Final hours at COP 17, last chance for Earth?

You may well wonder why you’ve not been hearing more from this blog, and the answer is, I’ve not been quite sure what to say (and my computer was stolen earlier in the week). I find the intricacies of this process incredibly difficult to follow. But sitting here in the ICC this evening (now around 7.10pm), the feeling amongst the civil society people around me is anxious, and a while back, we heard that there is still no text for a final agreement.Talks may continue tomorrow (they are supposed to end tonight).

The one key to assessing success or failure will be: are there new commitments to cutting emissions right now? Or are they delayed yet again?

The rich countries seem to have been playing a classic game — dramatically lowering expectations before the COP, with talk of delaying significant agreement to 2020. Then in the last two days, positions seemed to be easing, to taking action by 2015 — with the effect that they would have won significant delays while looking as if they’d ‘compromised’.

It’s a strange place to be. I can smell the rain outside, and for while earlier, someone was playing the piano downstairs, beautifully, Beethoven and Debussy. Two hours ago I was in the midst of an enormous Occupy-style protest in the halls here — chanting and singing of Shosholoza by a great many visitors from overseas, with the human microphone call-and-echo-and-amplify system in full swing (and my first experience of using that system — scary and exhilarating).

A blocked COP presidentA little later, I witnessed an interesting incident at a gate between the ICC and the adjacent Durban Exhibition Centre, where the NGOs have their stands. The gate, open all week, was locked, and the COP chair, our South African foreign minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, was waiting with all the rest of us to get through. UN security arrived, and she said, testily: “Open this gate, this is my country.” One wonders to what extent she is autonomous here, and to what extent a figurehead manipulated by others. She looks exhausted, walking as if slightly crippled.

My impression has been that we may well be headed for a second period of commitment to lowering emissions by rich countries under the Kyoto Protocol (now excluding Canada, Russia and Japan, of course). And towards some kind of agreement on a Green Climate Fund. But as the chant went in  a protest in the ICC this afternoon, “we don’t just want a fund, we want a just fund”  — in other words, one that is fully funded, offers direct access to developing countries, does not undermine national sovereignty, and does not simply operate as another playground for banks and multinationals. But as a negotiator from a developing country yelled during the protest, “Delays will only cost the polluters money, but delays will cost our lives.”

Meanwhile, there is unwanted news from the science world — the carbon emissions caused by deforestation are twice as great as previously suspected. Bolivia has made a new proposal for dealing with deforestation, but Bolivia is all too often ignored. A pity, since they’re arguably one of the few sources of truth in the negotiations. (Here, Pablo Solon, former Bolivian ambassador to the UN, describes how current policies amount to ecocide.) But the prevailing view seems to be that, ‘This is about economics, not religion or morality.’

The big issues remain:

Will there be a second commitment period of lowering emissions by rich countries under the Kyoto Protocol? The answer seems to be a tentative yes.

Rowdy civil society protest in the ICC on the 'last' day of COP 17The Green Climate Fund to cover the costs of adaptation. Supposedly, this fund will be disbursing $100bn a year by 2020. But the ALBA group of countries, which includes Ecuador and Bolivia, argues that the current design of the fund is badly flawed, for several reasons. At this stage, it appears these issues will be handed over to an interim committee to sort out over the next year. Unless the funding options include a financial transactions tax, a maritime and aviation fuel tax, and possibly the use of special drawing rights from the IMF (the suggestions of the ALBA countries), the fund will most likely fail.

The biggest issue of course is how big a dent will be made in the emissions gap? And the answer is, at the moment, not big enough or fast enough to save Africa. Which may be to the enduring shame of South Africa, depending on where we align ourselves in the closing hours. It’s worth remembering that even the US is signatory to the UNFCC Convention that in theory binds it to “take precautionary measures to anticipate, prevent or minimize the causes of climate change and mitigate its adverse effects. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing such measures…”

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President Zuma sits quietly as his supporters physically attack civil society activists at town hall meeting on climate change

This is the second attack on peacefully demonstrating members of civil society in the last week, here in Durban. The first was during the march on Saturday on the Global Day of Action: ANC Youth League members, also wearing COP 17 volunteer uniforms, attacked protesters.

