academics holding a seminar while blockading a coal-fired power station.

CJA’s bike bloc aimed to, ‘Put the fun between your legs’ for fast and flexible direct action. Upwards of two hundred bicycles must have been reclaimed and repaired in Copenhagen. The fact that the police carried out raids looking for ‘The Resistance Machine’, a pedal powered leviathan that will live forever in the heads of many – protesters and police alike – is a glimmering tribute to the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination (Dear Police, please note, the clue was in the name!)

Christiania, the semi-autonomous anarchist community in the centre of Copenhagen provided inspiring succour and sanctuary for both protestors and participants in its Climate Bottom meeting (an antidote to the Top Meeting of ‘leaders’ in the Bella Centre). Already besieged by a hostile state, Christiania’s residents acted with the utmost courage and compassion towards its visitors, in sharp contrast to the ‘welcome’ extended by Danish Society as a whole.

Hoping against hope

CJA is looking for feedback. Perhaps, although our resistance is always creative and emotionally powerful, for COP16 in Mexico we should consider more radically changing reality? As crises deepen, which they will, following the circus of capitalism and its road-show of pseudo democracy around the world becomes increasingly unproductive. Drawing on all our knowledge and experience, maybe we should go to anywhere but Mexico. If we mobilised 100,000 people to act more locally in trans-local solidarity, to provide much needed help to eco-villages, social centres, low-impact developments, refugee camps, and other projects that could stand out as good examples of just environmental and social practice, well, what a wonderful world it could be.

More information

Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination  http://www.labofii.net/
Climate Justice Action  http://www.climate-justice-action.org/
Klimaforum  http://www.klimaforum09.org/
Christiania  http://www.christiania.org/

Climate talks will fail.

It’s difficult to know where to start, its definitely more confusing than when COP15 started- so we will do it geographically and go from inside the Bella of the beast to the streets outside. The 16th of December saw chaos inside COP15, the day was checkered with sit-down protests and delegate walkouts as the probable outcomes of the climate talks became apparent. The three main blocks that form the climate talks – rich countries, major developing economies, and small island states – said they had given up on getting a substantive deal.

Yesterday civil society groups were excluded from participating in the Bella centre, particularly Friends of the Earth (FOE) who were physically removed from the building- whilst press were barred from talking to them. Outside at the NGO briefing this morning held at the Klima forum ( the parallel civil society event) NGO heads said, “ It is a strategy to silence dissenting voices within the Bella Centre.” FOE US say that with two days left of COP15 the developed countries are trying to pin the fault of the failure of the negotiations onto developing countries- particularly China and India. Meanwhile the US, UK and EU are attempting to buy off the developing countries. A clear example of this has been France and the UK lobbying Ethiopia very hard to support the proposed EU package by committing 100 million euros to the Ethiopian economy. Sounds good in principal, but the UN reckons that 500-600 million dollars is needed to deal with the effect of climate change in Ethiopia. The Africa group and development NGO’s are furious with the under hand tactic being played by the US, UK and EU by putting pressure on leaders of developing countries. Last night the Ethiopian prime minister supported the EU package.

Up till now there has been a two-track negotiation process– the Kyoto track and the Long term Cooperation Action (LCA) track. Developing countries want to hang onto the Kyoto protocol to ensure that developed countries are legally bound to reduce emissions. Developed countries, led by the US are looking to collapse the two track system and replace it with the LCA- which means emissions reductions will be essentially voluntary. The Danish hosts are working on a compromise between the US and EU, excluding developing countries from the process. At the Klima forum briefing a spokesperson declared that

“ It’s not a summit, it’s not a convention about climate change- do not believe that the people inside are negotiating for a climate solution – it’s a finance and energy summit”

The Bolivian delegation headed by Evo Morales are equally disillusioned by the process, Cristian Dominguez from the delegation had this to say:

“We were hopeful and had faith that the conference would lead to some thing positive, but this process has not been positive, it has no feelings. But we have faith, no body is going to sign anything that goes against the rights of mother earth and against humanity. Africa has been doing an amazing work defending their rights, mother earth and humanity. There has been a huge sacrifice from the people protesting in the name of the climate and democracy – yesterday massacred on the streets and arrested. The next climate talks will be In Mexico and it is there we will fight because it is our lands. We will prepare our selves well. We have lost in Copenhagen with the governments in the Bella conference centre. “

Outside snow has fallen in Copenhagen and the streets are white with fresh snow. Yesterday people again took to the streets to hold a Peoples Assembly where voices of those who are not being heard inside the Bella Conference centre could be heard. They met with resistance from the police who beat back protestors using pepper spray and batons. Delegates who were attempting to leave the conference centre to support those outside were also beaten with batons. Four media spokespeople for the Climate Justice Action Network have been arrested and are being held on remand.

