Sweat, EU vs. US on Science, and a Movie – Durban

by Kumi Naidoo

December 2, 2011

By: Kumi Naidoo

Of the many things I’d forgotten about my home town of Durban, the one I’m reminded of most often is the humidity. When we were kids here we’d go to discos and be dripping with sweat after a few minutes of dancing. It’s the same thirty years later as we race from our solar tent on the beach to a speaking appointment to the conference centre where the talks are taking place. A huge storm on Sunday night cleared the air for a while (tragically eight people died in the city in landslides) but now once again the air was thick with moisture, with hope, with occasional despair and always with UN acronyms.

The GCF (Green Climate Fund) is a body set up to administer the pot of money to pay for developing countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change and to support them in protecting their forests and in moving towards a low carbon economy based on clean renewable energy.

One of the essential things Durban should achieve is for this Fund to be made operational – that means agreeing how the Fund works based on the recommendations of a committee of experts that’s been working all year on developing the architecture of the Fund.

Although there are things in the recommendations that are far from perfect – including the absence of a specific stream of funding for forest protection – the most important thing for us is that the Fund gets up and running. The South African presidency was attempting to take those expert recommendations (things like the composition of the board, the Fund’s relationship to the UN process and so on) to ministers next week for final approval.

Instead, yesterday a number of different groups joined the US and Saudi Arabia and attempted to reopen negotiations on what the recommendations are – negotiations we hoped had been concluded. That means the ministers may not now be able to sign off on the Green Climate Fund when they arrive next week. That would mean yet more delay in money flowing to people who need it on the ground while leaving in place a roadblock to a new comprehensive climate deal.

In short, many of the nations trying to block the Fund are in fact trying to slow down the whole process.

What else? Well, twice yesterday the European Union challenged the United States over its refusal to even consider an increase in ambition between now and 2020 (Washington has said there is no need or appetite for tougher emissions reduction targets, and have challenged the conclusions of the world’s leading climate scientists who say that unless we see substantial cuts by 2020 we stand little chance of keeping temperature rises below 2 degrees).

The EU has repeatedly been accused in recent days of accepting the US line, which is a position seemingly adopted by other major emitters including India.

In essence the US has been saying that we can do all the heavy lifting after 2020 and still beat climate change.

An interesting move and moment was when during the negotiations and in their press conference the EU challenged the credibility of the US position and its understanding of the science. At the same time the EU stressed that the treaty it wants to see signed in 2015 should have tougher cuts in it than those currently being put on the table by major emitters.

Greenpeace likes the fact that the EU has clarified its position and that it’s put ambition and science right at the centre of its plan. We’re behind the EU when it says we need a comprehensive and binding treaty by 2015. But – and you knew there was a but coming – but the EU is going to undermine its position fairly fundamentally if it argues that it should lock in its own weak target for another eight years.

That is to say, it wants the next round of Kyoto commitments to run from 2013 to 2020. That would send a signal from the EU saying they’re happy with the 2010s being a dead decade, which isn’t that different from the US position.

Meanwhile the COP President hasn’t yet managed to agree the agenda for the conference (they’re currently working on a provisional agenda) meaning that in official terms the real negotiations haven’t even started yet.

In other news a row is also brewing about the EU’s inclusion of aviation in its Emissions Trading Scheme. In the next couple of days we can expect to see proposal and counter-proposal on the form and deadlines for any new treaty.

My day ended with a strong and emotional reminder of the impacts of

climate change in Africa; Greenpeace last night premiered a new documentary titled ” The Weather Gods” showcasing the devastation climate chance is causing in many parts of the continent. You can watch it yourselves online on the Greenpeace Africa website.

Tomorrow is Carbon War Room… I bet you don’t know what that is! I’ll tell you all about it..

Read the original post on Kumi’s Huffington Post blog

Kumi Naidoo

By Kumi Naidoo

Kumi Naidoo has served as executive director of Greenpeace International since November 2009.

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