Press Release: Pro-Zuma Supporters Physically Attack Civil Society at Durban Townhall Meeting on Climate Change.

groundWork, Earthlife Africa Jhb

8th of Dec. 2011

President Zuma watches as Supporters Assault Peaceful Demonstrators

Twenty minutes ago and in a meeting designed for engagement between President Zuma and communities & civil society, violence broke out when peaceful civil society demonstrators silently held up signs asking “Zuma to stand with Africa”. Pro-Zuma supporters, many wearing the uniforms of COP17 volunteers then attacked the demonstrators in an act of mob violence.

Demonstrators were roughed up and some had to flee the hall.

While all of this went on, President Zuma sat up on the podium and remained quiet. Furthermore, it took nearly ten minutes before police entered the hall to restore order.

Siziwe Khanyile of groundWork states, “This was our event, organised to communicate with President Zuma. We were then abused, kicked out, robbed, and manhandled by Zuma supporters disguised as COP17 volunteers.”

Tristen Taylor of Earthlife Africa Jhb states, “This was a terrible display of mob violence that aim to suppress the democratic rights of citizens of this country. It happened in front of the President of this country, and disgraces this country in front of the eyes of the world at time when we should be solving the problem of climate change.”

For more information, please contact:

Siziwe Khanyile
Climate Justice and Energy Campaigner
groundWork, Friends of the Earth, South Africa
Tel:+27 33 342 5662
Fax: +27 33 342 5665
Cell: +27 73 830 8173
Email: siziwe@groundwork.org.za
http://www.groundwork.org.za

Tristen Taylor
Project Coordinator
Earthlife Africa Jhb
Cell: +27 84 250 2434
Email: tristen@earthlife.org.za
http://www.earthlife.org.za

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Sign two urgent petitions against dangerous delays on climate change

Please take urgent action — speak up against proposals to delay serious action on climate breakdown:
sign up here: http://www.350.org/durban, and here:
http://www.avaaz.org/en/the_planet_is_dying/

And then send this to friends. Please act quickly.

The message from 350.org:

Dear friends around the world,

What if someone told you we should abandon all hope for global climate action until 2020? Well, that’s exactly the proposal that the United States and other countries are pushing at the UN Climate Talks taking place this week in Durban, South Africa. The 2020 delay might well be the worst idea ever.

Waiting nine years for climate action isn’t just a delay, it’s a death sentence for communities on the front lines of the climate crisis — and it could slam the door on ever getting carbon pollution levels below the safe upper limit of 350 parts per million.

It’s not too late to stop this delay from going through. Over the next couple of days, our team of

350.org activists in Durban will be working with our partners at Avaaz and allies from around the world to isolate climate action delayers like the USA, build support for the African nations that are fighting for real climate action, and push the European Union, Brazil and China to stand with Africa in their efforts.

Click here to add your voice to a global call to action we’re delivering in Durban: http://www.350.org/durban

The climate talks in South Africa end in just 48 hours, and it’s vital that we ramp up the pressure now. To make sure our message gets through, our team on the ground here in Durban will deliver your messages directly to the US negotiating team at a high-impact event we’re helping to pull together on Friday. We can’t say much more about it now, but we’ll be making sure that our message will be unavoidable.

If we raise an international alarm before the talks end on Friday, we can push the US out of the way of progress and help jumpstart the global process that can lead to bold climate action all around the world. Of course, the UN Climate Talks aren’t going to get us back to 350 by themselves, but they have the potential to create a legally binding, international framework to help nations make serious cuts in carbon emissions.

Regardless of what happens here in Durban, one thing is clear: we’ve all got lots of work to do in our home countries. In 2012, we’re going to need to do all we can to challenge the fossil fuel companies that are the real obstacles to climate progress. Breaking their
stranglehold on our governments is the only way to really unlock these negotiations.

The road ahead of us seems long and difficult, but as Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” The 350 network has pulled off the impossible before — now’s the time to step up the pressure again.

Please add your voice and forward this to all your friends:

http://www.350.org/durban

In solidarity,

Jamie Henn for the whole team at 350.org

P.S. We have just 48 hours to build a huge groundswell of pressure. Please help make it go viral with a few clicks on Twitter and Facebook.

