I am just back from a few days in Paris at the start of the COP21 negotiations on climate change. I was there as part of an event organised by The Alternative – the new green political platform of Denmark who have 9 seats in the Copenhagen parliament. They event was a jamboree of a thing and part of the activities taking place in the run up to the formal meeting itself. It was billed as a ‘floating political talk show’ and the floating bit was courtesy of our day-long cruise up and down the Seine. The political format itself was fluid and experimental. And the mood in the boat, including within a busload from Copenhagen who travelled overnight to get there, was expectant-hungry – for everything on offer.
The event involved three rounds of discussion, about action at the personal level, at the level of the city and then the country. MPs from the UK, Iceland as well as the Danish crew were in attendance. Loads of great points were made, excellent questions from the floor, laughter, non-conventionalism. Yet I think what I learned was as much about politics as about climate change. The Alternative is tapping into and feeding a expectant-hungry populace.
Expecting that we can do things differently. Hungry for change. And doing both things by drawing on the vitality and intensity of their youth supporters. I was chiding myself for forgetting the self-belief and conviction I had when under 20. The clarity I had back then, which now evades me, as I struggle to hold the complexity of our world and feel that the more I learn, the less I know. I should have prepared myself better. After all the invitation did say that they would serve champagne and hope.
What I learned was that The Alternative, elected on a climate change and sustainability prospectus which was crowed-sourced from the Danish people, is an attempt to do politics differently. To be other than the norm. To do what the climate crisis requires of us: to change.
Our presence in Paris was to affirm and strengthen the importance of action on the climate. To say this is important. This is what we want. To embolden the negotiators. We give them a mandate to make a change.