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In the heart of Copenhagen, a 'people's' climate forum

At DGI-Byen, a large hotel, restaurant and cultural complex located in the heart of the city, an alternative climate conference is underway, mirroring the mainstream schedule of December 7 to 18. Dubbed "Klimaforum09", this "people's climate summit" began as a working coalition of 30 Danish organizations, and has since spanned out to include over 100 organizations from around the world.

"We have smaller community groups, student organizations, farmers, labour organizations and environmental NGOs. It's a really broad, varied group," says Klimaforum09 spokesperson Kristine Holten-Andersen.

Klimaforum09 is entirely free of charge, and open to all members of the public. Organizers estimate that over ten thousand visitors arrive daily, to take part in an extensive program of lectures, debates, exhibitions and entertainment. Forum topics range from sustainable agriculture to local case studies about the impacts of climate change in Central Asia. While there is a pronounced diversity of perspectives and participants at the conference, Klimaforum09's underlying political platform is the "realization that there is no technological fix to the mounting climate crisis."

While the official proceedings at COP15 are still recovering from the leak of the Danish text—which critics argue has revealed the insufficient climate change strategies of western countries—the coalition at Klimaforum09 has released a text of its own. The Klimaforum09 Declaration, due to be presented to the COP15 conference next week, was written by representatives of 70 organizations and 92 different countries.

"We are pleased that in spite of the many different voices and views we have succeeded in our agreement on this important document. It has been created through an open and democratic dialogue between people and organisations from all over the world,” says declaration spokesperson Paul Quintos from the Philippines. 

Considerably more ambitious than anything on the table at the Bella Centre, the Klimaforum09 Declaration is based on a number of main points:

-- A complete abandoning of fossil fuels within the next 30 years. 

- An immediate cut in greenhouse gases of industrialized countries of at least 40% compared to 1990 levels by 2020.

-- Compensation of the people who are already affected by the adverse effects of climate change.

-- Rejection to purely market-oriented and technology-centred false solutions such as nuclear energy, agro-fuels, carbon capture and storage.

-- Real solutions to climate crisis based on safe, clean, renewable and sustainable use of natural resources.

-- Fair and just exchange of technologies and ideas between North and South.

One of the first to sign the alternative declaration at Klimaforum09 was prominent Indian environmentalist Dr. Vandana Shiva. “This is the declaration which the Bella Centre should be working on,” says Shiva. Other supporters include the president of Maldives, with other national delegates expected to join.

The declaration is due to be presented during the COP15 plenary on December 15th. "Right now we have a window of opportunity," says Holten-Andersen. "We had the Danish text leak, which has really compromised the whole process. A lot of the Global South countries, the developing countries, are really angry and frustrated at this moment. The declaration that we have produced really endorses their point of view, and also encourages the western countries to take responsibility."

David Ravensbergen is a Vancouver writer.

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