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DURBAN, Dec 15 2010 (IPS) - 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 United Nations World Conference on Climate Change 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 the recognition that the markets will react favourably to leadership which reduces risk and uncertainty: that provides a stable regime for future investment.

At Cancun’s carbon-fuelled carnival of chaos, on the morning of December 11, 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, a 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 they 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. We need to make sure they put the money on the table and 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 Cancun 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 they come together again in Durban, South Africa, from November 28-December 9.

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, for developing country action on climate change, and for helping 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 be clearer about their own commitments -they must tell us- and the international community -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 Cancun with good intentions. More could have been accomplished if not for the destructive role of the United States, Russia, and Japan, for example. The US 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. Much will need to be done to pressure the US into becoming a constructive partner on climate change, to say the least.

We have of course been at this juncture before. Despite the overwhelming 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.

Durban must now be the final destination in the long journey from 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! (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)

(*) Kumi Naidoo is the Executive Director of Greenpeace International.

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