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African Anger at European Calls for A ‘New Mandate’

If you wish to add your organisations name please send an email to:

greeder@coa.edu ASAP

Civil society groups attack ‘Durban Mandate’ proposal as a ‘great escape’

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA – Today – Civil society leaders from across Africa, with support from global movements, launched a letter to climate negotiators that warns that focusing on launching a new mandate at the Durban talks risks backtracking on promises to the poor and the planet.

The letter calls on developed countries to urgently scale up the ambition of their emission reduction targets and reminds negotiators that current emission reduction pledges will lead us to a world that is 5°C warmer. For Africa, this means 7 or 8°C of warming and unimaginable human suffering.

Michele Maynard from the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance said:

“Following what some delegates say you would think that the purpose of these negotiations was a ‘new roadmap’ – that’s just not true. Of central and agreed importance is the need to negotiate deep emission cuts as a part of a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Coming up with new ‘mandates’ and ‘roadmaps’ is a distraction from that very necessary action. It’s also a breach of faith, in 2007 all countries agreed to do this.”

“A climate agreement that does what is necessary to protect Africa is like cooking a good recipe. It needs just enough emission cuts and a dollop of finance and technology for responding to climate impacts. We’ve got the recipe from the Bali Action Plan, we’ve got all the ingredients, even started cutting up some of the vegetables, but now some people want to cook something else. That’s a recipe for doing-nothing and delay.”

“This letter is a clarion call to negotiators – you either see the science and recognize its urgency; or you don’t. You either hear what the world’s poorest people are saying and care; or you don’t. Any outcome which locks in the current proposed emission cuts or puts off talking about how to bring those cuts into line with the science is utterly unacceptable.”

The letter says that agreeing to a new mandate that replaces the Kyoto Protocol would mean action is effectively delayed for five to ten years. A new treaty will take several years to negotiate with several more years needed for ratification. Further, there is no assurance that countries that have repudiated the existing legal architecture, like the United States, will agree to or ratify a new agreement, nor that such agreement will not be a weak and ineffective “pledge and review” system.

While many developed countries seek to end the Kyoto Protocol, they simultaneously attempt to retain and expand their favored elements of the Kyoto Protocol, like the CDM, in a new agreement and shift their responsibilities onto developing countries.

Without legally binding emission reductions under the Kyoto Protocol, developed countries must not be allowed to have access to the carbon markets.

CSO LETTER No Durban mandate for the great escape As African civil society and international allies, we reject the call of many developed countries for a so-called “Durban mandate” to launch new negotiations for a future climate framework. A new mandate for a new treaty in place of the Kyoto Protocol should be understood for what it really is – rich countries backtracking and reneging on “inconvenient” obligations, at the expense of the poor and the planet. While developed countries may appear progressive by asking for a mandate to negotiate a new legally binding treaty, the truth is that this is nothing but a veiled attempt to kill the Kyoto Protocol and escape from their further mitigation obligations under the already existing mandate in the Protocol itself, and the agreement in 2005 for negotiating further emission cuts. A political declaration to continue the KP is, in practice, another nail in its coffin. Anything less than a formal legal amendment and ratification process, will deliver an empty shell of the Kyoto Protocol. Agreeing to a new mandate would mean action is effectively delayed for five to ten years. A new treaty will take several years to negotiate with several more years needed for ratification. Further, there is no assurance that countries that have repudiated the existing legal architecture, like the United States, will agree to or ratify a new agreement, nor that such agreement will not be a weak and ineffective “pledge and review” system. Developed countries must urgently scale up the ambition of their emission reduction targets. As the latest reports by the International Energy Agency make clear, deep emission cuts are needed now to have a realistic chance of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C. Current emission reduction pledges will lead us to a world that is 5°C warmer. For Africa, this means 7 or 8°C of warming and unimaginable human suffering. This is why a pledge-based approach with weak review rules, instead of the Kyoto Protocol’s approach of legally binding commitments and international rules that give meaning to these commitments, is completely insufficient to ensure the necessary emission cuts. While many developed countries condition any further action, including fulfilling their legally binding obligations to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, on greater action by emerging economies, developing country pledges already far outweigh pledges by developed countries. In fact, with accounting loopholes and the use of carbon markets, developed countries could make no net contribution to reducing emissions by 2020. While many developed countries seek to end the Kyoto Protocol, they simultaneously attempt to retain and expand their favored elements of the Kyoto Protocol, like the CDM, in a new agreement and shift their responsibilities onto developing countries. Without legally binding emission reductions under the Kyoto Protocol, developed countries must not be allowed to have access to the carbon markets. Further, with the price of carbon crashing, paltry emissions reductions pledges from developed countries, there is no rationale for the continuation of the CDM or the creation of new market mechanisms. Developed countries must scale up their ambition and stop blaming other countries who have contributed far less to the climate crisis, yet are taking on more aggressive action. Developing countries are living up to their promises made in Bali, while developed countries are attempting to re-write the rules of the game to avoid meeting their obligations. Developed countries are also denying developing countries the necessary finances and technology to address the climate crisis. The provision of finance from developed to developing countries is an obligation in and of itself. It must not be used as a bargaining chip in the Durban negotiations, nor should it be dangled in front of poor countries as a bribe to get agreement for a very bad mitigation deal. The same applies to the operationalization of the Green Climate Fund. Success in Durban depends on the Green Climate Fund not being an empty, ineffective shell. We will not accept a “Durban mandate” or any outcome that locks in the current low ambition and inaction for many years, and condemns billions of people in Africa and across the world to suffer the worst impacts of a warming world.

