2 December 2011

Africa: COP17, Where Are We Now?

press release

It's mid-way through COP17 and the big question on everyone's minds is "how is it all going?" Usually after a week of talks it's possible to assess the possible outcomes of the talks. However, there seems to be rather slow progress on the draft text that needs to be finalised by next week when the Ministers arrive.

There is a risk that the draft will not be ready in time. In addition, there is a fear that if the discussion on the Green Climate Fund is reopened, we could leave Durban without an operational fund.

I had hoped to get a better picture of the state of the negotiations from the various SA government press briefings. Unfortunately these turned out to be mere promotion of national policies and plans.

So although the presentations are interesting, negotiations are not the appropriate time and place for such feedback -- and they come across as transparent greenwashing.

This first briefing had Minister Pandor speaking on the advancements South Africa has made in terms of science and technology, and the second saw Minister Peters speaking on the country's energy infrastructure. Of interest was her statement that although South Africa needs to reduce its carbon emissions, the country will not be moving away from coal anytime soon.

During responses to questions, Minister Peters mentioned (unknown to us that stage) that the Department of Energy was having ongoing discussions with Greenpeace Africa. While it is true that Greenpeace has had a meeting with Minister Peters, we have requested further engagements specifically on the role of coal and nuclear in South Africa, and have yet to hear a response. The minister's comments that our engagements will be continuing are therefore very good news, and we look forward to future discussions.

However the bottom line is that at these negotiations we need more from our government than mere updates on their plans and policies. We need an open and transparent assessment of the negotiations and a clearer view from them on how things are advancing.

Greenpeace activists hung hundreds of posters of Zuma, Harper, Obama and Barroso created from the logos of polluting corporations around the conference venue where COP17 is taking place, calling on the leaders to listen to the people and not the polluters.

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