Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Next Week's Climate Change Conference in South Africa

Time to Occupy Durban's COP17 Climate Summit


By Patrick Bond

Pambazuka News

2011-11-23, Issue 559




    Patrick Bond makes the case for the occupation

    of Durban during the COP17 summit, due to

    take place in the city between 28 November

    and 9 December.


There they fell during 2011, one after the other in

past-their-prime domino descent: Zine El Abidine Ben

Ali from Tunis, Hosni Mubarak from Cairo, Dominique

Strauss-Kahn from the International Monetary Fund

(IMF), Muammar Gaddafi from Tripoli, Georgios

Papandreou from Athens, Silvio Berlusconi from Rome, US

football guru and sex-crime cover-upper Joe Paterno

from Penn State University - with media baron Rupert

Murdoch, soccer supremo Sepp Blatter, Syrian tyrant

Bashar al-Assad and Yemeni dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh

looking decidedly shaky, too.


However, let's be frank: in many cases the courageous

push by the 99 per cent against these 1 per cent

personalities only dislodged the venal creatures, not

the system, so replacements crawled right back in.


Egyptian generals are just as vicious, as illustrated

at Tahrir Square last week, and many Libyan `rebels'

are racist thugs worthy of CIA support. The new IMF

managing director, French conservative Christine

Lagarde, is being investigated by the Court of Justice

of the Republic for abuse of authority as finance

minister when she allegedly gave a $580 million payout

to an Adidas shoes tycoon close to the ruling party.

Greek's new ruler, Loukas Papademos, was formerly vice-

president of the European Central Bank, the institution

that joins the IMF as tormentors of poor and working-

class Europeans. In Italy the same job was given to

Mario Monti, a former EU Commissioner with a brutal

banker mentality.


On the other hand, Arab Spring political democrats and

Occupy economic democrats won't let up the pressure. I

visited Occupy Dublin's Dame Street next to the Irish

central bank late last month; and Occupy Washington two

weeks ago; and the next day, Occupy Wall Street at

Zuccotti Park in Manhattan's financial district, just

prior to the New York police force's illegal eviction

of non-violent tent-residents.


In each case, the spirit reminded me of anti-apartheid

movement determination, heart-felt principles and

strategic clarity: no half-baked reforms like tri-

cameral parliaments to polish apartheid's chains will

satisfy the occupiers, who are demanding fundamental

system change, and who enjoy huge popular support.


Surprisingly perhaps, the argument to extend Occupy to

Durban is advanced by a former manager of the Davos

World Economic Forum and president of Costa Rica, Jose Mara

Figueres, who is the brother of Christiana, the

executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on

Climate Change. He was asked by OneWorld TV last week

at the Climate Vulnerable Forum in Bangladesh: `You've

expressed your sympathies with the Occupy Wall Street

Movement and called for an Occupy Durban. What would

that look like and what could it achieve?'


Figueres replied: `The riots of London, and the

indignados of Madrid and the now growing global Occupy

Wall Street movement is a sign of the frustration felt

by many given that we are not addressing their economic

needs. So with respect to climate maybe we need an

Occupy Durban.'


Figueres wants to see `a sit in, by the delegations of

those countries that are most affected by climate

change, that are going from one COP to the next COP to

the next COP without getting positive and concrete

responses on the issues that they want dealt with.'


And outside Durban's International Convention Centre,

in the broader society, is there a potential for a

Climate Spring like the Arab Spring? `The history of

humanity shows us that it has always been a big crisis

that has made us move,' he responded.


That crisis is surely upon us, with more than 300,000

people dying annually because of climate change,

according to demographers. Might the UNFCCC live up to

global-governance potential - last realised in the 1987

Montreal Protocol that banned CFCs to save the ozone

hole - or instead will Durban be known as the

Conference of Polluters, the place the Kyoto Protocol's

mechanism for binding emissions-cut commitments died,

while carbon trading remained the vehicle the 1 per

cent chooses for its climate gambling?


Even though Zurich's UBS bank last week predicted a

total collapse of the European Union's Emissions

Trading Scheme in coming months, it looks like we will

suffer the latter when COP17 closes on 9 December.


So in order to save the planet and people, the 99 per

cent should challenge the UNFCCC's for-profit

mentality. An interesting email hit my inbox on

November 10: `The Occupy movement that is sweeping the

globe shines a light on the unjust systems which

benefit a small group of elite individuals and

corporations, consolidating wealth and power for the

few to the extreme detriment to the majority of the

world's inhabitants and the planet as a whole.'


The COP17 will, according to the email, `do nothing to

address this imbalance of power and resources and

instead would give those same people and institutions

who have caused economic ruin control of our land,

water and atmosphere to trade as nothing more than

money-making commodities.'


One response, wrote the anonymous emailer, is to

`Occupy COP17', and a website (www.occupycop17.com),

Facebook page (www.facebook.com/occupyCOP17) and

Twitter feed (www.twitter.com/OccupyCOP17 and

#occupycop17) are already operational. The Occupy

movement considers the UNFCCC to be `United Nations

Fools, Clowns and Carbon Criminals' and it's hard to

argue against that based on 16 past performances.


There are many South Africans with genuine grievances

who will be part of the anti-COP17 protest scene, in

part because of Eskom's mismanagement of energy (more

coal-fired power plants as Greenpeace dramatised by

blocking Eskom construction at Kusile recently) and

electricity (high-priced for the masses, low-priced for

Anglo American and BHP Billiton).


Others will show up just to make a fuss: Business Day

last week headlined on the front page, `Malema

supporters to "disrupt climate conference"' in the wake

of the thrashing the African National Congress

disciplinary committee gave the Youth League



For those more serous about climate justice, some of

the most interesting reflections of 99 per cent

thinking and practical alternatives will be at the

People's Space, which was recently moved to the

University of KwaZulu-Natal's Howard College campus,

starting with the Conference of the Youth (no relation

to Juju) on 25-27 November, and then open to the public

from 28 November until 9 December. A nightly teach-in

from 7:30pm at our Centre for Civil Society adds

academic rigour to activist passions. Delegates include

hundreds from the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance

and the Rural Women's Assembly. A myriad of events can

be perused at http://www.c17.org.za.


All it takes to join People's Space, Occupy Durban and

the Global Day of Action march on 3 December is a

healthy degree of skepticism for what the 1 per cent

are cooking up inside the UNFCCC's smoke-filled ICC

rooms, and a genuine respect for the People's Power

that again and again rises in the least expected places.




* Patrick Bond directs the Centre for Civil Society and

authored/edited two new books: `Politics of Climate

Justice: Paralysis Above, Movement Below' (UKZN Press)

and `Durban's Climate Gamble: Trading Carbon, Betting

the Earth' (Unisa Press).


* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org.



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