Climate change: More serious than the coronavirus

    CLIMATE: The CPH:DOX opening film portrays how young Danish activists are fighting for a greener future.
    Director: Phie Ambo
    Country: Denmark

    Democracy works. It’s possible for citizens, even children and young people, to influence major political decisions. The media simply delivers a distorted picture of politicians and their political parties. For politicians actually want to take action against climate change and they do cooperate across the party lines.

    This is what director Phie Ambo explains after she has finished her documentary 70/30 with the subtitle «democracy’s race against the climate crisis». The film had its world premiere at CPH:DOX on 21 April.

    A climate election

    In a country where the prime minister has declared herself the «children’s prime minister», children and young people have demonstrated week after week in front of its Parliament. They want the politicians to demonstrate that adults in Denmark are at the forefront of the climate battle as the good example. Parents, grandparents and their friends also joined the demonstrations, showing how all Danes should be behind a Denmark that takes the lead.

    At the June 2019 election, the central government changed hands. A «red majority» led the way in the adoption of a climate action plan: the construction of energy islands and a halt to extraction of oil and gas from the North Sea. The election was a «climate election».

    This flow of events deserves a documentary. Of course, the director could not know how things would develop when she decided on the task. For a few months she was given the opportunity to follow four key players in the building and the development of a popular movement, of the establishment of alliance between young people and the chairman of the Parliament’s climate committee and of the further cooperation between politicians during the negotiations and adoption in the Parliament.

    70/30 is also the story of the Member of Parliament and chair of the climate committee, Ida Auken. Due to her intense work on the climate cause, she became ill from stress and could not participate in the negotiations of its major breakthroughs. Further the documentary is the story of Minister of Climate Dan Jørgensen, who could not participate in the development of popular support for the climate, but as he said «had to sit back and make the compromises that will drive development forward». But it’s probably first and foremost the film’s young people who make up its actual drivers. Selma de Montgomery and Esther Michelsen Kjeldahl from Fridays for Future and the Green Student Movement, respectively.

    It’s possible for citizens, even children and young people, to influence major political decisions.

    Astonishingly silent

    The film is about Denmark. It recounts how relatively effortless it is to gain influence. Young people can – if they make their points through demonstrations – have the opportunity to get in touch with key negotiators about its future. This is not about Extinction Rebellion, which by the way is not mentioned in a single word in the film. For the atmosphere is positive, yes almost cordial. Even a leading member of the Danish People’s Party is seen in the film receiving a warm embrace. The question that naturally must then be raised is, who was it really that should provide a counterpoint and threaten young people’s future? Here, the film is astonishingly silent, has no language and apparently seems to imply that further wishes for climate targets can be resolved in a similar way.

    What does the director want with this film? To tell an audience that it all works, that democracy works, that young people are listened to; that one can talk about citizen involvement in Denmark.

    Ida Auken – the mediator between the popular pressure and the Parliament, as well as being a central negotiator – is perhaps the film’s main focal point. It was she who, as climate spokesperson for the Social Liberals and as chair of the climate committee, conveyed the young people’s messages into the Parliament. When she returned to political work from her stress related sickness, she had left the position that had made it possible to convey young people’s views into the Parliament. She had become a member of the governing party and now, as the climate minister, had to «sit back and make compromises that will drive development forward».

    Auken also delivers the film’s closing remark: «I actual believe it will work out». What does she believe in and what can be done for the climate within the film’s own theme logic? The answer is blowing in the wind.

    The film is about Denmark.

    A new standard

    The pandemic has set a new standard for how Danish society can stand together to defend itself. Previous restrictions on providing support and assistance were lifted. The question is, whether afterwards, the population is willing to undergo similar radical changes in terms of climate. Or will it fall back into the old familiar hamster wheel?

    A successful transition is conditional on many people being aware of global warming’s seriousness. Who will be drivers in the local area regarding climate solutions and who will – as Greta – organise school strikes? Given the serious nature of the climate situation many types of action must be considered. Perhaps schoolchildren will be the ones who will remind us on the general strike weapon – for the climate and a future for our children and young people.

    You can stream the film on until 5 May.

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    Niels Johan Juhl-Nielsen
    Regular contributor to NY TID on ecological matters, to our sister publication. Lives in Copenhagen.
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