Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Day 10 - World of work and Christinia Raids

So it was a sad morning waking up without our comrade Dougal who had left the night before. After a lie and brief wander around the main city centre, Lucy and Lorraine went to check out the Bella Centre, where the main negotiations are taking place. We arrived to find a strong police presence and long queues of people trying to get access to the building. After making a few enquiries we realised that there was no point sticking around as even many of the pre-registered NGOs were not being admitted.

We decided to go and check out another site of action, the "world of work" forum (a COP15 fringe event) where unions and people from the energy sectors were meeting to discuss various new technologies. We choose to sit in on a discussion about carbon capture and storage, a very hotly debated issue. My opinion is that CCF does not make clean coal but it has the potential to make cleaner coal. Although skeptical I could see the rationale behind some of the arguments for investing in CCF. Discussions revolved around the need to make a smooth transition to clean technologies and renewables and the necessity for continued fossil fuels while we build new clean green infrastructures. We need energy for the steel industry in order to manufacture the required wind turbines for example. A representative from the Australian energy unions told how they had identified CCS and solar thermal energy as the main priority for research funding and had been working closely with WWF australia to ensure that proposals are acceptable to the NGOs. Also discussed were legal liability of CCS. Basically that means who is liable if the carbon escapes from the storage sites or while being transported between capture site and storage site. It struck me that we have great interim energy needs while we build new infrastructure. It will a take time and it is critically important that we do not the squander the remaining energy with have and put strict limits on the amount of remaining fossil fuel reserves we use.

In the break-time we met a young group of trade union workers from the chemical industry. They told us of their experiences in the workplace in Belgian and had travelled to Copenhagen to make sure the bureaucrats in the talks remember the needs of the workers actually doing the hard graft.

We later headed back to the Klima forum to find Ben who had been to a number of lectures including one by Bill McKibben on the 350 campaign. Apparently the president of the Maldivs was also present. After a spot of networking with other activists (mostly from Sussex University) we head off to Christiania (an autonomous zone, also known as 'free-town') to hear Naomi Klein, of the No Logo fame address the Reclaim Power party. After quickly getting some amazing veggie curry and a quick glass of Glogg we listened to the plans for the next big day of Action due to take place on the 16th. Tensions were running high as we had been hearing how the G77 were repeatedly walking out of negotiations. The panel discussed the plans for the people forum to be held outside the Bella centre. A fair deal must include appropriate reparations to the developing world.

After the talks Ben and Lucy headed home to drop off bags, planning to return later for the party that was just getting started. Lorraine stayed behind to dance to the amazing beats and meet some samba-activist friends. Some time later, an announcement was made that the area was outside the tent was full of tear gas. The police had surrounded Christiania! We could hear bangs, a helicopter buzzed overhead, and reports from others indicated that the police had a water cannon. A barricade had been built by activists, and there were reports of things being thrown. The atmosphere was one of shock and fear, as police don't normally enter Christiania.

This was Lorraine's first experience with tear-gas, and she was very frightened, but more experienced European activists helped her by putting lemon under her eyes, and helping her to find her bicycle to get home. The most dramatic moment was just as she was about to reach an exit, and she realised the tops of all of the buildings had police on them, and the police were storming right into the centre, bringing dogs with them, and encircling the people present... they were about to cut off her escape route! Luckily a little climb over some stacked up tables (with bicycle), and she was on her way out. 10 seconds slower and she would have been detained. Police had declared the area a search zone, and were kicking down doors and windows to enter the buildings. Cycling back to town along the river it was apparent that the whole area was heavily surrounded by riot police and vans. It is difficult to see how the sheer numbers of riot police were on-site so quickly, unless this was a pre-planned raid.

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