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Jokenhagen, the COP15 that wasn’t

You heard about the Yes Men successfully pulling off another stunt in Copenhagen? The delegates were fooled, even the media, and so unsurprisingly, the substance of their theatrics is being glossed over. While the reporters track the footprints to sort truth from facade, they are wiping all traces behind them. Url-shortening conduit bit.ly warns for example that clicking through might endanger your browser. The Yes Men prank Canada is as far as most news stories go. Why Canada — is the more to the story.
climate debt agents good cop15

First the substance: Canada is a wealthy-nation holdout on the climate talks. Its conservative government is offering to curb carbon emissions by a mere 3% etc. So the Yes Men thought they’d lead by example, role-playing Canada stepping up as all industrialized powers must. Their special announcement was called AGENDA 2020, wherein Canada pledged a 40% cut in emissions by 2020, to reach a 80% cut by 2050. Plus they vowed a “climate debt mechanism” comprising 1% of Canada’s GDP, climbing to 5% by 2030, to go toward emissions reduction and clean energy projects in Africa.

Drastic cuts, and huge payments of “climate debt” are what scientists project will be necessary to reach the environmental 350ppm line in the sand. A COP15 without such figures will be a failure. It’s small wonder the media is describing this “prank” without mentioning what was said.

Some Canadian outlets are providing reasonable detail of the commotion which was provoked. Check out the Globe and Mail, then the Toronto Star for good overviews.

The operation as it unfurled: preparations and execution were a collaboration between YM and the red-jacketed Climate Debt Agents (CDA).

0. YM begin tweeting as Canadian envoy PM Jim Prentice
(example: “My staff have notified me of a fake account pretending to represent me. It is @JimPrentice hope we can get it removed shortly. 5:31 AM Dec 14th from web” )

1. YM botch amusing anti-CocaCola prank

2. YM as Prentice tweets special announcement of a bold step forward.

3. YM (enviro-canada.com) offers Environment Canada press release

4. CDA fakes press conference outlining AGENDA 2020

5. Another CDA press conference features the envoy from Uganda, applauding Canada

6. Phony YM Wall Street Journal European Edition picks up story

7. YM (as ec-gc.ca) Environment Canadia press release pretending to denounce fraudulent prank

8. And the obligatory CDA press conference.

9. The real Canadian delegates provide the hijinks from there.

Championing minor pranks here and there as they toured for the release of their new movie The Yes Men Save the World, a reputation no doubt preceded them to the Climate Conference. The Yes Men anti-CocaCola prank earlier this week was stopped after just 20 seconds, but may have been a ruse to resolve expectations that they were obviously in Copenhagen to do something.

The CBC covers the moves of the Canadian and US delegates to get a handle on their PR. Interesting too were the frantic efforts to unmask the deception. While web sleuths followed the internet clues, a CBC reader comments that so far we’ve heard nothing yet of detective work in pursuit of whoever “hacked” the Climategate emails.

The press conferences are available on Youtube COP15DK, although their credibility is enhanced by the websites constructed around them.

AGENDA 2020

UGANDA RESPONDS

CANADA RETRACTS

CLIMATE DEBT AGENTS TAKE RESPONSIBILITY

Of course the Yes Men released their own article to tell the story:

Copenhagen spoof shames Canada; Climate Debt No Joke

by The Yes Men

African, Danish and Canadian youth join the Yes Men to demand climate justice and skewer Canadian climate policy.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark – “Canada is ‘red-faced’!” (Globe and Mail) “Copenhagen spoof shames Canada!” (Guardian) “Hoax slices through Canadian spin on warming!” (The Toronto Star) “A childish prank!” (Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada)

What at first looked like the flip-flop of the century has been revealed as a sophisticated ruse by a coalition of African, North American, and European activists. The purpose: to highlight the most powerful nations’ obstruction of meaningful progress in Copenhagen, to push for just climate debt reparations, and to call out Canada in particular for its terrible climate policy.

The elaborate intercontinental operation was spearheaded by a group of concerned Canadian citizens, the “Climate Debt Agents” from ActionAid, and The Yes Men. It involved the creation of a best-case scenario in which Canadian government representatives unleashed a bold new initiative to curb emissions and spearhead a “Climate Debt Mechanism” for the developing world.

The ruse started at 2:00 PM Monday, when journalists around the world were surprised to receive a press release from “Environment Canada” (enviro-canada.com, a copy of ec.gc.ca) that claimed Canada was reversing its position on climate change.

In the release, Canada’s Environment Minister, Jim Prentice, waxed lyrical. “Canada is taking the long view on the world economy,” said Prentice. “Nobody benefits from a world in peril. Contributing to the development of other nations and taking full responsibilities for our emissions is simple Canadian good sense.”

