COP17: Getting beyond bad and worse at the UN climate talks in Durban

Finally adjusted to the almost-half-day time change, I am writing from the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban. People around me are speaking different languages, running from meeting to meeting, and muttering in frustration at the (in)actions of the Canadian government.

Despite all the action going on inside the conference, last year when I was at COP16 in Cancun I was more attracted to what was going on outside than what was going on in the conference itself.

Outside, civil society members from around the world come together to propose solutions that also create good jobs and empower communities. They discuss leaving fossil fuels in the ground, which reduces emissions, ensures clean water, and ends human rights violations, rather than using complicated offset schemes. They discuss moving from GMOs and big agriculture owned by wealthy land holders to small farmers controlling their own land, meaning food grown sustainably and securing meaningful employment. They discuss supporting community-based renewable energy rather than dirty extractive projects because it creates more jobs and profits go directly to communities. They discuss real solutions.

This year, however, I’m mostly ignoring the discussions on real solutions going on outside. Instead, I’m inside where they debate between, in my opinion, bad and worse. They debate between targets that commit us to renegade climate change and targets that, while safer than the alternative, still allow the death and displacement of millions. They debate still insufficient funding to communities affected by climate change, with countries pushing for the World Bank, an institution criticized for undermining community rights, to control it. They debate whether to create more loopholes in mechanisms built for rich polluters to offset emissions.

Wait, did I just say my time is best spent where they argue between false solutions rather than discussing real ones? The problem, right now, is insufficient and unfair on one hand and even more insufficient and unfair on the other are the only politically feasible options.

For the completely practical, but currently politically unfeasible, real solutions discussed outside the conference to become possible inside, one big thing has to change. That big thing is largely one country that spends $1.4 billion a year subsidizing the oil and gas industry; a country whose environment minister meets executives from dirty industry more than environmentalists, human rights groups, and labour representatives combined; and a country that lobbies other governments to join in protecting polluters over people. That one country is Canada.

So, why am I am spending my time on the inside? Because my country isn’t negotiating for the people in Canada; it is negotiating for our biggest polluters. People back home need to know what our government is doing so we can unite with a resounding “No”. Until then, the solutions that are going to keep us alive and make our communities thrive aren’t going to be realized anywhere.

Stay tuned for more report-backs, cynicism, and the occasional ray of hope from Canadian youth at the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa.

Tasha Peters, a member of the Canadian Youth Delegation, is blogging from COP17, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa. She also attended COP16 in Cancun, Mexico, last year.

Is the Canadian government disgracing itself at the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban?

Yes 83%
66 votes
No 18%
14 votes
Don't know 0%
0 votes
Comments (5) Add New Comment
Who pays your trips Tasha?
Rating: +2
Um the biggest climate change skeptic is USA. Canadian government bow down to southern Big Brother for economic interests/survival. Canadian can't act on it own without the nod of Big Brother. To call this a 'country' is overconfident.

I don't think there will ever be a solution for climate change. It all comes down to money. Cutting back on consuming fossil fuel would affect a multitude of businesses, including automobile industry, oil industry, defense industry, construction industry, travel industry.. etc. It would affect world economy as whole, and nobody is willing to sacrifice their own economy to save the environment. Our leader's short vision and lack of commitmet will come back to hunt us when we hit peak oil.. soon..
Rating: +1
Ah well, the sun's just going to super-nova some day anyway right? Slap on the SPF one million...
Rating: -2
Don't expect Tasha to be objective, like the thousands of others on the CAGW gravy-train that could mean fewer trips to exotic locations on other people's money.
Rating: +1
I should mention, my comment above is actually something the chairman at a global species assessment conference I was attending said in his opening night address.

After giving a rousing speach about the decline of species diversity and the importance of our work, he finished by saying the entire planet's just going to die someday in the distant future anyway, shrugged, then returned to the open bar.
Rating: -1
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