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2011-12-05

Thousands March at U.N. Climate Summit in Durban to Demand Climate Justice

Guests

Nnimmo Bassey, Nigerian environmentalist activist and poet, elected chair of Friends of the Earth International, and executive director of Environmental Rights Action.

Elisabeth Mpofu, chairperson of the Eastern and Southern Small Scale Farmers.

Rashmi Mistry, climate change advocacy coordinator at Oxfam South Africa.

Tom Goldtooth, executive director at the Indigenous Environmental Network.

Lidy Nacpil, of Jubilee South.

Simon Mbata, works with the South African Waste Pickers Association.

Pablo Solon, former Bolivian ambassador to the United Nations.

Patrick Bond, professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and director of the Centre for Civil Society in Durban.

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We are broadcasting this week from Durban, South Africa, where critical talks on fighting climate change have entered their second week. Key issues at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 17, remain unresolved, including the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty with enforceable provisions designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Delegates are also debating how to form a Green Climate Fund to support developing nations most affected by climate change. We begin not inside the summit, but out in the streets of Durban, where thousands of people marched on Saturday calling for climate justice. "We are here to send a solid, strong message, simple message to the leaders and negotiators at the climate change conference that this is no time to play around," says award-winning Nigerian environmental activist Nnimmo Bassey. "This is a time for a real commitment to cut emissions, a legally binding agreement to cut emissions, as such that rich, polluting countries should understand that their inaction…will destroy the planet… We can’t accept that." [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting live from Durban, South Africa, where critical talks on fighting climate change have entered their second week. Key issues here at the United Nations Climate Change Conference remain unresolved, including the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty with enforceable provisions designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Delegates are also debating how to form a Green Climate Fund to support developing nations most affected by climate change.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is coming under intense criticism for its refusal to agree to legally binding emission cuts until at least the year 2020, despite growing scientific evidence about the worsening climate crisis. The Global Carbon Project has just revealed global greenhouse gas emissions jumped 5.9 percent in 2010 and have soared nearly 50 percent since 1990.

We begin today’s show in the streets of Durban. On Saturday, more than 5,000 people marched, calling for climate justice. These are some of the sounds and voices from the streets of Durban, South Africa.

NNIMMO BASSEY: I’m Nnimmo Bassey, Friends of the Earth International. We are here to send a solid, strong message, simple message to the leaders and negotiators at the climate change conference that this is no time to play around. This is a time for a real commitment to cut emissions, a legally binding agreement to cut emissions, as such that rich, polluting countries should understand that their inaction, the so-called cooking up of a Durban mandate, will destroy the planet, will cook Africa, and will put poor, vulnerable people in jeopardy. We can’t accept that.

MIKE BURKE: What is your message to the U.S. delegation?

NNIMMO BASSEY: The U.S. delegation should understand that the citizens of the United States are not living on a separate planet. We have only one planet. And it’s important that the delegation from the U.S. should stop stopping global action against global warming. They have done this from 1997. They can’t keep on bullying the world. If they don’t want to act, they should get out of the convention. Simple message: we can’t allow this any further.

ELISABETH MPOFU: My name is Elisabeth Mpofu, a small-scale farmer in Zimbabwe, in the central part of Zimbabwe, Masvingo province. I’m at a member of an organization called Zimbabwe Small Organic Farmers’ Forum. And now, what brought me here is because of the COP 17, which is being held here in Durban, where our governments are meeting and trying to sign some agreements, but we are against some of these agreements because they are a very big challenge to our farming processes, especially when we are talking of carbon marketing, which they are intending to sign, to agree. And we say we are totally disagreeing with that decision. And now, all these people are here today. Some of them are landless people, so they are also fighting for their right to get their land, because some of this land within our countries is being given to the investors, the multinational, transnational corporations, the transnational corporations which are coming to invest in our countries, yet the poor remain the poor. We are not benefiting anything. So we are on our way to the international conference center, where we want to send our message, to pass our messages.

RASHMI MISTRY: I’m Rashmi. I’m from Oxfam here in South Africa, and I’m the climate change coordinator. So we’re here on the streets of Durban to say that Africa needs a deal on climate change. Women here in Africa, rural women, women who depend on the land, are already seeing their weather patterns changing. They cannot grow. They cannot put food on the tables of their families. So they are saying to us, "Look, we’ve got to do something right now about climate change," because when climate change hits, it will be them, it will be those women who will be hit the hardest.

