Andreas Späth

COP-Out 17. Now what?

2011-12-14 07:45

Andreas Späth

Another international climate change conference, another damp squib.

No matter how hard the COP 17 negotiators and their sympathisers in the media try to candy-coat the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, the set of agreements hammered out during a last-minute all-nighter in Durban last week, few honest observers will deny that it represents little more than a bunch of promises to plan to do something in a non-legally-binding sort of way sometime in the future.

A bone thrown to us from the conference table of international horse-trading in order to keep us hopeful, it's a lukewarm commitment to too little too late. And it's simply not good enough.

If you're like me, you'll feel incredibly defeated, cheated and disempowered by the whole process. Do these people – our so-called representatives – really care so little about the future of the planet? And what can we, as ordinary people concerned about climate change, do to make a difference?

I've come up with a simple two-step programme to counter the shambolic COP-out. It's not a blueprint to fix all our problems, mind you, but I hope it goes somewhere towards helping you get rid of your frustrations.

Step 1: Be outraged

We know the science behind climate change, we can predict the devastating consequences of inaction and we understand what needs to be done to prevent the impending disaster from becoming a reality. Yet for nearly two decades, our governments have presided over a string of ineffective talk shops while the planet's been melting.

Developed countries have prevaricated because they want commitments from growing economies like China and India. Developing countries have not acted because they believe the industrialised world is responsible for the lion's share of historic greenhouse gas emissions. They may all have a point, but their collective refusal to take concrete and effective steps to get the world off its carbon addiction now – no, make that ten years ago – represents a case of criminal neglect on a global scale.

They've let us down. Let's not allow them to string us along any further. Let's show them our outrage and disgust at their behaviour and we'll realise that millions of others around the world feel the same way we do.

Step 2: Take action

Now that you've acknowledged your anger, it's time to start doing something about it. By all means, buy more organic produce, re-use your plastic shopping bags and make your next car a hybrid, but recognise that we're not going to consume our way out of this predicament.

Teach your children and preach to your friends about more sustainable living, make your own compost and go vegetarian. These are all good individual actions to take, but please understand that they are not enough. Together we can and must do more.

It's high time that we take ownership of the fight against climate change. Our governments have lost the plot and failed us. I'm not talking about taking power in the negotiations, but about disseminating and distributing decision-making power to all of us. For too long we have delegated our voices to cowards and bureaucrats with vested interests. It's time to take them back and re-empower ourselves.

Join a democratic, grass-roots environmental organisation in your area and get active, or if there isn't one, start one yourself. The options for resistance are only limited by our imagination. Call it civil disobedience, citizen activism, flash mobs, direct action, social networking with a real-world kick or Occupy Climate Change, we need to do whatever we can to shut down this crazy carbon-spewing monster before it consumes the world as we know it. Nobody else is going to do it for us.

- Andreas has a PhD in geochemistry and manages Lobby Books, the independent book shop at Idasa’s Cape Town Democracy Centre. Follow him on Twitter: @Andreas_Spath

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Read more on:    cop 17  |  climate change
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