COPENHAGEN, Dec. 15 -- The climate talks are heading into their final three days, and Naomi Klein is concerned that little real progress has been made.
On Wednesday morning, a huge non-violent demonstration is planned that involves protesters marching into the Bella Center where talks are being held, and concerned delegates and NGO representatives -- including Klein -- are going to walk out. The goal? Shutting down the talks and establishing a people's assembly. For Klein and other protesters, what's on the table in negotiations is not nearly enough to really cut global emissions levels and to reduce further catastrophic climate change.
I sat down with Naomi Klein for an exclusive interview to discuss what's happening on the ground, what messages aren't getting out and what has gone very, very wrong.
Katherine Goldstein: You've written about how aggressive the Danish police have been towards mostly peaceful protesters thus far. On Saturday, 1,000 people were arrested, mostly for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. What's your reaction to this?
Naomi Klein: There are so many wonderful things about Copenhagen, like the biking culture and the wind power that I think a lot of us have been impressed with. But the city has invested a lot in the branding campaign of Copenhagen being Hopenhagen, and that their city can be a part of this historic agreement for the future. Because the city is so invested in this positive image, they are willing to act aggressively. But this is so much bigger than that. This is everyone's planet. What is happening in this conference -- there's more at stake than Copenhagen's image concerns. The police have arrested activists and organizers preemptively of tomorrow's march, like Tadzio Mueller. It's reckless to take leaders who are advocating non-violence out of the game the night before a protest.
KG: What are you expecting about the protest? are you concerned about protesters' safety?
NK: I'm not concerned about people's safety, but I do think its a possibility that there will be mass arrests. I think its a powerful message that people care enough to get arrested.
KG: What's the reality you are seeing that is getting lost?
NK: It's our job as journalists and activists to get the truth out there. And the truth is that there's no deal that being discussed in there that speaks to the reality of the science, or speaks to a more just world. This has become a moral issue. The amount of money that is being discussed [for rich countries to give to poor ones] isn't nearly enough, and everyone knows that. The UN process is out of control.
There is also a huge problem with messaging of NGO's and activists, which is "seal the deal" in Copenhagen, or that we MUST have a [climate] deal at any cost. They need to change this message, fast. What's on the table will NOT save the world. We should not fight for just any deal, or at the cost of a deal that in the future would actually mean something.
KG: Heads of state are beginning to arrive and so is the US delegation: Senator Kerry and others will arrive Wednesday. Do you see anything positive about American politicians showing up?
NK: The US negotiators have squandered a tremendous amount of goodwill. Tremendous. I know readers of Huffington Post might not want to hear this, but the Democrats have squandered so many opportunities. We've seen these huge outpourings of support of the US -- we saw it after 9/11 and we saw it when Obama was elected. So many were so happy about the US re-engaging in the climate process. But I think it has done way more harm than good. It's given countries the opportunities to weaken the targets they are putting on the table, like Japan. The US has lowered the bar and set goals so low, it's been destructive. I think it would be better if the US had continued to stay out of it. I don't see any point in US politicians coming here.
When chief negotiator Jonathan Pershing offers for the US to pay $1.5 billion to help with climate change and says, "the US only has so much largesse," Americans have no idea [how insulting this is to the rest of the world.] US emits so much and has caused this problem. This is NOT about charity. This is about moral responsibility.
I quote John Kerry in my Rolling Stone article about climate rage: It is imperative that the US act [responsibly] because of rage around the world about its behavior on this issue. Anti-Americanism because of this is real and will only continue to grow.
Klein summarizes her thoughts about the protest in this video shot by Jennifer Prediger of Grist.org.