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COP15: After the demo and ... tangling with the Royal Society

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So much has happened in the past three days it is has been impossible to blog. We have been trying to lobby, trying to inform the press, attending side events, organizing our own workshops, meeting old and new friends and allies and basically working from early morning until late at night, like virtually everyone else here.

Today of course was a highlight -- the demonstration for action organized by several hundred organizations from around the world. An estimated 80-100,000 people in the streets -- very varied and colourful crowd, calling for Climate Justice now! The march was so long it was impossible to walk from one end to the other, let alone find someone you were looking for. We had printed 5000 Stop Geoengineering stickers and I was able to distribute about 4000 of them during the march. They look like this:

But loads of people will blog about the demonstration -- and the arrests that ensued which i did not see -- and no-one will talk about what is happening in this meeting with regards to technology, so let me spend a bit of time on what has been happening there.

The Royal Society issued a report earlier this year on geonengineering which really helped to bring this set of technologies out from the margins and into the mainsteam of scientific and public policy debates on climate change. ETC Group at the time issued two controversial sets of commentaries on it, one before and one after. Neither was particularly appreciated by the august institution, which opened its press conference with a denunciation of our report laying out what we expected them to say. They were particularly offended at our insinuation that that the report would legitimize geoengineering research and end up making crackpot profiteers acceptable. Of course, that is exactly what has happened.

So here we are in Copenhagen and the Royal Society has teamed up with The Climate Fund (directed By Margaret Leinen, better known for her association with Climos, her son Dan Whaley's ocean fertilization firm), Jason Blackstock doing double duty for CIGI and IIASA and lead author of one of the most frightening geoengineering reports to date as well as the Stockholm Environmental Institute and IISD to host a series of three side events on different aspects of geoengineering. To my great surprise, I was invited to speak at one of them, an invitation I gladly accepted. Then I found out I only had 2 minutes to comment on the rather lengthy presentations by John Shepherd (on the science) and Jason Blackstock (on the governance aspects). The whole was chaired by the affable Oliver Morton who had praised the Royal Society report when it came out and now writes for the Economist. Guess that's the end of his byline!

It ain't easy to do battle with these guys and and I was called simplistic (publicly) and stupid (privately). I was however able to make my point that no real-world geoengineering experiments should be allowed to go ahead, especially not before some real international governance mechanisms were in place. I tried to explain why geoengineering was a bad idea, why it was sheer hubris to think we could actually "manage solar radiation" by putting sulphates in the stratosphere or sunshades in space. Difficult as it was though, I did appreciate the possibility of dialogue and frankly it was in private conversations after the event that I felt the most hostility. People in the audience seemed to share many of my concerns.

The next day however we (Silvia Ribeiro from ETC Mexico and I) had planned a workshop on geonegineering at the Klima Forum where the NGOs and the activists gather every day. Lo and behold, the whole gang walked in -- Shepherd, Leinen, Whaley, KPMG -- with their suitcases fully of glossy Royal Society reports. That was rather astonishing since the day before I had been told I could not distribute a two-page declaration that has been signed by 180 organizations from around the world in their workshop! However, we let them distribute it and a lively debate was had in a small jam-packed room of people wanting information about what geoengineering was all about. I am pretty sure it was the first time any of them had had such a close encounter with civil society activist types and certainly Silvia gave them a piece of her mind about how cloud whitening along the Pacific coast would be received by the people of Ecuador, Peru and Chile!

There is much much more to say -- most importantly perhaps was the G77 Chair's meeting with civil society groups yesterday. He -- a very well respected diplomat from Sudan Ambassador Lumumba -- who blasted the West and those NGOs who are not strong enough to blast their governments -- now on video. This is mostly about attempts inside the official process to kill the Kyoto Protocol and seed divisions between developing countries which so far has not been successful -- but that will have to be my next blog...

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