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.
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.