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Final day of UN climate talks turns into marathon: compromised text rejected

Wow. What a day. If you’re like me and have been trying to keep up with twitter, facebook and media updates from the Durban talks, you’ll understand what I mean when I say it’s hard to choose what to write about today. Here are some highlights:

Occupy COP17:

The morning kicked off with news that a large group of activists were occupying the hall outside of the plenary where government officials were meeting, singing and chanting slogans such as,people power, not corporate power and climate justice now. For video footage and pictures, see my blog from earlier today.

Here are comments drawn from a joint 350.org, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace press release:

Will Bates, co-founder of 350.org said:

“Today’s protest was more than a occupy-style ‘mic check,’ it was a ‘reality check,’ as well. With millions of people already feeling the impacts of climate change, it is immoral for the United States and others to suggest that we should delay serious climate action until 2020. Over the last 48 hours, more than 700,000 people have signed petitions calling on negotiators not to sign Africa’s death sentence here in Durban. It’s time our politician listen to the people, not the polluters.”

Bobby Peek from Friends of the Earth South Africa said:

“The UN has thrown out individuals for calling for climate justice – but inside the plenary rooms the politicians are failing to deliver. The developed countries, who are responsible for this crisis, are pushing developing countries to accept low ambition and empty promises. This is unacceptable. The people have spoken loud and clear: the politicians must take heed.”

Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace International said:

“While people calling for urgent action to protect the climate and save lives have been thrown out, it is a brutal irony that the US delegation continues to have free reign to continue obstructing any progress. I ask the proud American people, in whose name this is being done, to take just a moment today to consider what they would do if they learned that a conference of powers was plotting to wipe their great nation off the map, because for low-lying islands that is the future they face.”

Official negotiations:

The first draft of an agreement was tabled earlier today, there was a massive uproar.

The agreement would have ended the Bali Road Map, the completion of which has been a key demand of many activists and nations. It would have established a new mandate to launch new negotiations, the suggested timeline was for the work to be concluded no later than by 2015. The content did not preserve historic responsibility (Global North countries need to do more because we are primarily responsible for the climate change pollution causing current and future impacts), or binding aggregate emission reduction targets.

This has lead many climate justice activists to call for the deal to be scrapped – no deal is better then a bad deal.

Here is a Guardian report on the first draft.

You can read the Third World Network’s analysis of the negotiations here.

In response to the draft text, Pablo Solon – international analyst and social activist, and previous chief negotiator for climate change and United Nations Ambassador of the Plurinational State of Bolivia – stated:

A few moments ago we found out the decisions that they have been cooking behind the scenes. In Durban they won’t approve a second period of commitments of the Kyoto Protocol. This will happen at the end of next year: in COP18. In Durban they will only take note of the draft amendments and the “intention” of rich countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Kyoto Protocol will lose its heart. The promises of reductions by rich countries will be incredibly low until 2020 and will lead to a temperature increase of more than 4 degrees C. The Kyoto Protocol will turn into a Zombie without a global figure for reduction of emissions by industrialised countries, and will carry on walking until 2020 just so that carbon markets don’t disappear. In 2020 it will enter into effect in “a new legal framework appliable to everyone”. By everyone, they mean diluting the difference between developed and developing countries, between countries responsible for climate change and those who victims. The US managed to eliminate any mention of a “binding” agreement. That means the “new legal framework” will be an empty gesture without any effect. This will become known as the lost decade of the fight against climate change. Genocide and ecocide will reach proportions that we have not yet seen. The Great Escape by the Rich has turned into the Great Swindle.”

With the rejection of this text, Ministers are now having a break, allowing them to hammer out their positions before they go back into larger meetings. The talks will continue into tomorrow, a new or updated text will be tabled.

What is the Harper government delegation up to?

I’m hearing that only three countries supported this weak document – Australia, the U.S. and Canada (surprise surprise). This is yet further evidence that the real goal of our government’s delegation is to ensure whatever deal comes about will allow business as usual (more emissions) in Canada.

Canada also earned yet another fossil of the year (Colossal Fossil – 5th year in a row) award today.

“Today, Canada was awarded the dubious honour of Fossil of the Year for the fifth year running at COP17 in Durban, South Africa. “The Canadian Government’s inaction has led to it being constantly singled out as a laggard and even a pariah in these negotiations,” said Chris Bisson of the Canadian Youth Delegation, “They’ve made our country irrelevant to the United Nations’ efforts to combat climate change” The decision to pass on the fossil to the United States comes as civil society groups have found internal Canadian government documents note that with the “ever increasing aggressiveness” of environmental campaigns in 2010, “getting daily ‘Fossil Awards’ on the margins [of the] Conference may be the least of our concerns.” Documents date from just before the last climate negotiations in Cancun, Mexico.”

For more information, read CAN-Canada’s press release.

Mike De Souza also released a damning article today revealing briefing material prepared for Environment Minister Peter Kent and senior management in his department (accessed via freedom of information rules) warning Canada lacks “credible scientific information” to support its claims that tar sands development is environmentally responsible, putting the industry’s economic future in jeopardy. The background notes, emailed to Environment Canada’s top bureaucrat, Paul Boothe, cast doubt on the integrity of environmental assessments on new projects exploiting Alberta’s tar sands.

“Separate briefing notes prepared on June 3, also suggested that Environment Canada bureaucrats were at odds with a government-wide lobbying campaign in partnership with industry stakeholders and the Alberta government, exposed in the media last year, to polish the oilsands’ international reputation. “Getting the science right is important,” said the Environment Canada document. “We are committed to managing the environment in the oilsands based on science, not politics or PR.”

3 can’t miss links

For a better understanding of why climate justice requires water justice and how off track the UN climate talks are in this regard, I recommend reading an op-ed co-authored by Maude Barlow and Meera Karunananthan, published today in Durban’s The Mercury.

“As water scarcity deepens to dangerous levels, the preservation of the Earth’s water must be foremost in the minds of policymakers in Durban. False solutions to climate change that will deepen the water crisis are not the way forward.”

You can watch a moving press conference featuring the following climate justice activists on the failure of the Durban climate talks: Anne Petermann, Moderator, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project, Desmond D’sa, South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, Kandi Mosset, Indigenous Environmental Network and GGJA, Ricardo Navarro, Friends of the Earth El Salvador

And don’t miss this speech by Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of the Earth talking about the desperate need for action – don’t kill Africa is a frequent slogan in Durban. Bassey points towards the Cochabamba People’s Agreement as a document with clear steps forward in the right direction to address the crisis of climate change. The Council of Canadians was also at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba Bolivia. We support the People’s Agreement.