Jeff Conant, writing for Earth Island Journal, isn’t holding out much hope for COP17, the UN Climate Summit currently happening in Durban, South Africa. And judging by the last two summits in Copenhagen and Cancun, who could blame him. “[N]o matter where you come from,” Conant writes, “if you are actually concerned about the climate crisis, [the UN Climate Summit is] going to be an ugly two weeks.”
For the 99 percent, the climate crisis is neither about settling a scientific debate (the scientists have that pretty well sealed up), nor about safeguarding an already dubious multilateral agenda (if the 16 previous Conferences of Parties haven’t forged a solution, why should we expect one now?) Rather, it is about ethics, about human rights, and specifically the rights that UN parlance calls economic, social and cultural rights (food, water, shelter, health, political participation). For many, in short, the concern in Durban – as in Cancun and Copenhagen previously – is for justice.
The previous climate summits have made it painfully clear that, at the top levels, government ministers, heads of state, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) itself, is more about form than content. Last year, in Cancun, after the spectacular debacle of the failed talks in 2009 at Copenhagen, the concern among global leaders was less about saving the climate than about saving face. Those clamoring for justice in Cancun – a delegation of thousands from civil society – were fenced out, and kept literally miles away from the talks. They were the 99 percent.
Conant’s article doesn’t leave one with a good feeling, finding, as he does, very little in the way of positivity coming from the summit. He points to the Climate Action Network (CAN) as one possible avenue for reform, but quickly dismisses that group with the position of Climate Justice Now!, “the more radical civil society network that sometimes vies with CAN for space inside the negotiations,” that capitalism will be priority number one over justice.
Earth Island Journal
Image by Olivier Tétard, licensed under Creative Commons.