Durban, COP17 and what I think I will be doing when I get there

I won’t likely be blogging for a bit until I get to Durban.  Leaving soon from Toronto to Heathrow, all day wait at Heathrow and another overnight flight to Johannesburg and then a few hours to get through customs and on to the last flight to Durban.

Why I don’t want to go —  I hate flying, cannot sleep on planes, had a hip replacement two months ago and sitting for a long time is a precursor to pain and not being able to walk for awhile, hate wasting the carbon in flying, and expect, when I get there, it will be a horrible experience until I get on the plane again to come home.

Why I think I have to go —  there is a chance I might be able to do some good. And given the enormity of the threat, I dare not take a chance of not being somewhere where I might do some good.

When I get there, no matter how brain dead or physically tired, the first task is to get to the accreditation office for the UN and get my badge to be able to participate in the conference.  I am going as an Observer, which will allow me into most of the negotiations, but not all. I will seek out the chief negotiator for Tuvalu who said by email that he would see if I can be helpful to their efforts.

I will connect with the Global Greens, other elected Green Party members of governments from Sweden, Australia, Germany, Kenya, Finland and so on. And I will find the Canadian Youth Delegation – a source of real hope and inspiration. It is always nice to see old friends.  At COP14 in Poznan, I told a reporter it was like “a family reunion on the Titanic. It is nice to see everyone again, but there’s a bad feeling in the air.”

The negotiating dynamic is not promising.  By this point in the process laid out at COP11 in Montreal, we should be confidently at the stage for the second commitment period under Kyoto to enter into force so that there would be a seamless transition from the first phase of Kyoto to the second.  But the train wreck in Copenhagen made that impossible.  Some in the media take me to task for accusing the Canadian government (under the temporary control of the Harper Conservatives) of sabotage.  But I have been watching the sabotage from day 1 of the Stephen Harper era.  He hates Kyoto.  It is almost an allergic reaction.  So he started as PM by repudiating our legally binding targets.  Act one is sabotage.  At every COP since 2006, the Harper-instructed delegation has thwarted progress.  Sometimes the Canadian delegation just sits quietly through the process to build consensus and then when the chair (of whatever sub working group has been beavering away) thinks it has consensus, Canada pipes up with objections.  This is bad faith bargaining, but count it for another five acts of sabotage at COP 12, 13, 14 , 15 and 16.

Further historical acts of sabotage are found in twisting arms of other countries to refuse to negotiate a second commitment period as well.

To that, add the plan to legally withdraw from Kyoto, but not to announce it until after COP17 is over (where presumably Canada’s real agenda is to try to find other governments willing to join us in refusing to take action – thus legitimizing the plan to kill Kyoto). Then to come back to Canada and announce the duplicitous legal withdrawal on December 23rd,  when the House is no longer in session.

To understand what Stephen Harper has been doing, just imagine that our Prime Minister were George W. Bush.  Our PM has taken up the mantle of Bush in opposing global action, but he is much more skilful in obfuscating the fact that that is what he is doing.

I suppose killing Kyoto would be laudable if the Harper government were actually doing what they say they are doing —  trying to get other countries into a globally binding and inclusive agreement replacing Kyoto. But they are not.  No other such agreement exists and on the countdown for action required to avoid global disaster, there is no time to develop such an agreement.  The only other show in town is the laughable two page non-binding Copenhagen Accord.

If the Harper goal were really a binding agreement to reduce emissions that includes China and India and Brazil, we would stay in Kyoto, as it is a process already supported by China and India and Brazil, nations among the 191 that have already ratified Kyoto.

So what do I hope?  I hope against hope that the EU, despite the real distractions of the financial crisis, take real leadership and work with other willing countries, Sweden, Norway, New Zealand, Australia (unsure?), developing nations, low lying island states, and start negotiations to ensure we arrest the rise in GHG no later than 2015.  I hope Japan, still committed to meeting its targets under the first phase of Kyoto, will come back on board.  I hope the dysfunctional US government will find a way to make some helpful noises in Durban.  And, I hope and against hope that the Canadian delegation will, based on unprecedented public pressure, do a 180 and accept a second commitment period.

In other words, I hope for a miracle.