This time last year, the entire Greenpeace Africa team was in recovery after the end of the COP 17 UN climate negotiations, held in Durban. It was two weeks of craziness, protests, teach-ins, arrests and deportations, negotiators backtracking, people getting de-badged (I was one of them) and finally: the so-called ‘Durban Platform’, which would create a global treaty by 2015, covering all of the world’s emitters in an attempt to combat climate change.
On the 8th of December, COP 18 (held in Doha) came to a (whimpering) close: a day later than it should have, amid (the almost inevitable) controversies, with politicians failing us once again.
Although a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol was agreed in Doha, it has so many loopholes, that it will probably have little effect on carbon emissions. Any attempt to paint Doha as a ‘success’ must be looked at very critically.
The reality is that politicians failed to live up to even the historically low expectations for COP 18.
And as Greenpeace International’s Executive Director, Kumi Naidoo has said: it makes one wonder what planet the politicians in Doha are actually on. Clearly not the planet where people are dying from storms, floods and doubts. Not even the planet where renewable energy is growing rapidly and limits are being placed on coal.
We walked away from Doha with an extended Kyoto Protocol. But no significant injections of money into the Green Climate Fund. And the EU buckled to the pressure exerted by Poland to carryover so-called ‘hot air’ Kyoto credits awarded to them in the 1990s. The US delegation used every opportunity to block progress on nearly every front. And with major vested interests in fossil fuels, the Doha presidency failed to provide leadership.
One wonders if one could have predicted all of this a year ago. We probably could have, but it’s still very sad when we see this kind of failure in action. The international process to negotiate and implement a global deal on climate change limps on, but we cannot negotiate with climate change.
The climate crisis is accelerating, and the decision by politicians not to increase the speed or scale of efforts to reduce carbon emissions is inexcusable. And next year, COP 19 will be hosted by Poland (which should be all kinds of fun).
‘Is all hope lost?’ I hear you asking. Well, no. Not yet, anyway. As the impacts of climate change increase, so the pressure must intensify for a serious global deal in 2015.
It is time for the emerging economies such as China, India, South Africa and Brazil to step up and take a more progressive role in constructing a 2015 global climate deal, as well as reducing domestic emissions. It’s time to end the era of coal, and to start shifting South Africa away from coal and towards renewable energy. All is not lost, but talk is cheap, action is the only thing that counts now.
On the day the negotiations ended, Greenpeace announced that its ship M/Y Esperanza is leaving the port of Manila to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Mindanao, cancelling local oceans protection work to instead transport emergency supplies and work with local relief agencies. It is solidarity that should dominate the climate negotiations at Doha in times of crisis, and not passiveness, futile talks and a lot of "hot air.