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Copenhagen: Yeah to the protestors

Some 34,000 people are gathered in Copenhagen at the UN Climate Change Conference.

As matters presently stand the signs of anything even remotely productive, let alone worthwhile, coming out of the meeting, seems remote. The politicians seem stricken with one thing or the other to come up with a proposal all can agree on.

In an piece "It's the Protesters Who Offer the Best Hope for Our Planet" in The Independent, Johann Hari reflects on the seemingly impotent politicians and bureaucrats and salutes the protesters - who are attempting to keep the conference participants on track.

"Privately, government negotiators admit there's no way the negotiations will end with the deal scientists say is necessary for our safety. Indeed, it looks possible that this conference won't deepen and broaden the Kyoto framework, but cripple it. Kyoto established a legally binding international framework to measure and reduce emissions. The cuts it required were too small, and the sanctions for breaking it were pitifully weak – but it was a start. Kyoto's current phase expires in 2012, but the treaty's authors believed its architecture would be retained and intensified after that. The developing countries assumed that's what they were here to do. But the US is proposing to simply ditch the Kyoto infrastructure – won over decades of long negotiations – and replace it with an even weaker voluntary deal. In their proposal, every country will announce cuts and stick to them out of the goodness of their hearts. No penalties, no enforcement.

So at the centre of this summit is a proposition stranger than any number of arrested cows or Nasa-quoting hoodies: we're playing Russian roulette with the climate, and our most powerful governments are filling the barrels with extra bullets, one by one.

Yet this conflagration here in Copenhagen is heartbreaking and heartwarming all at once. Our governments are showing their moral bankruptcy – but a genuinely global democratic movement is swelling to make them change course. Mass democratic agitation is the only force that has ever made governments moral before; it will have to do it again.

An army of dedicated campaigners is gathering here, and they are prepared to take real risks to oppose this sham-deal. The protest march on Saturday here must have been the most genuinely global demonstration in history. Under banners saying "There Is No Planet B", "Nature Doesn't Do Bailouts" and "Change the Politics, Not the Climate", there seemed to be people from every nation on earth. Lawrence Muli from Kenya's youth delegation told me: "We are having the worst drought in memory in Kenya. The seasons have changed in ways we don't understand. My family can't grow crops any more, so they are going hungry. I am here to say we won't die quietly."

Read this very worthwhile and insightful piece, in full, here.

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