The African Climate Connection

Title The African Climate   Connection
Date   released (year) 2011
Production   company The African Climate   Connection
Length 5.37mins
Location Durban
Keywords/tags Climate change
Link   to film
Synopsis During the UN Climate Talks taking place in   Durban, South Africa, this November, grassroots groups will connect with each   other – and with the conference itself – at African-themed events around the   UK.
Reviews/discussion Durban COP17: failures in the making | by Patrick Bond:

The failure of Durban’s COP17 – a veritable “Conference of Polluters”   – is certain, but the nuance and spin are also important. Binding   emissions-cut commitments under the Kyoto Protocol are impossible given   Washington’s push for an alternate architecture that is also built upon sand.   The devils in the details over climate finance and technology include an   extension of private-sector profit-making opportunities at public expense,   plus bizarre new technologies that threaten planetary safety.

Politically, the overall orientation of global climate policy managers, especially   from the US State Department and World Bank, eventually will be to displace   the main process to the G20. This did not happen in Cannes because of the   Greek and Italian economic crises, but is likely in future. It entails   Washington’s rejection of any potential overall UN solution to the climate   crisis – which in any case is a zero-possibility in the near future because   of the terribly adverse power balance – and the UN’s dismissal of civil   society’s varied critiques of market strategies. The COP negotiators will   also reject climate justice movement’s strategies to keep fossil fuels in the   ground and its demands for state-subsidised, community-controlled,   transformative energy, transport, production, consumption and disposal   systems.
Recall from last December how disappointed the progressive movement was that   in the wake of the 2009 Copenhagen fiasco, the primary face-saving at the   Cancun summit was restoration of faith in carbon markets. The Bolivian   delegation was the only sensible insider team, and they summed up the   summit’s eight shortcomings:

The Cancun Summut

  •   Effectively kills   the only binding agreement, Kyoto Protocol, in favour of a completely   inadequate bottom-up voluntary approach;
  •   Increases loopholes   and flexibilities that allow developed countries to avoid action via an   expansion of offsets and continued existence of ‘surplus allowances’ of   carbon after 2012 by countries such as Ukraine and Russia, which effectively   cancel out any other reductions;
  •   Finance commitments   weakened: commitments to ‘provide new and additional financial resources’ to   developing countries have been diluted to talking more vaguely about   ‘mobilizing [resources] jointly’, with expectation that this will mainly be   provided by carbon markets;
  •   The World Bank is   made trustee of the new Green Climate Fund, which has been strongly opposed   by many civil society groups due to the undemocratic make-up of the Bank and   its poor environmental record;
  •   No discussion of   intellectual property rights, repeatedly raised by many countries, as current   rules obstruct transfer of key climate-related technologies to developing   countries;
  •   Constant assumption   in favour of market mechanisms to resolve climate change even though this   perspective is not shared by a number of countries, particularly in Latin   America;
  •   Green light given   for the controversial Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest   Degradation (REDD) programme, which often ends up perversely rewarding those   responsible for deforestation, while dispossessing indigenous and forest   dwellers of their land;
  •   Systematic exclusion   of proposals that came from the historic World Peoples’ Conference on Climate   Change, including proposals for a Climate Justice Tribunal, full recognition   of indigenous rights and rights of Mother Nature.

Nothing will be different in   Durban, but in the meantime all the worst tendencies in world capitalism have   conjoined to prevent progress on the two main areas of COP 17 decisions:   financing and technology. The latter includes intellectual   property rights barriers which must be overcome, reminiscent of how militant   AIDS treatment activists liberated antiretroviral (ARV) medicines in 2003 at   the Doha World Trade Organisation summit. Before that summit, Trade Related   Intellectual Property Rights provisions allowed Big Pharma to charge $15 000   per person per year for life-saving ARVs, even though generic drugs cost a   fraction of that sum. A similar push to decommodify vital climate technology   is needed, but only a few activists have prioritised this struggle.

After all, technological processes that threaten the earth have intensified,   such as geo-engineering, shale-gas fracking (endorsed by the SA National   Planning Commission), tar sands extraction, and carbon capture and storage   schemes aiming to bury greenhouse gases. The Johannesburg company SASOL   continues to build up the world’s most CO2-intensive factory by converting   coal and gas to liquid petroleum, for which it requests carbon credits from   the UN.

And in spite of the Fukushima   catastrophe, the US and South Africa continue a major nuclear energy   expansion. The mad idea of seeding the oceans with iron filings to generate   carbon-sequestrating algae blooms continues to get attention.   In October 2010, the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan   called for a halt to geo-engineering, but a year later British scientists   began experimenting with stratospheric aerosol injections as a way to   artificially cool the planet. As Canadian technology watchdog Diana Bronson   put it, ‘This so-called Solar Radiation Management could have devastating   consequences: altering precipitation patterns, threatening food supplies and   public health, destroying ozone and diminishing the effectiveness of solar   power.’

The financial mechanisms under   debate since Cancun are just as dangerous because austerity-minded states in   the US and European Union are backtracking on their $100 billion/year promise   of a Green Climate Fund to promote carbon trading. That Fund   appears set to re-subsidise carbon markets by ensuring they become the source   of revenues, instead of larger flows of direct aid from rich countries, which   activists suggest should become a down payment on the North’s ‘climate debt’.   The markets have been foiled by their own internal corruption and   contradictions, as well as by left critiques in key sites such as California   and Australia, and rightwing climate change denialism in the US Congress.

But most importantly, the EU’s emissions trading scheme is still failing to   generate even $10/ton carbon prices, whereas at least $50 would be required   to start substantial shifts from fossil fuels to renewables. And world   financial chaos means no one can trust the markets to self-correct.

Even with a rise of 2° C, scientists generally agree, small islands will   sink, Andean and Himalayan glaciers will melt, coastal areas such as much of   Bangladesh and many port cities will drown and Africa will dry out or in some   places flood. With the trajectory going into Durban, the result will be a   cataclysmic 4–5° C rise in temperature over this century, and if Copenhagen   and Cancun promises are broken, as is reasonable to anticipate, 7° C is   likely.

After 16 annual Conferences of Parties, the power balance within the UN   Framework Convention on Climate Change continues to degenerate. On the other   hand, growing awareness of elite paralysis is rising here in Durban, even   within a generally uncritical mass media.

That means the space occupied by activists will be crucial for highlighting   anti-extraction campaigns including the Canadian tar sands, West Virginia   mountains, Ecuadoran Amazon and Niger Delta – the hottest spots at present.

Expanding   the Enviro Fightback
Beyond defensive campaigning, transformative politics are crucial. Robust   South African community protests include sustained demands for a better   environment in townships, including increased housing, electricity, water and   sanitation, waste removal, healthcare and education. Connecting the dots to   climate is the challenge for movement strategists, for example by linking the   rising Eskom price to its decision to build new coal-fired powerplants whose   main beneficiaries are BHP Billiton and Anglo American. The post-apartheid   South African government’s lack of progress on renewable energy, public   transport and ecologically aware production mirrors its failures in basic   service delivery, which have generated among the world’s highest rate of   social protest – and to link these via the new Durban Climate Justice network   will offer a real threat, not of ‘Seattling’ Durban but of establishing a   counter power that cannot be ignored.

Patrick   Bond directs the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society in   Durban. His two most recent books are Politics of Climate Justice and   Durban’s Climate Gamble


Links   to other resources Many COP17 related videos available on YouTube, inculding:

  • Global Youth dancing WAKA WAKA for Climate  Justice in Durban
  • Understanding the COP17 UN Climate Talks