Saturday, December 3 2011
Written by Angela Wiley
Edited by Holly Jones
Photos by Adriana Gonzalez
This morning, Adriana tapped me on the shoulder and said in a low voice (despite the cacophony of whistles, singing, shouts), “We’re in a march in South Africa right now”. Her eyes were sparkling, and despite the general discomfort from walking in paper thin flip flops, I felt reconnected to the energy of thousands filling the streets of downtown Durban. The peaceful march was headed to the ICC to deliver messages of urgency to negotiators discussing climate change.
So far, negotiations in Durban have been panning out “as expected” -- that is, we won’t be seeing a fair, ambitious and binding treaty by the end of next week, and the United States often stands firmly planted in the way of consensus throughout negotiations. Implementation plans for the Cancun Agreements, particularly the Green Climate Fund (GCF), may be moved on by the end of negotiatons; and if not, another sagging year remains in between decision making on the GCF. Most disappointing is the discussion of a 2020 timeline for agreements. With most countries ideally peaking emissions at 2020, the timeline is obnoxiously slow for an issue as urgent as climate change. After a week of meetings in the conference center in Durban, my anger at the possibility of a 2020 timeline has been building. In a briefing with U.S. negotiator Jonathon Pershing, he said to youth, “...this is not a scenario when any one actor is the solution.”. Of all the disappointing sound bytes I’ve collected from Pershing’s briefings, this was one I finally agreed with. I needed to stay engaged, but needed to take a break from the conference halls to sound off.
The power of marching with activists from every continent on the planet was incredible; and the messages of the day expressed the urgency that is absent in the ICC. “People before Profit”, “Listen to People Not Polluters”, “Climate Justice Now”, and other slogans revealed the political relationships that shape the interests of decision makers. Despite process constraints within negotiations, agreements would come much quicker without heavy influence from fossil fuel players. Although the people marching today were members of different countries and identified strongly with their occupations, issue groups, or national identities, a global community was also speaking. As Secretariat Christiana Figueres and COP17 President Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane emerged from the ICC, a ring of police was surrounded by a ring of march marshalls, and then media (including me). Protestors stretched beyond, continuing to sing, chant and hoist their banners. Speakers on the megaphone represented grievances of civil society with brief but powerful speeches. A South African youth shouted over the loudspeaker “...you will be long gone when we have to deal with the consequences [of climate change]. Please bear in mind when you negotiate that you have our future in your hands....let’s move away from coal, leave the coal in the hole and the oil in the soil!” With Figueres and Nkoana-Mashabane less than a meter away under their umbrellas, I hope they got the message.
Visit SSC's Flickr page to see more from the march and our delegation's experience at COP17 Climate negotiations.