There never was any doubt that Klimaforum09 would play an extremely important role in December, as the stage was set for a closed COP15 with highly restricted access. Klimaforum09 not only added to the seriousness of the climate discussion in Copenhagen 2009, but also played an important part as a logistic partner to the official conference and was a fruitful platform for people, grassroots movements and organizations from all over the world.
Klimaforum09, which took place in the centre of Copenhagen, demonstrated the art of the possible and surprised many who had not recognized or understood the need for an open space where all were welcome.
The peoples’ climate forum was organized by a wide array of Danish (31) and international grassroots (63) and opened and closed with the COP15. The 12 days of the alternative summit featured 202 debates, 70 exhibitions, 43 films, 16 concerts and 11 plays from all over the world. The registration process was wide open and only limited by time. Present were all from Europe’s most sophisticated band Ojos de Brujo to the five professors and their seminal Synthesis Report to the Greenland sealers that no longer can count on the ice.
But most important for Klimaforum09 were people from the global south and their accounts of what it means to live under extreme conditions such as long droughts and the impending peril of ocean acidification. The diversity of narratives was overwhelming and amazed widely. But the simple fact that there existed a space in Copenhagen where these narratives were heard and listened to became, as days passed, the most important factor. At Klimaforum09, doors were wide open every day from 10:00 to midnight and all activities were free.
Because of a grotesquely low budget (DKK 8.5 million), Klimaforum09s secretariat was set up in April 2009 with only one person employed fulltime. By June 2009 three more people were employed. However, it was not until the final phase that the secretariat could afford to top with 12 full-time and 3 part-time employees. Only with help from internships and volunteers, the secretariat grew and consisted in the end of 32 dedicated women and men. In addition one must not forget to mention the working Danish board, an international advisory board, the Declaration team and the 400 volunteers, who worked really hard during the conference and helped to make Klimaforum09 a unique experience free of commercial interests. Without these altruistic volunteers and a flat structure, the ship would have sunk.
Klimaforum09 became the place where people could follow the COP15 process, find expert answers and discover alternative solutions. In addition to this a Peoples’ Declaration was written as a joint statement to be adopted by the participating organisations. 500 organisations have so far signed it and the work lives on. The openness offered by Klimaforum09 provided a much needed sense of democratic organization. The lesson to be learned from Klimaforum09’s budget is that you cannot buy quality. Klimaforum09 brought people together and gave participants the opportunity to be part of it all. Not a single door was closed and tens of thousands of committed people were let in and out.
Klimaforum09’s experience concerns the entire UN system and is about dialogue and openness. Popular involvement is about the opportunity to be heard and listened to. The alternative is failure to understand the severity of the crises that people everywhere are facing.
Klimaforum09’s basic experience, in particular regarding the importance of having a place where everyone is welcome, is fundamental for further work. The UN should recognize this.
It is far from enough to have what are called side- events under the same roof as the official negotiations, as was the case at the Bella Center. The popular understanding of the climate crisis must be lifted to a much higher level, and this can only be done with total transparency.
Klimaforum09 has shown a path that needs to be followed!