Climate Change Wash Out

At the end of November, the world's leaders met in the Hague for the 6th "Conference of the Parties". This was an international meeting to, we thought, draw up legally binding agreements on reductions in carbon dioxide in order to restrict the effect of the enhanced greenhouse effect. (The enhanced greenhouse effect, "global warming", is caused by humankind's huge emissions of gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), mainly from traffic. Such increases will lead to increased global temperature, thus upsetting the weather on a local level bringing more floods and droughts to more parts of the planet.)

Various local groups got involved in different ways to get the message across that the heat needs to be taken off the planet. See page 3 for reports of local activities. Unfortunately, it seems we were not heeded as the talks ended in deadlock with no reductions agreed.

At the Hague

Clive of Manchester FoE writes:
Friday 17 November, saw Richard and I begin our marathon journey to The Hague to represent Manchester Friends of the Earth at the Climate Change Action. Everyone else was going to Holland via Hull but because of work commitments we had to go via Harwich which meant a train trip to London, via a flooded West Coast line. The name struck me as strange - since when has Crewe or Milton Keynes been on the coast? (maybe sooner than you think now there's few constraints on CO2 production! - ed) We cut it fine, just caught the ferry and climbed into our beds in The Hague at 3:30am on the Saturday.

After an 8am breakfast, we marched in the company of hundreds of other flag waving, banner toting activists through the streets to the Conference Centre where we stopped to hear speeches. I was moved to hear accounts by "climate witnesses" relating first hand experiences of the devastating effects of climate change. These included a young man from Honduras who told how Hurricane Mitch had wrecked his entire country and put it back 50 yrs. More chilling was the account of an ice storm from a Canadian woman. This happened in the middle of winter a couple of years ago and caused massive power failure which plunged several hundred thousand people into a nightmare of darkness and biting cold for weeks. Life in part of a Western country became a desperate search for food and warmth. No one is safe from the effects of climate change.

By now even more people had arrived from all over the world and numbers were in the region of 5000. The main event began. This consisted of building a huge dyke out of sand bags around the Conference Centre. This was visible to the delegates inside and formed a symbol of global warming and the effects of rising sea levels - particularly appropriate for a country like Holland where large areas are below sea level. After about 2 hours work, the dyke attained the required height of 1.5 metres and half a kilometre in length. The Dutch Environment Minister came out to hear our demands for countries to implement proper policies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and accepted a sand bag which he promised to take in to the Conference! While all this was going on, the world's media were interviewing activists, filming, taking pictures and generally sending our message all around the world.

That night there was a big party and a huge cheer went up when the video screen showed Dutch TV's coverage of the action. Overall this was a great event. I found it very motivating to meet so many people from all walks of life who recognised the threat to our planet from climate change and were prepared to do something about it.

Back in Manchester

There were a few activities including a "Critical Mass" cycle ride. Another event was Campaigners for Climate Justice occupying the offices of KPMG in protest at the company's involvement in the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA). IETA were responsible, in part, for promoting free trade in greenhouse gases which would not lead to an overall decrease in the emissions of gases such as carbon dioxide.
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© Networking Newsletter (Dec 2000)