Kicked Out of the Climate Talks in Copenhagen

by: Nick Berning

Wed Dec 16, 2009 at 20:00


Today went a bit differently than anticipated.

When I and about 50 other Friends of the Earth representatives from around the world showed up at the Bella Center (site of the climate negotiations) over the course of about an hour this morning, the security staff who scanned our UN ID cards told us that they were not valid and we would not be allowed in.

Given that all of us had appropriate accreditation, as well as the "secondary badges" the UN is now requiring for admission so it can restrict the number of people inside the Bella Center at any given time, we were surprised and confused by our inability to get in.

We'd planned to spend the day monitoring the process of negotiations, working to generate media coverage of the need for a strong and just agreement, and working with delegates from developing countries to draft text that could form such an agreement.

But instead, we were denied access. UN staff told Friends of the Earth International's chair, Nnimmo Bassey, that we were considered a security threat. This begged the question of why we were singled out from the many other peaceful non-governmental organizations taking part in the talks.

In this video, our team provides an on-the-ground narrative of how the day unfolded.

When about 15 members of the UN security team surrounded us, and then asked us to leave, we refused, sitting down in the registration area and demanding that we be let in and be provided with an explanation for the UN's refusal to admit us.

UN climate chief Yvo de Boer came out and spoke to us after a while and said access had been restricted because there was not enough room in the Bella Center and that he wanted to resolve the situation.

A few of our representatives went to talk to UN officials while we sat there, but our lack of access remained unresolved. We had both a member of the Norweigan and a member of the Canadian parliament come speak to us to lend us their support. Initially there were a lot of reporters, but the UN then cordoned us off and closed access to media.

Eventually they made us an offer to allow a small portion of our delegation into the conference, even though the full delegation met all the entry requirements that had allowed other groups (except Avaaz, which had also been kicked out) to gain admission.

The UN still has yet to give us a coherent reason for our having been denied access. It's hard to see how de Boer's "no room" explanation makes sense, as the UN continued to allow other NGO observers to enter even as we were denied access. And as for the security threat, we're a bunch of policy wonks and youth activists who have been participating in the negotiations every day for two weeks and represent no threat at all.

One of the key roles Friends of the Earth has played at the conference has been to advocate for climate justice and the interests of the poor countries that have done the least to cause the climate crisis but will feel some of its strongest impacts. Negotiators from those countries are tremendously under-resourced here.  For example, I've worked with negotiators who have no media officers (I do media work) to help them communicate their position. They are totally outgunned by the massive delegations of the rich countries, and now thanks to the UN's decision to exclude us, they will have even less support inside the Bella Center to fight for a fair agreement. An agreement that already feels so far out of reach. It's really frustrating, and shameful.

It's been a discouraging day. But even if negotiators fail to produce a strong agreement this week, there is something we can be proud of. We're not backing down in our calls for climate justice, and we're not alone. The international climate justice movement is growing.

Nick Berning :: Kicked Out of the Climate Talks in Copenhagen

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sounds like you're doing something right (4.00 / 2)
What an outrage.

New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

bastards (4.00 / 2)
this world is going to hell

Who was the Canadian MP? (0.00 / 0)
If you know and can disclose.

I don't (0.00 / 0)
Frankly, it could have been anyone, but he introduced himself as a Canadian MP. I didn't catch the name -- it was a fairly chaotic situation.

[ Parent ]
You're serfs (4.00 / 2)
and they are lords.

Sorry, but as you can see (4.00 / 1)
motivating progressives right now on issues like climate change is going to be virtually impossible.  Other threads on this are largely ignored here and elsewhere.

Many folks aren't going to be around when climate change becomes severe because the most disgraceful healthcare system among wealthy nations is going to kill so many of us off!


Rather disturbing, isn't it? (4.00 / 1)
Especially given the fact the US is single-handedly sabotaging the conference, as it's been doing since March in Bangkok.

Many folks aren't going to be around when climate change becomes severe because the most disgraceful healthcare system among wealthy nations is going to kill so many of us off!

Kudos for this one. At least you truly appreciate the remarkable, if perverse efficiency of neo-liberal "thought."  

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


[ Parent ]
Yes (4.00 / 1)
And it is all a result of failed leadership.

[ Parent ]
Single-handedly? (4.00 / 1)
Nah, there's more than enough blame to go around for the rest of the developed world, and to a lesser extent the BRIC nations. America may be first amongst obstacles, but there's an entire political and economic system obstructing real reform.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
Isn't it funny how the groups whose stated (4.00 / 4)
principles are non-violence are the most hotly targeted by the "authorities" as being a violent threat.

Thanks for being there, and thanks for standing up for climate justice.


Yup - strange (4.00 / 1)
How nonviolent people that softly speak the truth are seen as a bigger thread than those with propensity of violence.

[ Parent ]
Like It Or Not (0.00 / 0)
Sad fact is nothing else on the progressive agenda will have widespread support if the left gets screwed on healthcare reform.

I am not saying this is the way it should be, but this is the way it is.

It isn't the teabaggers or repugs that are responsible for widespread apathy and disconnecting voters and public support - you need to lay this directly at obama, the white house, and dem leadership.  


Keep up the good work (0.00 / 0)
And keep spreading this. If things stay quiet, Africa and the small island states are not going to get the help they need.

On a less Copenhagen-centric note, are Friends of the Earth or any other climate justice groups planning to buy TV advertising space either now or for future summits in the US, Japan and other obstructive nations?

It strikes me that though the developing nations unquestionably have right on their side, they can't beat the developed world if it's able to focus, and they're vulnerable to being picked off in ones and twos (see Zenawi, Meles.) Advertising highlighting the cause of the G77 and tugging at heartstrings, before pivoting to fairly vicious attacks on the government of the nation the advert is playing in might and least stir up trouble on the home front.

I'm not sure it'd be workable in the US right now, although a few small spots to build media awareness might help, but it could certainly work in the UK, the rest of the EU, Australia and Japan, where governments are more vulnerable to pressure and climate change awareness is greater.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog


Thanks! (0.00 / 0)
We don't have the resources for doing substantial TV ads in the U.S. (anyone reading this want to change that by making, say, an eight-figure contribution?), but I'll pass the suggestion to my UK-based colleagues.

[ Parent ]
Thanks! (0.00 / 0)
We don't have the resources for doing substantial TV ads in the U.S. (anyone reading this want to change that by making, say, an eight-figure contribution?), but I'll pass the suggestion to my UK-based colleagues.

[ Parent ]
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