MIKE BURKE: And what do you hope to see accomplished over the next week?

RASHMI MISTRY: What we need to see is that Kyoto survives, and there is another deal on Kyoto. We need to see rich countries, in particular, cutting their emissions drastically. And we need support to developing countries, people in Africa, to support them with the money to adapt to climate change.

TOM GOLDTOOTH: My name is Tom Goldtooth. I’m from North America, from the belly of the beast, from the occupied territories of the United States. We know what’s real, as far as indigenous peoples in North America. We got the escalation and expansion of tar sands and the Keystone XL pipeline. We got the U.S. government pursuing expansion of fossil fuels by pursuing oil drilling in Alaska and offshore oil drilling. So it’s business unusual. And what allows them to do this is carbon offsets. What they’re doing is buying cheap credits in the Global South, continuing to dump pollutants in the local communities, creating a toxic hot spot. This is not a solution. Also, they included agriculture and soil as part of carbon, so we’re here to liberate Mother Earth, to liberate the trees, to liberate the soil in the ground, to stand together with the farmers, the La Via Campesina, to stand together with the people of the world, demanding real change, systemic change, not climate change.

LIDY NACPIL: I’m Lidy Nacpil. I’m from the Philippines and the organization called Jubilee South. And we’re here today to demand that the rich countries cut their emissions drastically now and that they also have to pay reparations for the climate that they owe our people for all the damages that climate change has caused.

MIKE BURKE: And what is this float that you’re taking part in right now?

LIDY NACPIL: Well, it’s a giant octopus to represent the rich countries, like the United States. And it’s showing how its many arms are pushing things like more carbon markets, pushing binding commitments, but for low targets. It’s also pushing a climate change regime that will result in a six-degree temperature rise, instead of limiting it to below 1.5.

SIMON MBATA: We demand a recognition and respect for the waste pickers, because waste pickers are playing a crucial role in combating climate change. Our job, which most people doesn’t realize, it contributes a lot in emission reduction. Our way is to recycle the resources which were discarded as waste, resources like paper, plastic, glass, cardboard and steel. These resources are extracted, transported and manufactured. So by reusing them, through recycling, we reduce emissions, because if—we replace division materials. So that’s how we contribute.

PABLO SOLÓN: I’m Pablo Solón. I was the former ambassador of Bolivia to the United Nations, and I was the chief climate negotiator of Bolivia. I have been in Copenhagen and Cancún in the inside. And I’m here in the outside because I think the only way that we are going to be able to change the course of these negotiations is here in the outside. If people mobilize like we are seeing now in all countries, in a broader perspective, that’s the only way we are going to be able to have deep cuts of emissions, because what they are now promoting is a new mandate to do nothing until 2020, while the world is going to burn and Africa is going to be cooked for an increase in the temperature of more than four to six degrees Celsius.

MIKE BURKE: How does the U.S. fit into this?

PABLO SOLÓN: Oh, the U.S., I would say, it’s really a shame, because their proposal on the table is only an emission reduction of 3 percent, 3 percent, of the levels of emissions of 1990, and to do that until 2020. So that is mainly "let’s do nothing in relation to climate change," when it comes to emission reductions of the country that historically has the biggest emission reductions during the past 250 years.

PATRICK BOND: I’m Patrick Bond. I teach at University of KwaZulu-Natal. I run the Center for Civil Society. The U.S. consulate has been the site of several protests over the last few months by local climate justice activists. And I’m sure that by next Saturday, when this thing ends, the U.S. will be remembered as enemy one. And we’ll start moving to the second step: international criminal or tribunal processes to really name the U.S. And then maybe we can get to the point where sanctions against U.S. products to punish it for basically wrecking the prospects of a deal on climate.

AMY GOODMAN: Voices from the streets of Durban, South Africa at Saturday’s global day of action for climate justice. That piece produced by Mike Burke and John Hamilton. That last voice was Patrick Bond, professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and director of the Center for Civil Society. I spoke to him outside the U.S. consulate in Durban as participants in Saturday’s massive march streamed past. The entrance to the consulate was surrounded by police in full riot gear. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. Back in a minute here in Durban, South Africa.

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