Copenhagen climate protesters rally

Thousands of people march as part of a global protest to demand that governments agree a new climate deal

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Copenhagen today as part of a global protest to demand governments across the world agree a binding new global deal to tackle climate change.

The march and rally in the Danish capital, the world's largest ever protest about global warming, comes at the halfway point of the United Nations' climate summit in the city.

"Let's dance, sing and be happy, because power is in your hands," Nnimmo Bassey, director of Friends of the Earth International told the crowd, as he kicked off the first part of the march, the Flood, from Halmtorvet.

Official police estimates put the number of protesters at 25,000, but organisers said as many as 100,000 had joined the march from central Copenhagen, waving banners that read "Nature doesn't compromise" and "Climate Justice Now".

Although most of the march has been peaceful, a small group threw bricks at police early on. So far there have been 21 arrests, and police are currrently kettling about 200-300 marchers in Amagerbrogade.

Police spokesman Rasmus Bernt Skovsgaard said: "There was some cobblestone-throwing and at the same time people were putting on masks. We decided to go for preventive detentions to give the peaceful demonstration the possibility to move on."

To mark the Global Day of Action on climate change, campaigners were also staging events around the world, including a four-minute "flashdance" with lights outside the Houses of Parliament, with volunteers across London collecting messages from citizens to deliver to MPs.

Phil Thornhill, from the Campaign against Climate Change in the UK, said on behalf of the Global Climate Campaign: "Every year of inaction sees us slide closer to the point where a tragedy of unprecedented scale becomes irreversible.

"As politicians fail to find the collective will to overcome inertia, international rivalries, and the all-pervasive power of vested interests, ordinary people all around the world will be demanding decisive action now, not later when the fate of billions could be already have been sealed and the catastrophe will have become unstoppable."

Among the protesters in Coppenhagen were the actor Helen Baxendale, model Helena Christensen and former Irish president and UN high commissioner for human rights Mary Robinson.

Baxendale said thousands of people from all over the world were trying to encourage their leaders to take "firm and fair action" on climate change.

She told Sky News it was "inspiring", adding: "It's fantastic to join with so many other people from all over the world.

"I think it's also important that people come and make their voices heard as well. I think, in the end, that's what will make real, positive change."

Christensen added: "They will be very bad politicians if they do not hear us by now."

Environment ministers started arriving in the city today for informal talks before world leaders join the summit late next week.

Initial reaction to the negotiating text submitted yesterday underscored the split between the US-led wealthy countries and developing countries still struggling to catch up with the modern world.

The tightly focused document was meant to lay out the main themes for environment ministers to wrestle with as they prepare for a summit of around 110 heads of state and government at the end of next week.

Wealthy countries, including the US, Japan and Norway, as well as the European Union, criticised a draft agreement for not making stronger demands on developing countries underscoring the difficulties in reaching a deal.

US delegate Jonathan Pershing said the draft failed to address the issue of carbon emissions by emerging economies.

"The current draft didn't work in terms of where it is headed," he said.

But European delegates also criticised the US, insisting it could make greater commitments to push the talks forward. Both the US and China should be legally bound to keep whatever promises they make, said the Swedish environment minister, Anders Carlgren.

China has made voluntary commitments to rein in its carbon emissions but doesn't want to be bound by international law to do so. Its position is that the US and other rich countries have a historical responsibility to cut emissions and any climate deal in Copenhagen should take into account a country's level of development.

Contributors

Bibi van der Zee Copenhagen, David Batty and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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