COP17 Durban

///COP17 Durban

COP17 Durban

I was in Durban from November 28 – December 3, 2011, the first week of Cop17. When I landed at King Shaka Airport the atmosphere was alive with Posters, music, Zulu dancing etc to celebrate this crucial conference in Durban.Reams of analysis will have been written about COP 17. I will not attempt to write another commentary.   It is far too complicated. I can only write of what I experienced through the involvement of our own sisters, especially in Durban. They did not attend the main event, but did go to some of the “side events” and Sherwood community hosted two women from Australia who were attending.
Sister Helena and Maureen attended an evening on Greenhouse Gas emissions in Durban run by the municipality.
Sr. Sibongile attended a two day Workshop in Diakonia (the ecumenical Centre in Durban which does so much to promote Justice and Peace). This conference was entitled “Africans Dealing with Climate Change:”Citizens Approach to COP17” Idasa, an African democracy institute, and Thekwini Municipality gave the input. The following is a summary of the content.
“Over the past ten years, Idasa has been working with citizens and smallholder farmers in more than 26 countries across Africa in projects aimed at strengthening the voice of citizens and their participation in public policy.
The conference reflected Idasa’s concerns with the question of citizen participation in democracy and governance and addressed three issues strongly associated with climate change:

1. The political economy of climate change
2. Climate change governance at the local level
3. Migration and climate change

Groups were formed to work on these topics. Sister Sibongile was very enriched by this experience
Two women from Australia attending COP17 stayed with our Sherwood Community. They represented groups in the Conference who were not given much prominence in the media.
These groups were the island nations and the developing countries most affected by global warming these had very small delegations two to three people. Our two guests represented a group from Pacific Islands off the coast of Australia These islands are in great danger from Climate Change. Their very existence is in danger. But these tiny groups did rebel against the first draft from the Conference. They did have influence.
Clare and Sister Geraldine, who stayed in Sherwood, represented one of these groups Clare is from the Island of Kiribati. Each evening the community sat around the table and heard about the Conference first hand On Friday evening we heard about their work at home and celebrated their culture. Clare   showed us a short film which really brought the message home and also played the music of the island and danced for us. It was very moving to get in touch with this rich culture and to become aware that it could be destroyed forever. Sr Geraldine, a Good Samaritan Sister originally from Burma, is deeply involved in ecology and Inculturation.

Clare from the Island of Kiribati  and Sr. Geraldine

The South pacific meets South Africa Sr. Sibongile learns to dance as they do in Kiribati

Sr. Helen Christmas our ecology promoter sent us some of Sean Mc Donagh’s writings from the Conference which helped us to put it in a theological context  Sean Mc Donagh’s reflections were very useful.  He reminded us that Ban Ki moon the Secretary General of the United Nations had begged negotiators “ to pull back from the abyss” many islands in the Pacific and elsewhere were in danger of slipping beneath the waves”. He had seen dried up lakes in North Africa and thousands have lost their homes through drought and floods. He also reminded us of the impact of climate change on the Himalayas and Tibet. He wrote an interesting article entitled “Is China being used as a scapegoat by countries which are unwilling to make significant cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions.” We all benefit from the cheap goods that come from China which is considered as still being a developing country by some people.  So we share in the blame for what they are doing China is actually making great efforts to reduce its greenhouse emissions.  It is the largest manufacturer of solar panels in the world!

South Africa is very good at hosting conferences like COP 17 the president of the Conference was Maite Nkoana-Mashabanr, our Minister for International Affairs.She was a gracious presence. President Zuma welcomed the delegates and of course affirmed South Africa’ firm commitment to Care for the Environment. On the first Thursday of COP 17 The minister of water and environmental affairs Edna Molewa readily admitted that, unlike the rest of Africa, South Africa is guilty of significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. “South Africa is a relatively significant contributor to global climate change with significant GHG emission levels from its energy-intensive, fossil-fuel powered economy”. Some interesting facts emerged. Nedbank which calls itself the “green bank” gave a huge loan to Eskom (producer of electricity) for its huge coal fired Medupi.

A Multi-faith Mass Rally and Concert at COP17 was held in Durban’s Kings Park Stadium on Sunday 27 November. The event was hosted by Nobel laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and was supported from all quarters. UNFCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres was present. Other guests included Cardinal Wilfred Napier, Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, Ali Mustafa, Archbishop Makgoba, Archbishop of Sweden, Prince Buthelezi, Sister Jayanti (Bramha Kumari).  Chair of COP – Minister of International Relations & Cooperation received   the petition from religious leaders .Catholics were well represented including some of our Sisters.

The work of NGOs and of scientists was very important at Cop 17, even if the final decisions were made by powerful politicians and business interests. COP17  may   be called a copout but  the smaller, less powerful people  placard –bearing protesters and marchers did highlight this crucial subject on the world’ agenda. We can only hope and pray that the message will finally get through to the powerful before it is too late.         Let us continue to inform ourselves and pray for the future of our Planet.

Sister Anne Walsh