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COP 17 in Durban – Day 1

2011/11/28

Today is the first day of the U.N. climate talks in Durban South Africa. As I wrote earlier, many people’s expectations (including mine) for a meaningful and binding international climate treaty coming out of these 10 days is low. It seems, sadly, that unbridled capitalism will triumph over humanity’s need for clean water, clean air, and a stable climate. The Alberta-based Pembina Institute put it this way:

Comparing the frustratingly slow pace of international negotiations on climate change against the ever-increasing urgency of climate-change science, it is hard to be optimistic. The level of ambition currently being demonstrated puts the world on track for irreversible and catastrophic climate change.

I recently heard someone say “Power is power.” Imagine if we lived in a world where everyone, whether they are an African living in remotest Sudan or a Pakistani in the highest Karakoram mountain or a New Yorker in Manhattan, could put up a solar panel or wind turbine to run their laptop or power their schools. Citizens of the world could get around without lining the pockets of Big Oil and Gas, as they rely on electric cars, or e-bikes, or accessible public transport. Parents wouldn’t need to be the gate-keepers of toxins to protect their children from poisons in the food they eat or the air they breathe, as sustainability becomes the norm in agriculture and industry as well as transportation, and clean water and air become the standard around the world rather than the exception.

The fossil fuel industry recognized several decades ago, before most environmentalists and certainly before most politicians (who still don’t get it), that a fundamental paradigm shift is required to address the climate crisis, and this shift threatens these corporations’ bottom line. They are fighting for their lives, and fighting dirty; and they don’t care about the lives of the most vulnerable or about our children’s future.

Christiana Figueres, who replaced Yvo de Boer as head of the U.N. climate secretariat in 2010, said Sunday the stakes for the COP17 negotiations are high, underscored by new scientific studies. Figueres said under discussion at COP17 was: “nothing short of the most compelling energy, industrial, behavioral revolution that humanity has ever seen.

As investigative reporter William Marsden said on CBC Radio’s The Current this morning, it’s time to bring the science to the table, and let the science, not politics and the fossil fuel industry, dictate what should be done. Yet the industrialized nations, the big emitters, have been increasingly ignoring the science and muzzling scientists. In its 2011 World Energy Outlook, the International Energy Association has said that the world is at risk of being locked into an ‘insecure, inefficient and high-carbon energy system’ that will lead to average temperature increases of 3.5 C, and called for immediate action because if the world’s energy infrastructure isn’t changed by 2017 CO2 emissions will be locked in and catastrophic climate change will be set in motion.

Where are the parents, who should be in the streets demanding our governments take the science seriously and protect our children’s future?  It’s time for parents and grandparents, as well as young people, to get noisy and get active. Otherwise, we’re facing mutually assured destruction.

Suggestions For Immediate Actions:

The Council of Canadians has an action for Canadians to send a message to the European Union to uphold the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) which labels tar sands oil as a high carbon, and encourages suppliers to reduce emissions and promotes the use of cleaner fuels over dirty fuels. For details on how to send a message of support for this clean fuel policy, go to the Council’s Action Alert page.

Join Citizens Climate Lobby, a nonprofit non-partisan international group focused on creating the political will for a sustainable climate and empowering individuals to have breakthroughs in exercising their personal and political power. Dr. James Hansen said at the Keystone XL Pipeline protests:

“Most impressive is the work of the Citizens Climate Lobby, a relatively new,  fast growing, nonpartisan, nonprofit group with 35 chapters across the United States and Canada. If you want to join the fight to save the planet, to save creation for your grandchildren, there is no more effective step you could take than becoming an active member of this group.”

CCL has introductory calls on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of every month, contact me at 350orbust@gmail.com or email ccl@citizensclimatelobby.org. Or check out their websites:

Citizens Climate Lobby International

Citizens Climate Lobby Canada

Whatever you chose to do, the important thing is to do something. For those of us who have a future generation depending on us, doing nothing isn’t an option any more.

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