Was it worth it? Outcomes from Durban

January 10, 2012
Climate justice rally during the Durban climate summit, December 3.

On December 12, Claire Anterea, a representative from Kiribati, and Good Samaritan sister Geraldine Kearney — members of the Edmund Rice Centre’s Pacific Calling Partnerships delegation to the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban — addressed a forum on the outcomes of the talks. Joining them was Edmund Rice Centre director Phil Glendenning.

Claire Anterea expressed pride and admiration for her fellow Pacific Island people, who have campaigned hard to push the international community to listen to their needs. Low-lying Pacific Island Countries are the most vulnerable to climate change.

She said she hoped that her story and those of her people reached the negotiators. Despite the struggle facing her people, Anterea said that what most affected her was seeing the plight of street children in South Africa.

She said: “We are not rich with materials but we have family to support us.” She said her experience in Durban gave her greater appreciation of her own life back home.

Sister Geraldine Kearney expressed similar sentiments.

“We weren’t just there for Kiribati but for all people that are experiencing the effects of climate change”, she said.

“‘Fast Start Financing’ is all too slow,” Kearney said of the meager resources pledged by the carbon-emitting developed countries to assist “adaptation” of poor countries to climate change that they weren’t responsible for. Small Island States urgently need money for adaptation initiatives such as the building of sea walls. The UN conference at Durban made a “recommitment” to the Green Climate fund but whether these funds are going to be made available is yet to be seen.

A new legally binding treaty that covers all polluters was a significant outcome but not expected until 2020. “We don’t know what is happening in the gap,” Kearney said, referring to time between the Kyoto Protocol and the new treaty.

Glendenning described the US as a major block, whose policies destroyed any chance of limiting temperate rises to 2°C. A 4°C rise looks likely, which he described as catastrophic.

He also accuses the Australian government of not taking a stance on climate change.

He said there has been a “hell of a lot of taking” from developed countries whose consumption-based lifestyles have depended upon the exploitation of developing countries.

He described those with vested interests as “meandering with intent” with regard to climate change action and “protecting the status quo until the reality bites them”.

He said that the impact of climate change upon Small Island States had been considered largely insignificant but when a country such as Bangladesh which is also considered vulnerable to climate change, with hundreds of millions facing the potential of displacement, then what?

He said a significant difference between Durban and Copenhagen was that China has not been allowed to hide amongst the ranks developing countries.

Tom Zubyecki also spoke about the impact of his new film The Hungry Tide which was recently screened at the Amsterdam Film Festival.

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