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Climate Apartheid: Greenpeace Chief Says Poorest Suffer Brunt of Rich Nations’ Emissions

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Representatives from nearly 200 nations are in the final stretch of negotiations at the U.N. climate summit in Paris. The text has nearly 100 outstanding points of disagreement that still need to be resolved. One of the most contentious issues is the role that wealthy and more advanced developing countries should play in helping vulnerable nations cope with the impacts of climate change. “I feel—and this is not a comfortable thing to say—that if London, Paris, Washington, Brussels were facing as urgent the situation that we are facing in the developing parts of the world, I don’t think we would be having such a struggle to get the kind of ambition that we need and the goal of reaching 100 percent renewable energy by 2050,” says Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International. We speak with Naidoo about what he calls “climate apartheid.”

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

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting live from the 21st U.N. climate change summit in Paris, France, where negotiators from nearly 200 nations are in the final stretch of negotiations. The text has nearly 100 outstanding points of disagreement that still need to be resolved. One of the most contentious issues is the role that wealthy and more advanced developing countries should play in helping vulnerable nations cope with the impacts of climate change. Another is whether the final text will include the target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, over pre-industrial levels.

To make sense of it all, we’re joined by three guests. Antonia Juhasz is with us. She’s a journalist here covering COP21 for Newsweek. Her latest article is headlined “Suicidal Tendencies: How Saudi Arabia Could Kill the COP21 Negotiations in Paris.” We’re also joined by Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International. He is from South Africa. And Asad Rehman is also with us, head of international climate for Friends of the Earth.

And we welcome you all to Democracy Now! Kumi, you were there last night. Why did you gather, hundreds of people saying no to the draft Paris accord?

KUMI NAIDOO: Well, there are so many loopholes in that draft text, you could fly Air Force One through it. I mean, bottom line is, it’s lacking in ambition. It has lots of options, which might keep—give a false sense of complacency, that there’s lots to fight for. But importantly, I think we should acknowledge that everybody who has participated in a climate protest over the last couple of years, they can take some comfort from the fact that 1.5 as a goal is alive still. It would not have been there, had it not been for the activism that we have seen around the world. However, if 1.5 is not backed up with a clear, long-term goal of how we phase out from fossil fuels by 2050, the commitments that governments have made in terms of emissions, when you add it all up, it’s taking us to a 3.7-degree world. So, basically, you know, it just doesn’t add up to the level of ambition and the sense of urgency that we need to see. And bottom line is, I would say that the fingerprints of the fossil fuel industry is in far too many places on this draft text.

AMY GOODMAN: Like where?

KUMI NAIDOO: Well, basically, in terms of trying to push the date for decarbonization beyond 2050, because, you see, they want that so they can go into orgy of fossil fuel burning over the next couple of decades. Right now the science is very clear. Extreme weather events are telling us that we are running out of time. Lives are being lost now. You know, while we’re here, we saw what happened in Chennai. We are seeing, you know, huge devastation in the Philippines on an ongoing basis. My continent, Africa, is suffering from climate-induced desertification and so on.

And, you know, quite frankly, there is a bigger responsibility for developed countries. And I feel—and this is not a comfortable thing to say—that if London, Paris, Washington, Brussels were facing as urgent the situation that we are facing in the developing parts of the world, I don’t think we would be having such a struggle to get the kind of ambition that we need and the goal of, you know, reaching 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 and [inaudible].

AMY GOODMAN: So are you saying there’s racism involved?

KUMI NAIDOO: Well, people can draw whatever they want from that. There is no question that most of—you know, I’ve used the term “climate apartheid” before. I’ve said that, you know, it’s uncomfortable that where the biggest historical responsibility lies is not where the first and most brutal impacts are actually being faced. And the demography of that is clear. You know, I—

AMY GOODMAN: And you were an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa.

KUMI NAIDOO: Yeah. And, I mean, what people need to—the negotiators now in the remaining 36 hours, they need to understand nature does not negotiate. They cannot change the science. All they can change is political will. And what is at stake here is not some ethereal thing called a planet. This is a fight for our children and their children’s futures. And there is absolutely no sense of intergenerational solidarity, other than in some nice words that we heard from the heads of state. And there’s a total disconnect between what the heads of state said in the first two days of the talks and how the conversations have since proceeded in the negotiations.

AMY GOODMAN: You said you could drive U.S. Air Force One through the loopholes. Are you suggesting the U.S. is involved with stopping any kind of actual meaningful accord from happening?

KUMI NAIDOO: Well, I think, you know, if you have to rate how the U.S. behaved in Copenhagen and how they behave—are behaving here, there is an improvement, overall. But there are many things, like on loss and damage, the U.S. is the biggest blocker, in terms of ensuring that poor countries who did not contribute to the problem, who are facing devastating impacts and are saying, “We need support, we need compensation, we need insurance”—and the U.S., there’s no question, is the biggest blocker, in my mind, in terms of loss and—

AMY GOODMAN: So they’re saying no? The U.S. is saying no?

KUMI NAIDOO: No to loss and damage, yeah.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

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Obama Accused of Giving Poor Nations a “Poison Chalice” by Skirting U.S. Climate Responsibility

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