For many they came to Copenhagen full of hope, but with less than 48 hours to go for world leaders to make a deal, that hope is rapidly failing. The Alliance of Small Island states said this morning “ no deal is better than a bad deal.” However amongst the chaos and collapse in the Klimaforum and the spaces outside the Bella conference centre, the green shoots of success are apparent, there is no deal on climate change because there can’t be- what’s on the table at the moment would be environmental suicide for many developing countries. We have heard over the last 10 days from hundreds of groups proposing solutions for a fair, just and effective climate deal – those groups have been building links, networking and forging new ways of working. It is in these that citizens of the world will have to place their faith.

Tick Tick Tick….

The number of secondary passes is now so low, that I am on my way home. By train it’s 24 hours, but that includes a reasonable nights sleep on the Copenhagen to Cologne night train. Over the 10 days the CAT team have been here, we have distributed two thousand leaflets inviting delegates to download the Zero Carbon Britain ‘Copenhagen Special’ report, we have given four TV interviews, two radio interviews, I presented at two side events, and personally offered a copy of the report, or an invitation to download it to every single country delegation.

Together with members of the International Forum for Sustainable Energy, CAT has continually staffed two information stalls, one in the Bella Centre, the main negotiating hall and one in the ‘Klimaforum’ event for civil society. We have literally talked to hundreds of people, making the point clearly and repeatedly that the barriers to agreement at COP15 do not arise from the technology; we know we have the means to change – our limits are social and political. I believe we made an impact. But as well as presenting what we have learned, we have re-vitalised links with old friends, made many new contacts, and explored grounds for future collaborations with others organisations doing similar work.

I must admit I leave with some feeling of apprehension, particularly with the resignation of Connie Hedegaard as president of the summit. If we don’t shape up and pull something solid out of this, its hard to see where the process can go next to deliver what is needed fast enough. We are beyond the limits to growth, it is now a simple race against time. The first ticking clock is the expiry of the hard-won Kyoto protocol, which took a lot of effort to reach, and still offers a viable platform for moving forward. The second ticking clock is the on-going breakdown of the earth’s climate systems, as peak oil now drives us in desperation to dirtier and dirtier fuels. I saw Al Gore personally presenting his most recent work on ice melt, and it is very sobering stuff.

But the third ticking clock is the thinning patience of the majority world. COP15 had a very different mood to its predecessor in Poland. Although majority world delegates and observers were courteous, respectful of the process, I felt there was a rising fear, anger and exasperation in their voices, as they told first hand experiences of losing land, livelihoods and even their families to the ever advancing effects of climate chaos.

But I also leave with a deep and renewed sense of connection. I have met hundreds of inspiring people from projects all across the globe; individuals, communities and organisations that have not waited for their leaders to catch up with the science. There are literally millions upon millions of people from every walk of life, from every continent on earth, working for change. There is an emerging ‘ecosystem’ of activity; some documenting the problems, others monitoring and conveying the effects, yet more working on solutions, each focussed on filling their own particular niche, but aware of being part of a larger whole. I was extremely proud how many people I met had heard of CAT, and had taken inspiration from us at some point in their path. I was even more surprised how many ex-staff, volunteers and students I ran into along the way.

So whatever happens over the final three days, it’s defiantly ‘gloves off’ now and into action for the final chapter. We have the technologies; we even have (at long last) a feed in tariff. We recently have achieved access to media and campaigning tools undreamt of when I began as a peace and anti-nuclear activist in the late 1970s. There are more of us than there have ever been before, and it’s never been easier for us to find each other.

The science says we must, the technology says we can, now lets go do it!

Don’t follow the waving gloved hand.

News Update: World Leaders arrive in Copenhagen today signalling the UN conference is gearing up for make-or-break finale. World leaders “face a defining moment in history”, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said as the Copenhagen conference formally entered its high-level stage CAT ran a very successful Zero Carbon event at the Klimaforum last night alongside Christine Milne from the Australian Greens, Gunner Boyle from INFORSE.

