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Saturday, December 10, 2011

OccupyCOP: Hundreds Protest inside UN climate venue in Durban as talks draw to a close

People's march inside ICCThe Durban UN climate talks - COP17 - are drawing to a close. Ministers and heads of state met through Friday night to thrash out some meaning from these talks.

The sticking point is that developed countries are not taking the lead in initiating the deep emissions cuts of 25-40% as stated in the Bali road map in 2007 and the Kyoto Protocol. Europe, The US, Canada and Australia are responsible for most of the historical emissions in the atmosphere that has caused global warming. The 1% in developed countries are attempting to exploit the 99% of people in developed and developing countries.

At the plenary in the morning on Friday - the last scheduled day - a youth speaker representing civil society, Anjali Appadurai, challenged the conference by calling for deep emissions cuts from developed countries to meet their commitments under the Bali roadmap of the Kyoto Protocol, a flash mob occupyCOP protest occurred in the convention centre foyer which pulled hundreds of people together in solidarity with Africa and small island states; and protesters setup an occupyCOP vigil outside the centre through the long night.

Related: One climate Live Coverage | Adopt a negotiator Flickr photostream | Occupy COP17 video report

In fact it is small nations facing obliteration due to global warming like the Maldives, Tonga or Tokelau which are actually leading by example.

The last day started with a morning press confernce where the European Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard outlined the European roadmap. This roadmap has support from Africa and Small Island States. China and India are open to some negotiation. The European roadmap has come under criticism from World Development Movement and Friends of the Earth and other civil society organisations as abrogating the differentiated emission reductions that take account of historical emissions.

Murray Worthy, policy officer at the World Development Movement said: "The UK and EU's talk of a new global deal is little more than a distraction from their inaction. The EU is failing to take responsibility for its part in causing climate change. It should be taking the lead through meaningful action. Instead, the EU 'roadmap' has been a smokescreen for developed countries' failure to do what is needed. It is the world's poorest people, those least responsible for this crisis, who will end up paying the highest price."

Murray Worthy added: "As we near the end of the talks, concerns remain that despite united opposition from developing countries the new Green Climate Fund could start its life in an institution closely tied to the World Bank, which is widely discredited for its disastrous projects and damaging economic policies. Worse still, the new fund is set to directly finance multinational corporations, meaning it will fail to meet the needs of communities most affected by climate change."

Friends of the Earth Real World Radio interviewed Susan Scherbarth of Friends of the Earth Europe at the COP 17 in Durban, South Africa. She assessed the behavior of the EU at the climate talks. "Unfortunately they played definitively a negative role because their approach is calling for something new and not fulfilling existing obligations we agreed few years ago. That means in the end that the EU is calling for delaying actions, that means it has a big impact in most of Africa. We don't get anything out of here that tackles climate change and contributes to climate justice". she said.

The Coordinator of the Climate Justice and Energy Program of Friends of the Earth International, Sarah-Jayne Clifton, also identified in an interview the issue of the developed countries' lack of action. "We've seen unfortunately a further effort from the US, Canada and Japan and the other rich industrialized countries to unravel the existing commitments and what that means is inaction on emissions but also shifting the burden of cutting emissions to developing countries", Sarah-Jayne told Real world Radio.

A press confernce by Climate Justice Now coalition made clear that civil society organisations and people felt ignored by the governments who are supposed to represent them. Des D'Sa from the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance gave a damning description of how the talks have failed the people of the world: "There have been discussions taking place in closed doors by those in power, who have colleagues in the corporate world and the decisions are not in the interests of mankind."

Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists said in a mid morning press conference: "There will be extreme anger I think not just from the 4 or 5 countries that blocked the Copenhagen accord in Copenhagen two years ago, but from a much broader range of developing countries with legitimate anger that the industrialised countries are backing out of legally binding framework, not puting the money they pledged at Copenhagen on the table and not showing leadership. The question is what will the reaction be to that anger. Will it be to try to take down the whole house of cards? and block decisions on a whole range of issues under the Cancun agreements? I don't know. stay tuned. There is anger at failure to move forward on ambition and on finance by the developing countries."

Pablo Salon, the former chief negotiator for Bolivia, gave his reaction to the latest draft text for the Durban talks at a press briefing for Focus on the Global South.

"The Kyoto Protocol will lose it's heart. The promise of reductions by rich countries will be increadibly low until 2020 and will lead to a temperature increase of more than 4 degrees celsius. The Kyoto Protocol will turn into a zombie without a global figure for reduction of emissions by industrialised countries and will carry on walking until 2020 just so that carbon markets don't disappear. In 2020 it will enter into effect in a new legal framework applicable to all. By all, they mean diluting the difference between developed and developing countries, between countries responsible for climate change and those who are victims. The US is the great winner. They manage to eliminate any mention of a binding agreement. That means the new legal framework will be an empty gesture without any effect. This will become known as the lost decade iof the fight against climate change. Genocide and ecoside will reach proportions we have not yet seen. The great scape by the rich has turned into the great swindle. Thankyou.

Nigerian Nnimmo Bassey, elected chair of Friends of the Earth International and Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action made an impassioned statement on the final day:

"we need to know if the delegates will continue to pretend that there is no problem in the world. That they can construe business as usual. Whether they will yield to arm twisting just because a few dollars are being hoisted about in the corridors. We want to send a clear message to delegates that finding a solution to global warming does not require rocket science......We can't afford to pretend that nothing is going on while the world is burning. Africa must not be killed we are asking that everyone in the halls, all those in the secret rooms should know that what they are doing, the delays constitute nothing short of crime. And this cannnot be tolerated."

The flashmob and march inside the conference centre filled the hall outside of the main negotiating room. According to a media release civil society representatives, including many from youth organisations, stood side-by-side with delegates from some of the world's most vulnerable countries and sang traditional South African freedom songs and chanted slogans like, "Listen to the People, Not the Polluters."

"We are all the people of Africa. We are all people of the islands," said Kumi Naidoo, the Durban-born Executive Director of Greenpeace International. Naidoo appealed directly to the United States to step out of the way of progress. "President Obama, do not listen to the CEOs of fossil fuel companies. Listen to the people."

Green Climate Fund

While on Thursday night European banks were bailed out and the Euro stabilised to the tune of $200 billion, not a cent has yet been contributed to the Green Climate Fund for assisting developing countries to adapt to climate change.

Jason Anderson, Head of European Climate and Energy Policy at WWF, said: "$200 billion was mobilised to stabilise the euro currency yesterday. We need that kind of deciseveness to ensure that the Green Climate Fund does not remain an empty shell"

Developing countries and some civil society organisations are particularly concerned that the Green Climate Fund will be based in Washington and administered by the World Bank, which is what the US is pushing for.

Friends of the Earth issued a report in June 2011 saying that World Bank dirty investments are fueling climate change. Many developing countries have direct experience of the practices of the World Bank and prefer the fund sectretariat to be based in either the UN offices in Geneva or the UNFFC offices in Bonn.

It is a long night for negotiators. But any deal made seems likely to shift the burden of emission cuts onto those nations who have least contributed historically to the build up of atmospheric greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. While Africa faces climate impacts of above the global average for rise in temperatures, more drought and precipitation extreme events that will impact on agriculture and food security.


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