groundWork, South Durban Community Environmental Alliance and Earthlife Africa Jhb Statement to the UNFCCC / COP17

Saturday, 3rd December 2011

For millions of people around the world climate change is already catastrophic. People have lost their lives to unprecedented flooding in countries on every continent. And everywhere people have succumbed to extreme and unusual heat waves and drought.

COP 17 has been called the African COP. In much of Africa, the temperature rises at one and a half times the global average. Having contributed least to the problem, African people are already severely affected by it. Many have lost their lives and many more have lost their homes and livelihoods. Africa's vulnerability is not just the result of geographical accident. For 200 years and more, Africa has been subordinated to the will of the great powers and its minerals and fossil fuel resources have been appropriated by powerful private corporations. This process has left most African people poorer and without the means to adapt to climate change.

Sasol protest at COP17

Sasol: The real story at the Global Day of Action!

There is no 'safe' level for rising temperatures or carbon concentrations. Impacts are already ahead of schedule and natural feed-backs, such as the loss of the albedo effect from arctic sea ice, are already kicking in. The situation could not be more urgent. This is a planetary emergency.

We who march in Durban in this Global Day of Action are joined by millions of people around the world. We all know what must be done. Fossil carbon emissions must be sharply reduced starting from now and eliminated over the next four decades. We must change the system of production and consumption or we will perish. We are aware of the enormity of this task. It calls for unprecedented cooperation and mutual support between the people and nations of the world but it can be done.

CleanCoalCOP17

Agnus Khuzwayo, outside the ICC, during the Global Day of Action.

We are deeply disturbed that those who are meeting in our name at the United Nations climate negotiations are not addressing themselves to this task. In 1992, the rich countries of the world agreed that they would lead this effort. They have not done so. They have avoided this task over 16 rounds of negotiation and what we see are agreements that seem calculated to facilitate climate profiteering. The role of the United States of America in blocking any steps towards a credible agreement is particularly odious. Following its lead, the world is now further than ever from a credible agreement.

We are aware that smaller and poorer countries are subject to immense pressure to conform to the will of the rich and powerful. Yet all countries have a choice about how they participate in the negotiations. They may choose to represent moneyed interests or to represent our common interest in living well with each other and with the earth.

Those who wish to be recognised as the leaders of the world must now address themselves to the core task. If they do not, then it must become our task to remove them from power.

Bobby Peek,
Director,
groundWork, Friends of the Earth, South Africa

Direct E-mail: bobby@groundwork.org.za
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