SABC News - Civil society vows to be vocal during COP 17:Monday 28 November 2011

Civil society vows to be vocal during COP 17

Monday 28 November 2011 17:40

Tshepo Tsheole, Durban

Civil society representatives in Durban, in conjunction with COP 17 deliberations, have vowed to host peaceful protests during the course of the Durban talks. Their aim is to become the biggest and most vocal groups calling for action on Climate Change deliberations that started today.

According to Desmond D’sa, co-coordinator for Global Year of Action and also a member of C17, a Climate Change refugee camp is being set up at Block AK at the Greyville race-course, where more than 2 000 people are expected to be based. D’sa says the camp will comprise of Climate Justice Activists from rural KwaZulu-Natal, among others. People from Newcastle, Richards Bay, Johannesburg, as well as the Western and Eastern Cape will be taking part at the refugee camp initiative.

Word from D’sa is that although the camp will not be made of actual refugees, the idea is to indicate that the climate predicament is already affecting people on the ground, with inconsistent weather patterns already wreaking havoc. He says the motive behind assembling the Refugee Camp is to put pressure on leaders to ensure that enough is done to address current climate change challenges. He says they plan on putting pressure on leaders and to say to them that “the time is now, real solutions and the future of our people is in your hands.”

D’sa concedes that through their efforts in engaging with Government on the issue, the response has been upfront,  with promises from the State to lend a helping hand to civil society, although no funding for civil society projects have come through as promised. According to D’sa, known for his environmental activism, better relations are developing between civil society and government, but says more still needs to be done.


If no decision is taken around Climate Change issues, the crisis will worsen

In the past month and a half, he and other activists have met with Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, Deputy Minister of International Relations Marius Fransman, eThekwini Municipal Manager Mike Sutcliffe and the National as well as Provincial Portfolio Committees on Environment, to bring them up to speed on the impact climate change is having on people. He says as part of their activism, they have been working with secondary schools since 2009, but have this year, in conjunction with their COP 17 plans, incorporated primary schools from across the country. They are working with 260 schools countrywide.

He adds that they have conducted provincial workshops as well as four national workshops on climate change. Delegates have also been to Europe, the United States as well as across Africa, spreading activism on climate change, as well as taking part in the previous COP. D’sa stresses that they have been raising consciousness all along, even before they knew South Africa was hosting COP 17.

Part of their programme, in conjunction with COP 17 proceedings, members will march from Curries Fountain through to Jones Nkosi street, then down to Yusuf Dadoo street, then off to Dr Pixley Kaseme street, down to Gardener street and then back to Jones Nkosi street on Saturday, December 3. They will hand over a memorandum to the United Nations as well as to COP 17 president, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane at Braam Fischer street.

On December 4, D’sa, together with other health professionals from across the world, will be giving talks at the Tropicana Hotel. He says the talks will centre on the impact of people living alongside major emitters. He says the talks will further touch on the impact on people living on the fence of pulp and paper manufacturing industries. D’sa says they want world leaders to know that if no decision is taken around Climate Change issues, the crisis will worsen.

Meanwhile, while delegates are meeting at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Durban over COP17, Civil Society were busy occupying the Speakers Corner, similar to the "Occupy Wall Street Movement."

Pablo Solon, a leading climate change negotiator and former Bolivian ambassador, has attended all major conferences. In Cancun, Bolivia was the only country that opposed the agreement thrashed out there. Now at COP 17, he is on the other side of the 'negotiation line.'

"There is not enough commitment to emissions reduction. A country like the United States wants to reduce only 3% to the 1999 levels. They want to cook Africa," says Solon from the Occupy COP17. 

The "Occupy Movement" has also swamped the city. Climate Justice is what these activists are campaigning for, and as COP17 got underway inside the ICC, they were already painting a bleak picture about the future of the Kyoto Protocol. 

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