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.

Science says ‘we must’, technology says ‘we can’, it’s time to say ‘we will’

We now know our science says ‘we must’. The most recent evidence on climate change reveals a situation more urgent than had been expected, even by those who have been following it closely for decades. To foster international agreement to peak global emissions before 2017 and reduce to 80% by 2050, we must also make the point that the technology says ‘we can’.

There is great pressure for global leaders to make bold commitments to de-carbonisation, but there are also an increasing number of technology scenarios which not only show it is possible, but in a world where oil and gas production will soon peak and go into decline, it is also a very wise move.

Drawing on decades of practical experience, an increasing array of new technology deployment scenarios from a diverse range of sources clearly demonstrate how long-industrialised countries such as Germany, France, Denmark, Great Britain and even the USA can reduce emissions to levels fully compliant with keeping below 2oC.

New scenarios such as ZeroCarbonBritain demonstrate how we can maintain high standards of well-being within a decreasing carbon budget that fully reflects the historic contribution of the long-industrialised countries and the rights of majority world to sustainable development. The following scenarios integrate detailed knowledge and experience from a wide range of disciplines to endorse urgent action.

Science says ‘we must’, technology says ‘we can’, COP 15 is possibly our last chance to say ‘we will’….


“The authors of ZeroCarbonBritain present a timescale for action that begins now. I commend their imagination (coupled with realism), their integrated view and their sense of urgency, as an inspiration to all who are grappling with the challenge that climate change is bringing to our world.”
Sir John Houghton, Former co-chair of the IPCC

Danish Text reverberates as Tuvalu call for suspension of the COP

Emotions are running high at the climate conference today as effects from the so called “Danish text’ continues to reverberate around the conference.

The danish text is a draft proposal for an international agreement  which proposes percentage-based emissions targets for all except the least developed countries, undermining the Kyoto Protocol, which draws a line between industrialised Annex 1 states and the Majority World. The text also suggests that financial and technological support measures in non-Annex 1 countries, an underlying principle of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), “should now be made conditional to their ability to meet complex emissions monitoring requirements.”

Whilst the UNFCCC attempted implement serious damage limitation- Lumumba Di-Aping, Sudanese by birth and chief negotiator of the G7 said this “We have been asked to sign a suicide pact.”

Adam Welz’s Weblog says this “ He did not start his speech immediately. Instead he sat silently, tears rolling down his face. He put his head in his hands and said the room was frozen into silence, shocked by the sight of a powerful negotiator, an African elder if you like, exhibiting such strong emotion. He apologised to the audience, but said that in his part of Sudan it was “better to stand and cry than to walk away.”

Meanwhile negotiations continue – News just in (11.52 UK time) is that the small island state of Tuvalu has called for a suspension of the COP process- more on this page as the drama unfolds.

Yes he can!

After weeks of decreasing expectations from Copenhagen, there has been a slightly increased air of optimism at the COP, a new feeling something big might actually happen after all. Amongst a range of new items on table, the US’s new options for dealing with CO2 pollution has got a lot of people talking.

One of the key reasons for the low expectations from the COP had revolved around the current US offer to deliver a 17% reduction below 2005 levels by 2020. Unfortunately, this works out at only 3% below the more common 1990 level baseline, which is less than 1/10 of the 25-40% reductions the science says is required to keep the earth below the critical 20C tipping point.

However, the strength of the science on the danger to public health and welfare from GHG emissions now means the US ‘clean air act’ can provide an existing mechanism for reducing GHGs, and requires US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to act. The EPA now recognises deep and rapid reductions are required to meet requirements for public safety.

It is important not to underestimate the scale of the political challenge ahead of him if he chooses to be brave and make the right choice, but it does mean the Presidents hands are not ‘legally tied’ as there is now strong case for adding GHGs to the six air pollutants already designated under the act.

Even within the US, there is a growing consensus that science says ‘we must’. Copenhagen COP 15 will certainly be President Obama’s best and possibly his last chance to say yes we can!

More details on the legal position from Type ‘yes he can’ into their site search box!

Paul Allen

Wonderful Wonderful Carbon Haven!

First published in the Red Pepper Online Version

Kim Bryan is mother to Neru (7 months), activist, media officer at the Centre for Alternative Technology and works with the Trapese popular education collective.

Am I mad for bringing my baby here I ask? When I booked the tickets It felt too important not to come- I wanted to be able to say to Neru in years to come “we were there,” – now I don’t know! I’ll tell you on the 18th whether it was the right decision or not. For now I am caught up in the wet, fascinating, confusing and frenzied excitement that is Carbon- Hagen. I am here to promote CAT’s groundbreaking project Zero Carbon Britain report. Which shows how we can rapidly decarbonise society to zero carbon by 2030 without nuclear energy! We are presenting the report on Thursday 10th and Tuesday 15th of December at the Klimaforum09. I am also here to give workshops with Trapese on popular education and it’s role in inspiring social change and to take part in the myriad of events that are taking place due to COP15.

