Copenhagen delegate diary, December 7: Hippies, big business and Chávez

By Andrew Ward, Scandinavian correspondent

● All is not lost for people turning up in Copenhagen without a hotel reservation. The city’s famous Christiana district – a self-proclaimed autonomous hippy commune occupying an abandoned army barracks in the heart of the Danish capital – is making up to 500 sleeping spaces available.

A barracks building has been set aside for visitors and Mongolian-style yurts erected outside. Finnish activists have even built a temporary wooden sauna for guests.

Troels Dilling-Hansen, head of the Danish eco-village network, says local authorities are privately pleased for Christiana to absorb some of the thousands of activists expected over the next two weeks.

“We will act like a pressure valve,” he says, detailing concerts and other events planned to keep people entertained.

“We want to show how it is possible for communities to live in balance – not just ecologically, but also economically, socially and spiritually.”

● Big business is making its presence felt in Copenhagen, with multinational companies falling over each other to declare their commitment to saving the planet. Coca-Cola is among the most visible, with its brand splashed across billboard advertisements bearing the slogan “Hopenhagen”.

But the soft drink manufacturer is not among the official corporate sponsors of the conference. Perhaps Coke was piqued by the organisers’ decision to purge the venue of bottled drinks in the name of energy efficiency and instead provide delegates with municipal tap water.

Coke could be forgiven for feeling picked on when the carbon footprints of some of the official sponsors are considered. BMW, Honda, Volvo, DHL and the airline SAS may all be doing their bit to curb emissions but many people would consider theirs a fairly murky shade of green.

● Hugo Chávez is not normally one to pass up an opportunity to grandstand on the world stage. So it came as a surprise when the Venezuelan president revealed on Monday that he might give the Copenhagen climate summit a miss.

“If it’s to go and waste time, it’s better I don’t go,” he said. “If everything is already cooked up by the big [nations], then forget it.”

His absence would no doubt prompt sighs of relief in some quarters given his history of upstaging western leaders with his bombastic brand of anti-capitalism.

Yet, as president of a large oil-exporting nation who has spoken out on the dangers of global warming, Mr Chávez could have been a useful ally for those pushing for a deal in Copenhagen.

His preferred course of action, however, is unlikely to find its way into the final text. Mr Chávez blames climate change on the excesses of capitalism and says the best remedy would be socialism.

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