“We want justice! We want justice! We want justice,” chanted thousands of people from across the globe while marching along the streets of Durban towards the International Convention Centre (ICC) this past Saturday. They sang and shouted demanding climate justice.
Among them were about 700 women who came from Southern Africa’s rural areas under the auspices of the Rural Women’s Assembly. This group of women presented and voiced women’s concerns, demanding that rural women should be included in climate change negotiations. The feminist grouping argued that women are bearing the brunt of climate change, hence a need to specifically take into consideration their needs and interests.
However, despite their uproar, most protesters were not optimistic of the outcome of the conference. Many argued that the voices of the populace are being ignored in favour of egocentric economic interests. Just the previous day, riot police had been called in to secure the ICC after a group of activists tried to force their way into the building where the UN, governments and the negotiators are deliberating on how to take Kyoto Protocol forward.
Over and above, women and men are disgruntled with COP 17 and have very little confidence in the world leaders. Brandon Abdinor from South Africa, said the on-going negotiations have not been going very well. He noted that governments are sidelining the interests of the people most likely to be affected, such as rural women in favour of national political and economic interests.
“People who are causing the problem are trying to find solutions but never will because they will lose their power base that is rooted in capitalism, he said. Although pessimistic about the talks, he believes that it is important to equally consider the interests of all relevant stakeholders, particularly the earth and poor people.
Women’s Net’s Caroline Tagny feels that women’s voices need to be at the forefront of climate change discussions because they stand to lose the most. She suggested that there is a need to exploit new media platforms to promote rural women’s issues in the context of climate change. Although she does not have faith in the negotiations, she said a strong commitment from big polluters such as Canada, China and USA is necessary. She argues that it is senseless for them to pull out of legally binding solutions yet they contribute so much to the problems we are currently facing.
Sailor Matutoane of Earthlife Crisis Committee highlighted the need to educate youth on matters of climate change. He mentioned that older generations have witnessed this change to a greater extent and so are in a better position to teach young people to care for the planet. He said, “what we were taught at school is different to what we are seeing today, more floods and other natural disasters”.
As future custodians of the world, he feels that it is important that the youth are made aware more of the changing conditions of the planet as a result of global warming. He pointed out that for this reason, leaders should make decisions with the youth in mind.
On the other hand, Reverend Peter Briggs of Congregational Church emphasised that climate justice is important because climate change will affect people disproportionally. He said the poor will be most affected hence a need for provisions for their safety in all mitigations and adaptation measures. He however expressed little faith in the conference because world leaders do not have the interests of the people at heart.
Importantly, he said that this is God’s world and people need to play a bigger role in ensuring its sustainability and protection from harmful human activities. “God cares when people suffer (from climate change) so we need to look after the earth for God and not exploit it for ourselves” he reminded the leaders.
Protesters were marching amidst reports that some developed countries are backing-off from making commitments to cutting down the emission of greenhouse gasses. Canada came out strongly and expressed disinterest in a second commitment to the Kyoto protocol - a development that worried many.
Meanwhile, civil society has sounded a warning that developed countries are holding secret meetings on the Green Climate Fund a thing they say will not cater for people’s interest. “Whatever happens in Durban must be completely based on transparency. We are deeply saddened by reports that South Africa is informally consulting behind closed doors on the decisions around the Green Climate Fund,” said Bobby Peek of Friends of the Earth-South Africa. “This will greatly undermine the legitimacy, and ultimately the effectiveness of the Green Climate Fund.”
The suspicion on the Green Climate Fund among other issues leaves a lot to be desired. Citizens, women and men are not sure what the outcome of COP 17 will be. They are pessimistic. Will COP 17 outcome prove the citizen’s wrong?
Daud Kayisi is the Gender and Media Diversity Centre (GMDC) Programme Officer and Ticha Tsedu GMDC intern at Gender Links. This article is part of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service and African Woman and Child Feature Service special series for the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Violence and COP 17 Conference.