Carbonhagen has the potential to do something different and whilst it is highly unlikely that any climate deal will come out of it (and that is probably a good thing) the new voices that the AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States) Africa Group and ALBA group (Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean have found could make for a very interesting conference….

As COP15 opened the AOSIS gave an amazing statement –`’we are here to negotiate our survival and we are not going to compromise on that- because we can’t.” AOSIS have already threatened to walk out if the climate deal does result in a far-reaching deal, which does not return atmospheric concentrations to below 350 CO2e. During pre talks held in Barcelona in October the Africa group walked out and called for negotiations to be suspended until there was substantial advancement on Annex 1 (rich countries) agreeing to a binding national emissions reduction targets. The G77/China climate group-130 countries whose main position is that rich countries should accept their historical responsibility for climate change gave considerable support for the Africa group. According to some sources a lot of diplomatic pressure was put on African leaders to back down from their position. Unfortunately reflecting the nature of such conferences with rich countries using back door methods and every available channel to deliver out comes in line with their interests. Sources expect that this type of behind the scenes lobbying will have a huge impact in Carbonhagen and weaken Africa group resolve. That does not mean that Africa won’t walk out again!

“We are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threaten to be another rape of the continent.” Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, 3/9/09

The ALBA group is a coalition of Latin American and Caribbean countries who together represent 73 million people- they have joined forces to call for climate justice and the defence of the rights of the Earth, calling on developed countries to recognise the “climate debt” caused by their historical carbon emissions. Evo Morales, who has just been reelected as the Bolivian president is no stranger to upsetting international meetings of this kind and won’t think twice about walking out.

Cuba’s Fidel Castro also spelt out clearly that Copenhagen will not be just green wash and business as usual “The capitalist system is not only oppressing and plundering our countries; the wealthiest industrial nations wish to impose to the rest of the world the bulk of the burden in the struggle on climate change. Who are they trying to fool with that? In Copenhagen, the ALBA and the Third World countries will be struggling for the survival of the species.”

There is huge pressure on the COP to deliver solutions and so far the possible outcomes look something like this.

  • No agreement/ collapse
  • Greenwash ‘a decision to make a decision’
  • Political implementing agreement- that is not legally binding
  • A single new legally binding agreement ‘Copenhagen Protocol’
  • Breakthrough two protocols one that improves on what has already been agreed and the other that is legally binding and takes us forward to a brighter future- most developing nations want this option

But it’s looking like no deal would be the best deal in Copenhagen. As Jim Hansen the world’s pre-eminent climate scientist, said any agreement likely to emerge from the negotiations would be so deeply flawed that it would be better to start again from scratch. “I would rather it not happen if people accept that as being the right track because it’s a disaster track,” said Hansen, who heads the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. Hansen is vehemently anti carbon market- up until now the COP’s have been defined by the promotion of false solutions like carbon trading and offsetting and the sidelining of the people most impacted by climate change in the talks.

With the activists gearing up outside and developing countries in no mood for compromise – climate justice is definitely on the agenda this time round.

First Impressions

Good COP, bad COP?

I have now arrived at the 15th UN Conference of the Parties (COP15) in
Copenhagen to present Zero Carbon Britain,to help illuminate the path
ahead. I spent 9 hours yesterday in a meeting of activists from across
the globe to explore what are we all doing here, and how we can best
have an effect?

The key task at hand must be to negotiate a global agreement that
prevents ‘serious runaway climate chaos’. To achieve this, the
overwhelming majority of science tells us we must keep the global
average temperature increase over pre-industrial levels to ‘below 2oC.
Again, the science is clear, to accomplished this we must:

• Return atmospheric concentrations to below 350 CO2e
• Peak global emissions within 2013-2017 period
• Reduce global emissions by 80% before 2050

These overall aims are straightforward enough; the key aspect on the
negotiations is going to be how do we share out the labour of
achieving them. To have any hope of acceptance by the majority world
nations, negotiators must find a path for achieving this in a way that
fully reflects the historic contribution of the long-industrialised
countries and the rights of majority world to sustainable development.

