Some 50 people crammed into the Tent City University outside St Paul’s cathedral earlier today to take part in a discussion about the reasons for the continuing failure of the UN talks. The latest round of talks in Durban, South Africa in December ended with little more than voluntary agreements and plans to do something at some point in the future. Friends of the Earth International produced a pithy analysis of the outcome entitled Disastrous “Durban Package” Accelerates Onset of Climate Catastrophe.
George Monbiot was the panel’s star attraction. After Durban he wrote a column in The Guardian which asked: “So why is it so easy to save the banks and so hard to save biosphere? If ever you needed evidence that our governments operate in the interests of the elite, rather than the world as a whole, here it is.”
The event was organized by the Occupy LSX Energy, Equity and Environment working group who had previously agreed a statement on the Durban conference which pinned the blame of the ongoing failure of the UN climate talks to adequately address their central mission of “avoiding dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” on the influence of vested interests. The problem was therefore systemic and required systemic solutions. The group’s statement supported the outcomes of the World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth and called for the UK government to introduce “a declaration of rights for all species and protection for the earth systems, ecosystems and habitats that support them “ and legislation to make ecocide a crime.
If systemic reform of the UNFCCC system does not come quickly, and adequate solutions to keeping within our rapidly diminishing carbon budget not implemented, then it will be a walking zombie, that has demonstrably failed in its task. Would adopting a Declaration on Earth Rights and other international legal measures such as outlawing Ecocide and respecting planetary boundaries help fix a broken system?
Claire Morris who had traveled across African to Durban as part of the Climate Justice Caravan listed a number of examples that she had witnessed of special interests interfering with the process in Durban.
Asad Rehman of Friends of the Earth had been in Durban and did not have a good word to say about the outcome. Civil society, he said, had to be involved in the process just to make sure the outcome was not as bad as it could otherwise have been. The glimmer of hope in the talks did not lie inside the conference centre but in the Occupation outside the centre with its daily general assemblies based on consensus decision-making. A large and vociferous group of civil society representatives also demonstrated their deep displeasure with the talks by occupying the conference centre briefly.
Asad celebrated the diversity of opinions that the global climate movement had when it came to solutions, but George Barda, a litigant in person in the case between Occupy London and the Corporation of London, argued that when it came to addressing the climate problem, a global solution was needed and the solutions favoured by the 99% needed to be clearly articulated if we were to have any success. Thankfully, that was one of the tasks that Occupy as a global movement had been working on - constructing a common narrative that links the environmental, economic and democratic crises and advocates a shared vision of solutions and a better world.