Signed by: Africa Trade Network
Alternative Information Development Centre
Democratic Left Front
Friends of the Earth International
groundWork,
Friends of the Earth, South Africa
Pan African Climate Justice Alliance
Rural Women’s Alliance
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance
Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute
Third World NetworkTrust for Community Outreach and Education

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African civil society contacts for COP 17

If there are any journos following this blog, and keen to get African perspectives on the direction of the COP, please contact  Michelle Maynard (m_1_maynard@yahoo.co.uk, +2778 227 6440), Augustine Njamnshi (abnjamnshi@yahoo.com), Mithika Mwenda (mwemithika@yahoo.com), all of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance — or Tetteh Homeku of Third World Network (thormeku@yahoo.com, +2773 5462 031).

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Canadian youth ejected from COP 17

(A non-disruptive, non-violent protest – but effective, so of course, they are ejected.)

TURN THEIR BACKS ON CANADIAN GOVERNMENT DURING OPENING SPEECH

High Resolution Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cydcancun/Durban,

South Africa – Members of the Canadian Youth Delegation were ejected from COP17 today as Canada’s Environment Minister Peter Kent delivered his opening address at the United Nations climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa. Just as Kent began his speech, six youth stood and turned away from the Minister revealing the message “Turn your back on Canada” prominently displayed on their shirts.

“Our so-called Environment Minister entered these talks by going on record that Continue reading

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‘A dirty deal coming down in Durban’

The Mercury, 6 December

Eye on Society column

A dirty deal coming down in Durban

By Patrick Bond

What, now, are the prospects for a climate deal by Friday?

The biggest problem is obvious: COP17 saboteurs from the US State Department joined by Canada, Russia and Japan, want to bury the legally-binding Kyoto Protocol treaty. Instead of relaxing intellectual property rules on climate technology and providing a fair flow of finance, Washington offers only a non-binding ‘pledge and review’ system.

This is unenforceable and at current pledge rates – with Washington lagging everyone – is certain to raise world temperatures to four degrees centigrade, and in Africa much higher. Estimates of the resulting deaths of Africans this century are now in excess of 150 million. As former Bolivian Ambassadar to the UN, Pablo Solon said at last week’s Wolpe Memorial Lecture, “The COP17 will be remembered as a place of premeditated genocide and ecocide.”

Within the International Convention Centre, everyone in their right mind should resist this. First, it is patently obvious, after the 1997 Kyoto negotiations where Al Gore promised US support in exchange for carbon trading, and after Hillary Clinton’s 2009 promise of a $100 billion Green Climate Fund – both reneged upon – that Washington cannot be trusted. Lead negotiators Todd Stern and Jonathan Pershing should be isolated, an international climate court should be established, and preparations made for comprehensive sanctions against US goods and services. Continue reading

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