Climate Activists: Durban Deal is “Very Weak” Agreement, Lacks “Ambition, Equity, Justice”
The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, has ended with an agreement to start negotiations for a new legally binding climate treaty to be decided by 2015 – and to come into force by 2020. Negotiators also agreed to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol and the initial design of a Green Climate Fund. Many environmental groups say the agreement does not do enough to deal with the climate crisis. “It is really not the important milestone in building a climate regime that many have called it, including the United States and the European Union,” says Kate Horner, a policy analyst at Friends of the Earth International. “Instead, what it is is a further milestone in a very long history of the wealthy world backtracking on their existing promises and reneging on existing obligations. The platform will delay action for five to 10 years while a new treaty is being negotiated and ratified. It will lock in the low levels of ambition. And really, I think the most damaging part of it is it’s an attempt to shift the burden of this problem on to developing countries who have contributed less.” The outcome of the U.N. climate summit could be especially damaging for Africa. “Africa is off the map. Yet Africa is the continent that is going to burn because of the indecision and the weak decisions that have come out of this gathering here in Durban,” notes Bobby Peek, director of groundWork, a South African-based environmental justice organization.
“Don’t Kill Africa”: Climate Activists Occupy Durban Talks Demanding Binding Emissions Cuts
During the final official day of the United Nations climate change talks in Durban on Friday, more than 150 activists “occupied” the conference as they marched through the halls calling for a fair, legally binding agreement before being told to leave by U.N. security. Protesters were careful not to disrupt the actual negotiations and said a delay in action on climate change could cause large swaths of Africa to be uninhabitable. “Unlike some of the governments in these negotiations, who talk democracy in one voice and engage in awful acts of human rights abuses on the other… we will show the highest tradition of peaceful, civil disobedience, which is our right,” says Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, one of those expelled after the protest.
The Lost Decade: Bolivian Pablo Solón Decries Climate Deal Postponing New Emissions Cuts Until 2020
In 2010, then-Ambassador Pablo Solón headed Bolivia’s climate negotiating team for the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Cancún, Mexico. However, for this year’s climate summit he joined climate justice activists outside the official conference in the streets of Durban demanding the United States, and other historically large greenhouse gas emitters, agree to legally binding emissions cuts. “Developed countries, like the U.S., Europe, Japan, Russia, are just trying to avoid their responsibility when it comes to greenhouse emissions cuts,” says Solón. “So, that is the real outcome out of Durban, and that is why there is so much concern around the world, because, especially the developing countries, the poor nations, and the poor people around the world, even in the United States, are going to be those ones that are going to suffer the consequences of this. That is why we call it a climate apartheid.”
Leymah Gbowee, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia Share Nobel Peace Prize with Yemeni Tawakkul Karman
On Saturday, the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was presented to three female activists and political leaders for “their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights.” The trio of laureates follow only a dozen other women among 85 men, as well as a number of organizations, to have won the peace prize over its 110-year history. We play excerpts from their acceptance speeches. “The Nobel Committee cannot license us, our three laureates, to speak for women, but it has provided us a platform from which to speak to women,” notes Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was awarded the prize for her human rights work and the progress her country has made since she took office in 2006 as the first democratically elected female head of state on the African continent. “There is no time to rest, until our world achieves wholeness and balance, where men and women are considered equal and free,” notes Leymah Gbowee. Her “Women for Peace” movement is credited by some for bringing an end to the civil war in 2003. The movement started humbly in 2002 when Gbowee organized a group of women to sing and pray for an end to fighting in a fish market. “The Nobel Prize did not come only as a personal prize for Tawakkul Abdel-Salam Karman, but as a declaration in recognition of the whole world for the triumph of the peaceful revolution of Yemen and as an appreciation of the sacrifices of its great, peaceful people,” says Tawakkul Karman, the first Arab woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize and the youngest winner of the peace prize to date, slightly edging out the Irish activist Mairead Corrigan, who won in 1976. Both were 32.