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Patrick Bond on Durban climate talks: Conference of Polluters

The next major round of UN climate talks is in Durban South Africa, November 28th to December 11th 2011. The 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen were disastrous. Last year’s talks in Cancun arguably saved the international negotiations from a complete breakdown but achieved little more, in fact, the Council of Canadians argued it was step backwards in a number of ways. 

For its part, Canada has been a hindrance to the talks. This includes refusing to adopt the standard 1990 baseline year, presenting an emission reduction target – with no plan to achieve it – that makes a mockery of the urgent need for action, helping to kill the good parts of the Kyoto Protocol while supporting its bad components including carbon markets. 

The recent record of UN climate talks is far from achieving the binding international climate agreement advancing climate justice that many across the world have been calling for. It is in this context that Patrick Bond, interviewed at the recent World Social Forum in Dakar Senegal, speaks about the current mobilization in South African and globally for the upcoming climate talks. Bond works with the Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa.

Here are some highlights from the interview. 

Conference of Polluters

Bond suggests that there is appetite in Dakar, Durban and in broader climate justice movement to call out the UN talks for acting more like a conference of polluters than a conference aimed at addressing the climate crisis. He refers to wikilinks as revealing that substantial lobbying happened between Copenhagen and Cancun, driven by ‘business as usual interests,’ that paved the way for the weak Cancun agreement. 

Bond believes that Durban will see these interests pushing even harder to revive the market ideology.  Rather than focussing on real solutions such as massive cuts in emissions, decommissioning carbon markets, climate debt repayment and transfer of clean energy technology to the Global South, weak commitments and carbon market expansion will be on the table.

Referring to the famous Seattle protests against the WTO, Bond believes the mobilization at the Durban talks – while unlikely to aim for a similar full shut down of the talks – will have a similar tone. He refers to the World Conference Against Racism and World Summit of Sustainable Development – both UN events – that attracted significant mobilizations speaking against water privatization, carbon trading and a neo-liberal agenda. Currently, climate camps are being organized to help bring together community, labour, environment, women, youth (and more) movements for a strong front and stand against  market/profit-based agenda and false climate solutions on the table at the Durban talks.

Bond suggests that the World Bank (named as an interim trustee of the Green Climate Fund established in the Cancun agreement despite significant opposition) will be a central target of the mobilizations in Durban. The World Bank recently approved a $3.75 billion loan that will be used to build the Medupi power plant, one of the largest and dirtiest coal fired plants in the world, that continues to be strongly resisted.

Canada, stay home?
Referring to the negative roles countries like the U.S. and Canada have played at climate talks, he suggests  solidarity actions could include messages to the Canadian government to stay home. This could allow for a shift of the balance of power at the talks so that governments like Bolivia be heard, and so that we won’t be on the same trajectory to fully privatizing climate and nature.

Interestingly, the BBC news article released today suggests that the political context in the U.S. may increasingly marginalize their role at climate talks.