There has been so much news in Copenhagen today; I hardly know quite
where to start. For starters, last night saw a major a police
confrontation with the Christiania ‘independent community’. The Danes
have a general belief in tolerance and for many decades Christiania
has enjoyed widespread support from the local community to manage
their own affairs. As our accommodation was near the opera house, and
we had to pass Christiania on the way, my Slovakian colleague and I
called in around 10pm to have a take a look around the climate
exhibition and discussion forum they had on offer. We spent nearly an
hour looking around, there was music, people chatting, food, and
drink, but nothing out of the ordinary, but moments after we exited
onto the main street to walk the 1/2 mile or so back to our flat we
ran into a black wall of Danish ‘politi’ moving slowly and silently
towards us. We smiled, waved our conference badges and walked
confidently through the advancing phalanx. Within minutes we saw
flames, heard crashes as the ‘politi’ moved in. I understand this is
only the second time they have moved in to Christiania on mass, which
like the ‘pre-emptive’ arrests at the weekend has proved highly
controversial, causing much discussion.

Similarly events at the Bella Centre have also been causing much
controversy. It was announced at the week-end that everyone would now
need new ‘secondary passes’ from Tuesday, and that there would only be
30% issued for first day, this would then drop rapidly day upon day
with virtually no one allowed in on Friday. In addition to this,
something in the delegate entry system went badly, badly wrong. On
Monday morning everyone was made to queue together from the Bella
Centre metro stop, so VIP’s, and party delegates urgently trying to
attend negotiations were wrapped up with new arrivals waiting to
register. I personally saw a very frustrated Nicolas Stern trapped in
the middle of a sea of very frustrated people, desperately trying to
explain to the security services he was already registered and was
needed urgently inside. I estimate it would have taken me three or
four hours to get in to the centre if I had joined that queue. Instead
I walked back along the road to the nearest traffic lights and waited
for the special COP15 bus, which I couldn’t help noticing was being
allowed to drive right up to the entrance, so its passengers allowed
straight in. Human logistics in not hard, the solution would have been
very simple; three entries, one for already registered delegates
(because they ‘DO’ actually have to be able to get in there to allow
the COP to function), one for already registered NGOs and observers,
and one for the great as yet un-registered’ masses. I heard today the
authorities had closed the Bella Metro station completely, that must
have really sent things crazy.

All in all, at both ends of the COP15 spectrum events seem to have
stirred up a lot of angst, frustration and controversy. Sadly this
has only served to distract the attention of the delegates, observers,
NGO,s environmentalists, media and general public away from the real
matter in hand. The drama of the past 24 hours is somewhat reminiscent
of the flamboyant gloved right hand of the magician, distracting and
diverting our attention from where the real action is.

Let’s hope we can all hold our cool, and keep our eye on the only real
game in town. Despite the drafts, blueprints and proposals, the COP15
climate conference is gripped by serious deadlock, with only day’s
left to make a quantum leap. The scale of the commitments to date pale
in to insignificance set against the scale of the rhetoric. So far, no
real leadership has emerged; so far negotiators have failed to agree
the financial aid for the majority world to cope with climate change,
nor the mechanisms for managing its equitable distribution. Even the
normally upbeat German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced her concern
about the pace of the negotiations saying “it’s Tuesday already and we
want to be done on Friday”. She also admitted to being “somewhat
nervous” about prospects of success.

Connie Hedegaard, Minister for COP15 summed up the mood very well in
her blog; “There are moments in history where the world can choose to
go down different paths. The COP15 Climate Conference in Copenhagen is
one of those defining moments: We can choose to go down the road
towards green prosperity and a more sustainable future. Or we can
choose a pathway to stalemate and do nothing about climate change
leaving an enormous bill for our kids and grand-kids to pay. It really
isn’t that hard a choice.”

Amidst the frenzy, we must remain calm and keep our focus squarely on
the urgent and binding duty of the political leaders, delegates and
heads of state to reach a real, evidence based, agreement capable of
keeping us all below that vital two degree threshold!
Paul Allen, 10:20 PM 15th Dec.

‘Real deal’ or ‘No deal’

The pace is now accelerating at COP15, as proceedings resume after a week-end which saw 100,000 people make a peaceful protest march to the negotiating hall, and 960 detained in a ‘pre-emptive arrest’ in advance of climate protests in the city centre. The week-end respite also saw the climax of the industry ‘Bright Green’ forum with Speakers ranging from US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to Dr. Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Whilst both speeches were eloquent and well received, they were both very much ‘as expected’ with neither pitching for the quantum leap which is clearly going to be required to deliver a real deal at Copenhagen.

