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Protests at climate change summit in Durban

ROUND TABLE
By | Dec 5th 2011 | 3 min read

By Standard Reporter

More than 6,000 demonstrators over the weekend marched through the South African city of Durban demanding faster action on climate change.

The city is hosting the annual UN climate summit and protesters are particularly angered by the stance of rich countries, such as the United States and Canada.

Security was heightened in Durban as 6,500 protesters brought the Central Business District to a standstill on Saturday as they marched on the sidelines of the COP 17 conference.

The protest march was part of a Global Day of Action to demand a fair climate change deal.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), a nature conservation organisation joined the protestors to make a public statement to negotiators and global leaders that delaying action on climate change is unacceptable.

"Today’s march was an amazing moment of solidarity that showed people want real action from their governments on climate change – not just talk. The will of the people is strong. The problem is that the will of our leaders is weak," said Tasneem Essop, head of international climate strategy from WWF.

"After six days of talks, we seem to be moving backward, not forward. It’s time for governments to bravely stand side-by-side with their citizens. The stakes are enormous as we fight to secure enough food, water and energy for all."

Essop said the current state of the negotiating text is a reflection that the main political issues in the negotiations are still unresolved.

He said negotiators must continue to work to try and reach as much agreement as possible on key issues, including the issue of legal form, so that when heads of state and ministers arrive on Monday, they can focus on the big unresolved issues.

"These leaders are going to need to come with a huge bag of political will and a sense of responsibility in order to ensure that we have something to show for these two weeks of round-the-clock negotiations," he said.

Activists are calling on world leaders to find a compromise to the Kyoto Protocol, which is the only legally binding agreement on the reduction of carbon emissions. Environmentalists are concerned that COP 17 will end up being just another talk shop.

As the first week of the United Nations climate change talks come to an end, WWF pushed for the Cancun agreements to be implemented, commit to a second period for the Kyoto Protocol and lay the foundation for negotiating a legally binding global agreement that includes all countries by 2015.

The organisation wants the negotiators to agree on the creation of the Global Climate Fund and use the opportunity of COP 17 to increase ambition to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Representatives of more than 190 countries are participating in the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol (CMP7), which started in Durban on November 28 and ends on December 9.

The first period of emission cuts agreed under the Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of 2012. A new round of emission cuts must be agreed in Durban to avoid gaps between the first and second periods.

It would be disastrous if the internationally binding emission reduction commitments would lapse or end altogether in Durban.

The US is leading the rich countries demand for a replacement of the Kyoto Protocol with a totally inadequate voluntary pledge where countries would decide their own emissions cuts on a national basis.

It seems that only the Africa Group of countries are united in their demand to hold industrialised countries accountable to their previous commitments, while rich industrialized countries are busy trying to carve out new business opportunities for multinational corporations and their financial elites.

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