Development & Aid, Environment, Tierramerica

Good Omens for Climate Pact in Durban 2011

DURBAN, South Africa, Dec 20 2010 (IPS) - The fact that an international climate deal is possible at next year's climate summit in Durban, South Africa is a good omen for the future of our planet, writes South African Kumi Naidoo, head of Greenpeace International.

 - Fabricio Vanden Broeck

- Fabricio Vanden Broeck

Next year will be another big year for civil society, a year which will see every effort focused on achieving climate justice: getting a good deal for the climate out of the U.N. talks in Durban, but also making sure that governments and corporations take action outside of the so-called political process.

We at Greenpeace will not simply sit back and wait patiently for the politicians to act. We have begun to “follow the money” and will be working in the coming months to expose the billions in tax payers money being squandered on propping up dirty oil, coal and risky nuclear projects. We will be working to highlight the benefits of investing in safe alternatives like renewable energy.

Arguably, the marketplace is moving faster than the diplomatic process, some captains of industry are moving faster than the politicians and we expect that a political breakthrough will also result from a recognition that the markets will react favorably to leadership which reduces risk and uncertainty: that provides a stable regime for future investment.

At Cancún's carbon fuelled carnival of chaos, I witnessed rounds of applause and cheers as country after country agreed to fund climate protection and adaption in the developing world and agreed that much deeper greenhouse gas emissions cuts would be needed to stay in line with what climate scientists say is necessary.

Of course they have not yet agreed the fair, ambitious and legally binding deal the world needs to save the climate: a deal to save hundreds of millions of lives, to prevent countless species from becoming extinct and to preserve some of the world’s most precious habitats. It is, however, cause for hope, a down-payment on such a deal.

It shows us in civil society where to focus some of our efforts: • Governments not only stated that emissions cuts needed to be in line with the science — 25-40 percent cuts by 2020 — and that they need to keep global temperature rise below two degrees, but the also conceded that current commitments won't meet that goal. We need to push for higher cuts.

• A climate fund is being established that could deliver the billions needed for the developing world to deal with climate change and stop deforestation. But so far they have not established any way of providing that money. One way could be an international levy on aviation and shipping, for example. We need to make sure they put the money on the table and they need to do so without any further delays.

• An agreement has also been reached that deals with a mechanism to protect tropical forests in a way that benefits indigenous peoples and local communities as well as the rich biodiversity that resides in the forests. The Cancún agreement on forests further stressed the need for protecting forests nationwide and not on a project-by-project basis.

Much was left to decide over the next year before the delegates come together again in Durban, South Africa.

We have to really push to ensure that, in Durban, we see exactly where that crucial money is going to come from to pay for the forests, and for developing country action on climate change and help them cope with the impacts of climate change like the floods we have seen this year in Pakistan, Mexico and Colombia.

In the developing world we must move to get our governments to move quickly and be clearer about their own commitments — they and the international community must tell us what their pledges are — and get them openly and transparently on the table, so that we can work out just how far we are from that crucial temperature rise threshold.

As always not everyone came to the party in Cancún with good intentions, more could have been accomplished if not for the destructive role of the United States, Russia and Japan, for example. The U.S. in particular came across the border with feeble commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, despite being the world's highest historical emitter, proceeded to use its might to water down several important areas of agreement and even place a successful outcome in serious doubt. It brought nothing to the table except its own interests, interests that lie more with the intense pressure from the fossil fuel industry and the climate science denying Republicans in the U.S. Congress. Much will need to be done to pressure the United States into becoming a constructive partner on climate change, to say the least.

Developing countries were looking for strong action by the industrialized world, especially with the Kyoto Protocol. But Japan and Russia, by saying that they don't want to enter into Kyoto's second phase, caused those countries to weaken their commitments. Japan and Russia need to be convinced to change their minds. We at Greenpeace and all of civil society need to continue to pressure our governments to act in good faith, to put their money and emissions where their mouths are.

We have of course been at this juncture before, this crossroads, and despite over whelming evidence and benefits governments have balked and taken the wrong road. Isolationism, separatism and short-term political cowardice have all taken their toll on progress towards the fair, ambitious and legally binding treaty the world needs to avert climate chaos and to smooth the path to a greener more equitable economy.

But we cannot afford to give up hope, and for me at least, the fact that a deal is now once more possible and that the next place it can be realized will be in Durban, South Africa, is a good omen.

I grew up in a Durban township under the tyranny apartheid, and it was there I became an activist and worked for a peaceful end to the brutal regime. And, although many times wrong moves were made and hope for a peaceful resolution was all but extinguished, we held onto our hope, we persevered and we won.

Durban must now be the final destination in the long journey since the Earth Summit in 1992 in Rio, where talks on a climate saving deal were begun. The time is now. Let's hope that next year we can dust off the vuvuzelas and blow them in celebration for the planet when our governments agree a fair, ambitious and legally binding climate treaty!

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