COP 17/ CMP 7: Day 1, Durban, Monday, 28th November 2011 - On the eve of COP 17, Durban's erratic unseasonal flash flooding sent an ominous sign, warning of the literal impacts of climate alteration patterns over short durations. The city was pelted with 62.7mm (South African Weather Bureau) of rain, flooding the poorest of the poor (shack dwellers, homeless) and claiming eight lives. In a poor township called Umlazi, low-cost housing walls collapsed with landslide movements resulting in two reported deaths.
The power of the flash rains also plummeted down on the more affluent areas resulting in flooding and structural damage. A sad loss of life and injury, but nature's loud-hailing ahead of another COP where territory, profits versus environment and egos divide our planet on what should be unified action and honest responsibility rather than faffing and denialism "We won't submit to legally binding emission targets till they do!"
COP 17 opened today with President Zuma, welcoming over 12 000 delegates, members of the press and observers. The President of South Africa emphasized that "Climate Change can no longer be treated as just an environmental challenge" and global solutions should be sought.
Breaking away from the celebrity politicians and elite decision-making deciding the fate of the entire planet, one can't help but escape to breakaway press briefings by the true representatives of the people, civil society, working day-in and day-out at grassroots level speaking out on Climate, Environmental and Socio-Economic Injustices.
Friends of the Earth Chairperson, Nnimmo Bassey, expressed what COP 17 should be "COP 17 should serve the people and serve the planet" reiterating the call by environmental organisations that real action is required.
Sounds like a Cop-Out by Big Polluters?
"We are shocked that the very industrialised countries like the US even before COP sent a signal that nothing will come out of the COP; that they will not make viable, legally-binding commitments to reduce emissions at source."
Friends of the Earth expressed disappointment that countries like Japan, Canada, Australia and Russia will join this trend. The crisis that is confronting the planet is something that every nation should confront with all seriousness because we have just one planet.
"If we allow the rich nations to pledge, and we know that they won't keep to their pledges over the years. If we allow them to get away with it this year, they are getting away with murder, ecocide and we can't allow that to happen", says Nnimmo.
FoE's position is clear as follows:
Carbon offsetting - when developed countries buy carbon credits from developing countries to avoid cutting emissions themselves - has no part to play in a just international agreement to fight climate change.
We believe in climate justice which means emission cuts in developed countries, and money for developing countries to grow cleanly and adapt to the effects of global warming - but it also means a change in our consumption patterns.
The South African Chapter of Friends of the Earth, led by Bobby Peek of the local environmental justice organisation, groundWork had this to say: "To tackle the climate crisis we need a transformation in our unjust and unsustainable economies and their basis in dirty, polluting fossil fuels. In South Africa, it was the power of peoples' struggle that defeated apartheid. Once again our communities need to organize, mobilise and help build not just a new South Africa but a new just and sustainable world that puts the interests and needs of ordinary people and communities first".
It would seem that the age-old polluters, with a historical legacy of externalising toxic impacts onto the environment and poor, marginalised communities within their own countries and beyond into the third world which was historically the dumping ground of multinational corporations, are trying to use every conceivable debate to wiggle and slide out of legally-binding targets. They have now pulled out all defences and started a new debate - what and who are major economies?
The US and the EU want a declassification of developed and developing countries are demanding that all major economies are to be part of a legally-binding treaty. This debate that the historical polluters have started could drag tangible climate action for a decade or so. This is a blatant reneging on historical damage and accountability of developed nations. So, another COP and legally-binding targets seem far-fetched yet again. Surprised?