Thirty minutes later, the same “Environment Canada” sent out another press release, congratulating itself on Uganda’s excited response to the earlier fake announcement. A video featuring an impassioned response by “Margaret Matembe,” supposedly a COP15 delegate from Uganda, was embedded in a fake COP15 website. “Canada, until now you have blocked climate negotiations and refused to reduce emissions,” said “Matembe.” “Of course, you do sit on the world’s second-largest oil reserve. But for us it isn’t a mere economic issue – it’s about drought, famine, and disease.”

(The video was shot in a replica of the Bella Center’s briefing room, at Frederiksholms Kanal 4, in the center of Copenhagen. Matembe was actually Kodili Chandia, a “Climate Debt Agent” from ActionAid, a collective of activists that push for rich countries to help those most affected by climate change for adaptation and mitigation projects. The “Climate Debt Agents,” with their signature bright red suits, have been a ubiquitous presence in Copenhagen during the climate summit.)

Then it was time for Canada to react. One hour later, another “Environment Canada” (this one at ec-gc.ca) released a bombastic response to the original release. This one quot ed Jim Prentice, Canada’s Minister for the Environment, decrying the original announcement: “It is the height of cruelty, hypocrisy, and immorality to infuse with false hopes the spirit of people who are already, and will additionally, bear the brunt of climate change’s terrible human effects. Canada deplores this moral misfire.”

Because almost none of the resulting news coverage even mentioned Uganda or “Matembe’s” response, a fourth release was sent from the second website (ec-gc.ca).

Meanwhile, in the real world

The real Canadian government’s reactions were almost as strange as the fake ones in the release. Dimitri Soudas, a spokesperson for the Canadian Prime Minister, emailed reporters and blamed Steven Guilbeault, cofounder of Quebec-based Equiterre. “More time should be dedicated to playing a constructive role instead of childish pranks,” said Soudas in a first email, while misspelling Guilbeault’s name.

Guilbeault demanded an apology. “A better way to use his time would probably be to advise the Canadian government to change its deeply flawed position on climate,” said Guilbeault.

Soudas and Guilbeault were seen exchanging angry words in the hallway outside of Canada’s 3:30pm press conference, which did not start until 4:30pm, and at which the Canadians refused to answer any questions about the flurry of false releases.

More raised voices were heard when Stephen Chu, the US Secretary of Energy, refused to pose for a photo with his Canadian counterpart, Jim Prentice. After Steve Kelly, Prentice’s chief of staff, begged for 10 minutes, the US guy finally asked why a photo was so important. Kelly replied that “we were carpetbagged this morning by [environmental non-governmental organizations] with a false press release. I gotta change the story.”

Why Blame Canada?

The only country in the world to have abandoned the Kyoto Protocol’s emissions and climate debt targets, Canada also has the most energy-intensive, destructive and polluting oil reserves in the world. The Alberta tar sands, according to The Economist, are in fact the world’s biggest single industrial source of carbon emissions.

“By not agreeing to emissions reductions, Canada is holding a loaded gun to our heads, and seems ready to pull the trigger on millions of us around the globe, ” said Margaret Matembe aka Kodili Chandia of the “Climate Debt Agents.” “They leave us no choice but to see them as criminal.”

At last year’s climate summit in Poznan, Poland, over 400 civil society organizations voted Canada worst of all nations in blocking progress towards a binding climate treaty. Will Canada take the dubious prize again this year in Copenhagen?

“The Canadian government is not listening to its citizens,” says Sarah Ramsey, a resident of Alberta who has seen the destruction of the tar sands firsthand. Ramsey traveled to Copenhagen to give voice to a generation of young Canadians. “We are discouraged and demoralized by our government’s position on climate change. We decided to lend our government a hand, and show them what good leadership looks like.”

In solidarity with the delegates from the G77 Bloc of nations, today’s intervention was also meant to highlight an issue at the heart of the ongoing talks-the issue of climate justice, and the climate debt that the developed world owes the developing world. Seventy-five percent of the historical emissions that created the climate crisis came from 20% of the world’s population in developed countries, according to the UN, yet up to 80% of the impacts of the climate crisis are experienced in the developing world, according to the World Bank.

“I meant every word I said,” says Kodili Chandia, a spokesperson for the Climate Debt Agents, who spoke out as a member of the Ugandan delegation. “This debate isn’t just about facts and figures and abstract concepts of fairness-the drought we are seeing right now in East Africa is directly threatening the lives of millions of people, including farmers in my own family. We have not created this problem but we are living with the consequences. That’s why I still say: It’s time for rich countries to pay their climate debt.”

– 30 –

There will be a press conference today at the “good” Bella Center used to shoot the fake announcement videos: 1pm, Frederiksholms Kanal 4, Copenhgaen.

More dream announcements coming soon! Come make your own or stay tuned at good-cop15.org.  
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, December 15, 2009 
 

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