The shows and the no shows of COP17

2011-12-10 10:22

The climate talks deliver their fair share of stunts to attract attention to the cause of climate change. We rate the hot, not and just plain lame attempts.

Young Canadians’ public snub to their minister
They were evicted from COP17 for their stunt, but when the Canadian youth delegation turned their backs on their environment minister, who was addressing the plenary, they received louder applause then any of the 190 plus ministers who had droned on this week.

Their T-shirts said it all: “Turn your back on Canada”. Canada had been obstructive all week in the negotiations and wanted to ditch the Kyoto Protocol.

The youth’s simple, yet effective stunt embarrassed their minister Peter Kent and Canada, and upped the pressure on COP17’s pariah nation.

Oxfam’s wet party
Well-known development non-governmental organisation (NGO) Oxfam kicked off its COP17 action with a wet stunt. They organised a dinner party in the ocean to highlight the effects that extreme weather will have on the planet’s creaking food system.

Dinner conversation included the rise in the ocean level and how food costs would rise due to crop failures as a result of unpredictable climate.

The timing of the event, at the start of COP17, drew quite a crowd.

Fossil of the day
The fossil of the day is an old climate talk tradition that started off in 1999, but it remains a daily highlight.

Every day at 6pm the country with the worst attitude at the talks is awarded the satirical award by the global NGO partnership Climate Action Network.

There is a song and a dance, and a (short and sweet) speech justifying the award.

The incredible bright baobab tree
In the spirit of the festive season a giant tree lights up the Durban beachfront. This no ordinary Christmas tree, but rather a pedal powered baobab tree.

The tree is made from recycled wooden pallets against a metal frame with LED lights fixed to branches, which light up when members of the public pedal on the bicycles below the tree.

The all singing and dancing Brazil trees
Dancing trees on a boardwalk will always have a certain allure. Greenpeace activists, dressed as trees, called on president of Brazil Dilma Rousseff to “Save the Amazon, Stop the chainsaws”.

They certainly stopped traffic.

The drop that didn’t happen
Greenpeace’s stunts at COP17 have gained legendary status. But this time round the South African police watched them like hawks and when they tried to drop a banner saying “Listen to the people, not polluters” at the Edward Hotel, where big business was meeting to discuss climate change, they were rounded up before they could even go up the staircase.

The action led to three foreign Greenpeace activists being deported.

US youth late to the party
A day after the Canadian youth stunt, the US delegation tried something similar.

Just before US climate envoy Todd Stern was to speak, a student from the US read a speech to disrupt the process.

She said the US representatives no longer speak on behalf of the youth in America. She was thrown out of COP17 for her trouble.

Climate denialists drop in
To see the strange British climate denialist Lord Christopher Monckton and company parachuting in with a suit onto a beach sounds quite interesting, if a bit crazy.

But the denialists missed the boat by choosing Amanzimtoti beach for their big stunt, 30km away from the action.

Some of the locals were quite perplexed by the denialists’ stunt. The rest could not care less.

The Zuma fight
The much-talked-about-over-in-30 seconds fight between activists and volunteers in front of president Jacob Zuma at the Durban Town Hall had almost nothing to do with COP17 and everything with local ANC politics.

When local activists wanted to release a banner calling for Zuma to stand with Africa at the negotiations, Zuma supporters wearing green volunteer uniforms tackled them and a fight ensued. Zuma and the police attributed it to “a difference in opinion”.

Vegan dinner dilemma

The vegans of Supreme Master Ching Hai certainly had the energy and numbers to try and convert delegates to a life of veganism. Unfortunately the food that they handed out at a bizarre gala vegan dinner did not go down so well.

Unfazed they distributed food to everyone and his mate who came close to the COP17 venue. But the vegan hot dogs and hamburgers did not quite live up to the hype.

Rwandan bandwagon
Rwanda’s president might be blamed for many things. Climate change is not one of them with his nation having one of the smallest carbon footprints.

But that didn’t deter a group of Rwandans from holding a protest at the entrance of the COP17 negotiations venue and calling on confused delegates to join their cause.

Celebrity non-shows
Angelina, Leonardo, Richard Branson, Harrison Ford and Bono did not grace the conference with their presence. They were frequently spotted at the airport, and Harrison Ford was on a speakers list with Zuma.

In the end Branson only visited COP17 via satellite link, Ford decided to stay at home and Leonardo and Angelina were never coming in the first place.

Bono apparently was staying under cover somewhere in Durban, but that might have just been a guy with strange glasses and slicked-back hair.

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