As delegates returned to the ‘Bella Center’ in their droves today, now joined by ministers and heads of state/government; three broad camps have emerged. Those who want to improve upon Kyoto to ensure we keep below 2 degrees, those who want to extend it, and those who want to water it down so they can re-invent something new offering a softer ride for the long industrialized nations.

This morning CAT officially press-launched the provisional findings from the next phase of our Zero Carbon Britain research, with an invite to download it delivered to the delegats from every country attending. I was also offered an interview from the official on-line COP15 climate change TV to explain how we see the role of solutions scenarios helping forward the negotiations. You can view my interview at:


CAT’s aims for being here are three-fold. Firstly we want to show delegates from long industrialized countries that a great many solutions to climate security can also deliver energy security and long-term economic recovery. Through this path, we re-vitalize our economies, whilst also reducing emissions sufficiently to meet our historic obligations, so helping enable a global agreement. The employment and economic benefits stem from building the infrastructure, cultivate the skills and develop the enterprises that will be in increasing international demand over the next few decades.

Secondly we hope Zero Carbon Britain will encourage majority world delegates to continue to press for their rights to sustainable development, through showing the barriers to rapid western de-carbonisation are not technical or economic, but are social and political.

Finally, we want to learn. COP15 is a unique watering hole attracting radical thinkers from across the globe. CAT wants to learn from the vision of other, share notes, compare methodologies, swap knowledge & experience and build on-going networks with others working in the same sphere.

As the tension mounts during the coming week, and the political pressure for a deal rises, individuals, communities, climate groups, media and governments across the globe must all raise their voice in unison to make sure it is the ‘real deal’, grounded in what the science, rather than the politics demands.
Paul Allen, 4pm Monday 14th December

Half way through- and still a lot to do.

The COP15 climate talks in Copenhagen are not going well- for anyone. We are 7 days into the summit, there is a draft agreement on the table but it is no where near enough. A possible “Copenhagen Protocol” talks about cuts for developed nations of between 25 and 45 per cent by 2020, and calls on rich nations to pay their poorer cousins to reduce their emissions. But the draft is a long way from completion, littered with blanks where exact figures and dates have to be filled in.

Inside rich and poor countries have repeatedly clashed over the need to reduce greenhouse gases, with Africa and the small island states threatening to walk out unless the developed nations committed to deeper cuts. Despite being a summit for global co-operation the bad-tempered exchanges between negotiations reflect the tense atmosphere.

Neither are the scientists happy- the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes (IPCC), the UN-sponsored science network, recommends that reductions average in the 25-40-percent range to keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees C (3.6 F) above preindustrial levels and head off the worst of global warming. “I think it is clearly not enough,” the IPCC’s Thomas Stocker said of the numbers discussed here. “We are by far short of having security that the 2-degree target will be met.”

For the Alliance of Small Island States ( AOSIS) neither is the promise of attempting to keep reductions to two degrees enough. Island nations threatened by rising seas demanded at UN talks Friday that the world commit to preventing global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. AOSIS have also called for an ambitious 85-percent cut in global CO2 emissions by 2050. ,” Dessima Williams from AOSIS said “AOSIS members are at the front line of the devastating impacts of climate change of Grenada”

On Saturday the 12th 70,000 people took to the streets of Copenhagen to demand a just and effective climate deal. The protests were colourful, large and loud with people from all over the world marching side by side. However during the demonstrations police made over 900 “preventative arrests-” people who happened to be on the streets when the police closed in on sections of the demonstration. Reports from people recently released from Valby detention centre document inhumane conditions inside described as “just less than horrific”. The cages have been overcrowded and full for several hours so police have been handcuffing people to benches in the corridor. Some people have spent 5 hours handcuffed to benches without toilets, food or water.

The vibrant alternative to COP15, the Klimaforum continues apace outside with thousands of people, groups and organization packing out it’s halls for presentations and workshop on a huge variety of topics. A proposal from Klimaforum09 – representing 70 organisations from 92 countries – calls for a “system change” to a carbon-free economy by 2040 will be presented to government delegations on Tuesday. It rejects “false solutions” such as nuclear energy and argues for the “safe, clean, renewable and sustainable use of natural resources”. Dr Vandana Shiva who was one of the first to sign the declaration said “this is the declaration, which the Bella Center should be working on”,

Paul Quintos declaration spokes person said “We are pleased that in spite of the many different voices and views we have succeeded in our agreement on this important document. It has been created through an open and democratic dialogue between people and organisations from all over the world”

As we go into the last week of the climate talks and world leaders begin to arrive, hopes are still running high inside and outside COP15 for a just and effective climate deal- but there is a lot of work to be done.