The Other Climate Gathering
While world leaders, scientists, academics and corporations are making nice in at the Congress of the Polluters, I mean Congress of the Parties, those who are the true victims of climate change are just expected to fold their arms and wait for the solutions that will arise from the 17th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.Although provision has been made inside the Durban International Convention Centre for environmental NGO’s and “ordinary people”, their participation will be limited to an observatory one.
Durban’s answer to Dialogo Climatico in Cancun last year is The Space. It is a civil society space to be housed at UKZN’s Howard College. This will be an opportunity for civil society groups, under the banner C17, to “organise independent events, strategise, share knowledge, hold conferences and build international links for campaigns and initiatives”. Here, social movements, labour, environmental justice organisations, international environmental NGOs and faith-based organisations will be holding seminars and workshops to raise awareness and share solutions to the climate crisis.
With climate change being a global issue, and official talks being rather elitist, C17 expects thousands of environmental activists from all over the world to utilise The Space. Although the primary goal is to facilitate discussions, it would not be a South African experience without local flavour. The Space will provide a platform for local artists to showcase their talent in song, dance, arts and craft or whatever the chosen outlet for their creativity.
This will not just be another talk shop, albeit probably more effective since it will be at grassroots level, the pinnacle of this gathering will be The Global Day of Action to be held on the 3rd of December. If the past marches are anything to go by, a few feathers will certainly be ruffled as the anticipated 10 000 plus marchers make their way from Curries Fountain through the UN precinct, pass the ICC and end at the beach.
C17 is working in conjunction with the eThekwini Municipality but with the South African government always looking to save face, the is no doubt the police presence will be heavy on the day. It remains to be seen whether it will be a protest of PETA proportions.
All this in an effort to make their voices heard. Particularly to “demand a binding agreement for emissions reductions, pledge and review system is unacceptable, environmentally sustainable, socially just and equitable development, and safeguard biodiversity and peoples’ rights”.
With over 30 000 people expected to arrive for the talks, accommodation will be scarce. For those who cannot or are not willing to pay the special-hiked-foreigner prices, or even those who choose to remain close to the action, a refugee camp will be set up to accommodate the influx.
It is a matter of talking the talk but not walking the walk as official delegates will leave a huge carbon footprint, as a result of their air travel and other local transport. I’d like to see one of these suits bicycling on the planned cycle lanes or flying in on a commercial flight.
At the pre-COP17 provincial summit in Durban recently, government advocated the planting of trees as a mitigation tool. Yet there will be thousands of pages printed for delegates, at a time where technology allows paperless passage of information. There is also the demand for bottled water, what, is tap water in Africa (the country not the continent they always refer to) not good enough for the dignitaries? Talk about hypocrisy.
In contrast The Space and Refugee Camp will be environmentally friendly and based on the C17 objectives which are to “Stop climate change, encourage lifestyle change, awareness and understanding in climate justice groups and broader civil society, facilitate the development of an informed civil society that is mobilised, active and can articulate and advocate for climate justice and develop and strengthen the environmental justice movement”.
It is not totally a case of us versus them, as the there will be engagement on the official discussions but the aim of C17 is to see real solutions and binding agreements being concluded, with consequences for the world’s emitters of green house gases. Capitalists industries have bigger pockets and thus louder voices but with the actions the C17 committee has planned, let’s hope the voice of the people is not only heard but listened to.