‘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.

Second, it appears that the European Union, South Africa and the Climate Action Network – the latter representing big international NGOs mostly without any commitment to climate justice – are pushing what is called a ‘new mandate’. And not surprisingly, Pretoria’s team and the biased pro-Northern chair, SA foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, appear ready to sell out the African continent.

Some countries, led by Mali and Egypt, are holding firm on demands by the African Group, the Group of Least Developed Countries and the Latin American ‘Alba’ countries for binding northern emissions cuts of 50% by 2020 and 95% by 2050. These are critical targets to get the overall climate change to below 1.5 degrees. At 2 degrees, the UN estimates, ninety percent of current African agricultural output will cease.

If African countries fold in coming hours, even the traditional leaders of science-based demands – Bolivia, Tuvalu and a few others – probably cannot block a sleazy Durban deal.

Unfortunately, the SA and EU delegations are behind-the-scenes managers devoted to bringing emissions trading markets into this new mandate, largely because of the vast investment that Europeans have made in now-failing carbon markets. Jacob Zuma’s endorsement of the World Bank’s ‘Climate Smart Agriculture’ scheme last week is a return to nakedly neoliberal management of society and nature – an approach that over the last decade proved so disastrous in water privatization and carbon trading.

Explains Anne Maina of the African Biodiversity Network, “Climate Smart Agriculture comes packaged with carbon offsets. Soil carbon markets could open the door to offsets for genetically-modified crops and large-scale biochar land grabs, which would be a disaster for Africa. Africa is already suffering from a land grab epidemic – the race to control soils for carbon trading could only make this worse.”

Zuma is not well advised by is climate team, for the carbon markets upon which the strategy rests are dying. The Union Bank of Switzerland, Europe’s largest, last month estimated the price per tonne collapsing to just 3 euros in 2013, down from a peak of over 30 euros five years ago and around eight euros at present. If forest credits are also sold into the markets, as proponents hope, it will swamp supply and crash the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme to the level of Chicago’s: around zero.

By all accounts we need prices of at least 50 euros/tonne for market incentives to begin substantively switching us out of carbon and into renewable energy and public transport. Can we trust maniac bankers to deliver the planet’s salvation?

Face it, the neoliberal strategy is failing on its own terms. As a result, Trevor Manuel’s idea that half the Green Climate Fund should be drawn from carbon markets instead of stingy Northern governments and corporations is fatally flawed.

There is a tiny remaining hope for COP17, but only if we soon see a 1999 Seattle-style move by African delegates who know their constituents will be fried if the rich countries and SA have their way. Exactly twelve years ago, the African delegates refused to let the World Trade Organisation do a deal against Africa’s interests. SA’s trade minister at the time, Alec Erwin, tried but was unable to prevent this sensible obstructionist approach.

This time it will be harder, not only because Nkoana-Mashabane presides over COP17, but also because of Ethiopia’s tyrant ruler Meles Zenawi, a top African Union negotiator who ‘sold out’ the continent in 2009-10 by halving finance demands and endorsing the Copenhagen Accord, according to Mthika Mwenda of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance.

Since the African Group represents 53 countries, the Group of Least Developed Countries represents 48, and there are a half-dozen more in the Alba block, it is not impossible that this shifting alliance can overcome the rich countries’ power and the tendency of the four leading middle-income countries – Brazil, China, India and SA – to represent their own national interests.

As German NGO activist Rebecca Sommer of Ecoterra sums up, “Developed nations are trying to shift their responsibilities for drastic emissions cuts onto developing countries that have done the least to cause the problem. Rich industrialized countries are busy trying to carve out new business opportunities for multinational corporations and their financial elites. It would be disastrous if the internationally binding emission reduction commitments would lapse or end altogether in Durban.”

Most likely, our city will go down in infamy as the site that the temperature was dialed up on Africa. Against that, a spirited march on Saturday passed the ICC but its impact was tempered by what climate justice activists called the ‘Green Bombers’ (named after Robert Mugabe’s paramilitaries).

Complained march organizer Des D’Sa of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, “About 300 protesters, dressed in official COP17 volunteer uniforms, tore up placards, physically threatened and attacked activists participating in the march. In spite of heavy police presence throughout the march, including mounted police, riot police, air-patrol and snipers, and requests to address this disruption, police did not take any action.”

The group had “green eThekwini tracksuits with city branding and emblems, but acknowledged themselves to be ANC Youth League supporters, displaying pro-Zuma and anti-Malema placards,” says D’Sa, with the message “100% COP17”. And that tells you all you need to know about the stakes and dirty politics in play here in central Durban.


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12 responses to “‘A dirty deal coming down in Durban’

  1. Its a sad thing that our government lacks the intelligence and courage to stand up to these bullies.
    But still the journey doesn’t end here! A Better world is still possible through real people power!

  2. Farooque Chowdhury

    excellent article, Patrick.

  3. Any questions or corrections? We have to think globally and act locally, I suppose. Any thoughts?



    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
    established 2001
    Chapel Hill, NC

  4. Audrey Masara

    It would seem the poor countries, which have the least to bring on this predicament, will face the full wrath of the climate changes alone while the rich countries like the US and China are least affected!! Not fair at all!!!

  5. Audrey Masara

    It would seem the poor countries, which have done the least to bring on this predicament, will face the full wrath of the climate changes alone while the rich countries like the US and China are least affected!! Not fair at all!!!

  6. Krzysztof E Wojciechowicz

    How nice to hear that there are still sensible people who can’t be tricked into this dirty multi-billion dollar fraud called ‘Global Warming’!

  7. Did anyone really expect anything different from this conference? As the crisis becomes more serious, it becomes less an issue of political intransigence and more an issue of moral conscience – the report that a 2 degree rise would reduce 90% of African agricultural output is hard for anyone with a heart to ignore.

  8. Pingback: Strong words against US « theclimatetalks

  9. We knew that the we will get a raw deal anyway but this will never stop us from fighting and ensuring that our children’s future is protected hence though the green bullies will try to make it hard we managed to destroy apartheid in RSA this is just another trial. look this sa government reps knows nothing about this industry they are in Durban to make contacts for themselves so that when they no-longer part of the parliament then can make corrupt deals for their pocket, this people are not leaders but traitors to mankind and mother earth.

  10. Pingback: Spotlight Durban: A dirty deal coming down in Durban » TripleCrisis

  11. This is high time to for the principle of justice to be analysed and a fare judgement passed.It is paradoxical to see countries like the US, Canada to chmpion and lead Russia and Japan in this climate justice deal.When the US disguide by carrying plagues of ‘democracy, peace and unity’ in search for oil reserves arround the world she claims to be champions of democracy.The world espected the US to lead in the process of global climate change negotiation.As one of the most contributorts to climate emissions, the world espected her to apply the full principles of justice and faireness in climate deal.I congratulate and exault the act of demonstration to their government by the Canadian Youths.They are heros and heroins in the fight for this noble course.

  12. In the face of the Durban Debacle and the increase of 10% emissions in 2010 I think that a coalition of of citizens’ groups ought to take a pro-active stand and launch their own negotiations based upon strategy that integrates climate and development. This is possible by basing the international monetary system which is the world’s most basic global system—as glue, it binds together the financial, economic and commercial systems—on a carbon standard. How that would work, watch the Climate TV interview on http://www.timun.net and read my thinkpiece on the Stakeholder Forum’s http://www.earthsummit2012.org/index.php/pubs/sf-publications/412-sdg-thinkpieces

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