Twenty percent of the global population have created 75% of the
problem by burning fossil fuels over the past 150 years to construct
the basic human infrastructure such as schools, railways and hospitals
we in the developed west enjoy today. Having seen the benefits, the
majority world also now would like to claim their basic human rights
to the benefits of such infrastructure. So if we are to achieve the
required 80% reduction in global emissions before 2050:

• Industrialised countries must reduce 40% below 1990 by 2020
(including emissions from land use, forest & peat-land degradation)
• Emissions from deforestation and soil degradation must be reduced to
zero by 2020, (cost estimate: $35billion per year from developed
• Developing countries must be supported to cope with the effects of
climate change currently in the system (cost estimate £100
billion/year) and to limit growth in industrial emissions (cost
estimate £95 billion/year)

So to achieve success in the overall goal, ‘new money’ is going to
have to change hands for climate reparations, and the mechanisms for
managing and accounting for that money are going to have to be
exceedingly clear, and transparent. As the public and political
pressure to ‘achieve a result’ is going to be really high over the
coming 10 days, it is not only vitally important that negotiations
stick to the demands defined by the science, but also that they ensure
that double counting is avoided at all times. This will mean that the
mechanisms established to oversee both the carbon and fiscal
accounting ensure:

• It is not possible to count the carbon emissions in offsets twice
(i.e. by the ‘donor’ and by the ‘recipient’ countries).
• It is not possible not count ‘offset monies’ as the new monies for
the climate reparations.
• Existing overseas developments budgets are not confused with the new
monies allocated for climate reparations.

So all eyes are now on those gathering in Copenhagen to see what will
happen. Clearly the pressures for an agreement run high, and countries
have been laying out their offerings and jostling for position. The EU
has been likened to an aging ‘climate wrestler’, doped up with
offsets, a record of bribing referees and backed by 27 different
trainers and coaches who don’t always see eye to eye. As the long
reigning champion, the EU keen to see the end of the match whilst
still in the lead. Meanwhile some new heavyweights have been
approaching the ring, including Brazil, China, India, South Africa and
the USA, who is fighting with one hand tied behind his back by the
‘ghost of Kyoto’ (where the US initially supported a protocol, then
found there was not the political will back home to ratify it).

Despite much talk form all sides on agreeing with the need to be
‘compliant with a 2 degree pathway’, so far, those in the ring have
been gearing up for 20% and perhaps even 30% reductions by 2020, on a
strictly ‘I will if you will’ basis, but no one is yet talking of the
40% which is actually required to do the job. So if no one is yet
offering what is actually needed, politically the options are
‘greenwash’ verses ‘delay’. Clearly green wash will not be acceptable,
so delay looks a hot favourite. But delay itself is not an outcome,
but the prelude to some future outcome; stalemate, collapse, greenwash
or even success. So far, the front-runner to get our leaders off the
hook looks a bit like buying a big shiny new 4×4 on credit: we get
agreement to make the 1st big down payment immediately, plus the
promise to reach some future consensus on a legally binding and
on-going payment commitment.

So will COP 15 it be a good COP or and bad COP? Clearly it is going to
be a fine line balancing the short-term political survival of global
leaders with the long-term literal survival of many species and
communities around the globe. The things to keep your eyes on are
closing the loopholes, and locking in the longer-term commitments.

I must now go and find the parcels of leaflets, and reports we have
had posted to Copenhagen and set up the stall in the negotiating hall.
I will keep you posted as events unfold….

Paul Allen, 7am Monday 7th December 2009.
First Fi

Carbonhagen here we come!

Paul Allen, Kim Bryan , Tanya Hawkes and Alex Randall from The Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth set off today to Denmark – via Saturday’s massive WAVE demonstration in London. They are going to Copenhagen to promote the second edition of Zero Carbon Britain (ZCB) and participate in the myriad of workshops and events that are taking place as part of COP15- The United Nations Climate Change Conference.

ZCB is a positive, realistic policy framework that is grounded in the latest climate science and devised from extensive research by leading experts in climate change. It provides political and economic solutions to the urgent challenges raised by climate science. Alex Randall speaking on behalf of CAT said:

“ We are going to Copenhagen with something positive that shows how we can rapidly decarbonise- COP 15 represents a unique opportunity for us to get the report (Zero Carbon Britain) out there, The science says we must take action on climate change, existing technology says we can- it is time to say that we will.”

Blog updates from inside and outside the conference will be posted here daily- watch this space

CAT in Copenhagen Continue reading “Carbonhagen here we come!”

Lunch in WISE

Participants of the Artists in Transition conference that took place at CAT today enjoyed a 1st, with lunch served in the WISE building. An early handover of the restaurant extension meant that the sumptuous vegetarian buffet prepared by the restaurant team took place amongst the beautifully polished ash floorboards of CAT’s flagship new building. The whole building will be open in Spring 2010