Friday, December 9, 2011

COP17 Week 2 from afar

It is a bit difficult to follow the events at COP17 from across the Atlantic, especially while grading and writing finals and still feeling the effects of jet lag.   I feel a bit like a junkie, having to get my fix of the latest updates, which frankly were not too impressive most days.

The protests and frustration seemed to magnify this week.  On Wednesday, Canadian youth were permanently ejected from COP 17 due to a silent protest in which they turned their backs to their Minister of the Environment (Mr. Kent) in return for his turning his back on the youth of that country.

On Thursday, as U.S. climate negotiator Todd Stern was about to speak at the summit, an American youth (Ms. Abigail Borah from Middlebury College) interrupted him to express her views that the U.S. delegation doesn't represent the youth of America.  She was promptly removed and stripped of her credentials. There are official guidelines from the U.N. as to what is and isn't allowed at the COP meetings, but how do we get the delegations from supposedly democratic nations to listen to *all* people that they represent?

"I am scared for my future," Borah told Stern. "2020 is too late to wait. We need an urgent path to a fair, ambitious, and legally binding treaty. You must take responsibility to act now."


Today, Inside Higher Ed posted this on Facebook and asked the question “What do you think about what Borah did?

My response:  I would be fascinated to know how many campuses are discussing the nitty gritty details of the UNFCCC processes, agreements and proposals and what the implications are for our students. I have attended the last 3 COP meetings, and there are a number of U.S. colleges and universities represented, but by far, the youth (meaning college-aged students) from other countries are more deeply engaged and have a fuller understanding of the issues. I salute this student for representing the voice that hasn't been heard enough by the U.S. delegation. Delegations (parties) from other nations, many of which are not democracies by our definition, function in a much more collaborative and interactive (dare I say democratic fashion) than ours in terms of their composition and interaction with civil society.

Hours later, there were no other comments.  Sigh.

If anyone reading this has followed our postings on this blog over the past few years, you will know that I greatly admire the late Wangari Maathai.  Yesterday, Amy Goodman interviewed her daughter Wanjira (who sounds a lot like her mother).  Her message to the U.S.:  “Shape up or get out!”

Yesterday, I posted this on Facebook: One day left to get an agreement in Durban that will have real impact. The U.S. should be leaders in addressing this challenge, not a nation that appears to deny the science and seems reckless to many in the world.

It appeared that the UN climate talks and perhaps the entire UNFCCC process was once again in serious trouble.  This had been the chatter during week 1—something the media back here in the states would love to jump on.  The proposal of the United States negotiating team to delay global climate action until 2020 has resulted in our country further alienating itself since many believe that this is likely to be a “death sentence for the people at the front lines of the climate crisis.”

The Fossil-of-the-Day awards for Thursday, December 8th  pretty much summed up the status of things: 


From afar, it appeared that tensions rose further today.

Protests outside the venue grew louder on Friday, and according to several reports, delegates from the worlds most vulnerable countries joined Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace International, a high level official from the Maldives (reports are conflicting as to whether this was the Environmental Minister or the President), and more than 150 youth climate activists in occupying the main plenary.  For twelve days, security had been tight and any “actions” were limited to less than 15 people, so I don’t know how they pulled this off!  Of course, U.N. security forces quickly moved in and the protesters were removed from the premises.  I wonder what happened to the Party from the Maldives?!

On the last morning, it is tradition to allow 2 minute comments from a various of constituencies that normally don’t get a chance to address the Parties.  Anjali Appadurai, a student at the College of the Atlantic in Maine, addressed the United Nations Climate Change Conference on behalf of youth delegates. Her message was simple:  "Deep cuts now. Get it done”  She went on to say “What's radical is to completely alter the planet's climate, to betray the future of my generation, and to condemn millions to death by climate change."

The talks went into extra time Friday with yet another Indaba being held at midnight South African time!  According to the UNFCCC website, a document will be posted on Saturday morning and the meeting will resume sometime after the Parties have had an opportunity to review this.  This extension into Saturday occurred in Copenhagen as well. I remember being in the airport trying to catch tidbits of the news reports even though they were in Danish.

So now we wait again…

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