Movement history: COP 6 climate justice mobilisation & the birth of Rising Tide

18 Jul 2013 admin
Scan 28
Illustration of the COP conference invasion from “dissenting voices”

It’s been a season of archiving action at Platform! We’re been sweatily rummaging about our storage unit, ferreting through 30 years-worth of materials as the lovely people from the Bishopsgate Institute library are going to be sifting through it all and making it more accessible as part of their collections on London history, labour and socialist history, free thought and humanism, co-operation, and protest and campaigning.

One historical nugget that I recently unearthed was ‘dissenting voices,’ a publication that documented the mobilizations that took place outside the COP 6 Climate Talks in Den Haag in 2000. As far as I know, this has never been digitalized, and it seemed like a quite important document of a somewhat overlooked event that not only had a big influence on what we know of as the climate justice movement today, it was also how the Rising Tide climate direct action network originated.

Rising Tide first developed as a coalition and a network of groups who came together at the COP 6 climate talks to take an oppositional stance to the way the talks were developing, highlighting the extent of influence of corporate lobbyists, the marginalization of Southern countries in the process and the increasing dominance of carbon markets as a false solution to the climate crisis. It’s amazing that all of these issues that were some of the rallying points of the Climate Justice Action network in the Copenhagen talks in 2009 were already being articulated in an almost identical manner almost ten years previously. A group in the UK started using Rising Tide itself as an organisational identity, and while the network didn’t continue to function in subsequent COPs, groups in other countries like North America and Australia (both of which are still active to date) also adopted the name and the political principles.

More than 300 organisations around the world signed on to the Rising Tide political statement in the run up to the climate talks (that you can read on page 12 of the publication), and many of the members were active, albeit not wholly responsible for all manner of activities that took place outside the climate talks in Den Haag in November 2000, including a Climate Justice Summit  featuring speakers from all over the world ((full line up on page 13), a series of direct actions taking place at side events all over the conference (page 16) and a mass invasion of the conference itself (page 20), with activists occupying one of the main beams over the great hall and scattering fake carbon credits over the delegates below, echoing the famous yippies throwing dollar bills into the New York Stock Exchange. Perhaps most famously of all, the US lead negotiator Frank Loy got a custard pie in the face during a press conference.

The dissenting voices publication document below (that you can browse online or download via issuu) has a lovely scrapbook like approach to the lead up to COP 6, the political landscape during the COP, the birth of Rising Tide and who was involved, the direct actions that took place (including some gorgeous illustrations) and some evaluations on how it all went.

It’s historically relevant not just for the climate justice movement, but also for the anti-globalization era. Coming hot on the heels of the World Bank/IMF mobilizations in Prague in September of that year, this felt like very much a part of the political culture of the time. The Rising Tide mobilization was very much about articulating a critique of the neoliberal approach that was becoming dominant within the climate talks – trying to use the ‘invisible hand’ of the market to sweep up the mess that unfettered markets had caused in the first place. Someone who was very involved in Prague and then later in climate-organizing in the UK once ruefully remarked to me, “In retrospect maybe we had our priorities wrong – where would we be now if everyone had mobilized around the Hague rather than around Prague.”

It also documents a tiny chunk of the Netherlands’ rich squatting history, with the ‘Discordia’ being squatted as a convergence space to house people who were coming for the mobilizations, and the legendary long-term Blauwe Aanslag hosting a number of the events that took place too.

There’s an over-used and under-applied quote that opens dissenting voices: “the struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” It would be amazing if there were more documents of movement-memory like this for us to learn and grow from. And please feel free to share in the comments any other memories that people may have of what happened during COP 6.


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