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November 21, 2011

Is 'Occupy Durban' Next? Climate-Battered Countries Are 'Insulted' by Apathy of 'Rich' Nations
By Cheryl Kaften
TMCnet Contributor

Following a meeting last week in Dhaka, Bangladesh— in advance of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), scheduled to be held from November 28 through December 9 in Durban, South Africa— the 19 nations most vulnerable to climate change issued a declaration, asking the developed countries of the world for a commitment to climate control, funding, and technological support.

The countries that adopted the Dhaka Declaration were: Afghanistan, Bangladesh (chair), Bhutan, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Kiribati, Madagascar, Maldives, Nepal, Philippines, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Vietnam.

According to the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development, an independent research organization dedicated to sustainable development, “Negotiators from nearly 200 governments will gather in Durban for crucial talks toward a new global agreement on how to tackle climate change. The fate of the Kyoto Protocol – the only agreement that legally binds countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases – hangs in the balance, as its first commitment period expires in 2012. Developing countries say a second commitment period is essential to ensure industrialized nations act. But its future is uncertain because China and the United States—the world's top two polluters—are not subject to its constraints. And while all nations want targets for the United States, it will not be bound by rules that do not also bind China.”

Leaders who gathered in Dhaka were making a last-ditch plea to break that deadlock, as well as to encourage other countries to make a fiscal commitment through a new Green Climate Fund proposed several years ago by Mexican President Felipe Calderon as a way, that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon now says would help “to catalyze the $100 billion per annum from public and private sources that was pledged through 2020.”

Despite the troubled international economy, in Dhaka, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the governments of “rich nations” to scale up donations to the fund, which is at risk of becoming an "empty shell.”

 José María Figueres, trustee of DARA, the international organization that supports the Climate Vulnerable Forum, and former president of Costa Rica commented, “Vulnerable countries are insulted by the finance default. I call on all countries present to occupy Durban.”

"The aim of [the Climate Vulnerable Forum] is to get the nations [that] are disproportionately affected by climate change… to come together and speak with one voice," Mesbah ul Alam, Bangladesh's environment secretary told the global news agency AFP, adding, "Climate change is real and it is affecting us now. We live with floods, with climate refugees, with rising salinity in our coastal areas, and with the impact of rising sea levels."

The Climate Vulnerable Forum was set up in 2009 under the chairmanship of the Maldives and was then passed to Kiribati in 2010. In addition to pressuring rich nations to assist poorer countries, it aims to showcase some of the most innovative adaptation strategies already in place in vulnerable countries.

Sheik Hasina, Honorable Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Bangladesh, addressed the delegates: “Climate change caused over 300,000 additional deaths last year. We the vulnerable countries suffer the most for our limited coping capacities. Bangladesh and other vulnerable countries could not wait for international response to climate causes...we are implementing 134 climate change adaptation and mitigation action plans.”

"The aim is to counter the pessimism surrounding climate talks now," said Saleem Huq, a fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development. "We want to show that the poorest, most vulnerable countries are not being passive but proactive."

Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency, said: ''If we do not have an international agreement whose effect is put in place by 2017, then the door to [preventing a global mean temperature rise of two degrees] will be closed forever.''

According to Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, Australia Climate Change Minister Greg Combet has conceded that there will not be a major breakthrough at Durban and has said that Australia would not support a deal that was not ''environmentally effective.” Australia and Norway have made a joint submission to the UN calling for a timetable for a strong deal by 2015.

The Herald also reports that, “Britain, the European Union, Japan, and the United States are all opting to put off an agreement and the United Nations also appears to accept this.”

Watch for fireworks over South Africa–and not the celebratory kind—when debate begins in Durban next week.


Cheryl Kaften is an accomplished communicator who has written for consumer and corporate audiences. She has worked extensively for MasterCard (News - Alert) Worldwide, Philip Morris USA (Altria), and KPMG, and has consulted for Estee Lauder and the Philadelphia Inquirer Newspapers. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves


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