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Saturday 3 December was not a normal day for the population of Durban, South Africa. A climate march wound around the streets of the centre as somewhere between 10, 000 to 15,000 people called for – in fact demanded – action on climate change. They brought the city to a colourful, vibrant and peaceful standstill.
Walking with, and sometimes carrying our gorgeous puppets – Mama Mhlaba (Zulu for Mother Earth) & Baba Manzi (Father Water) – I saw groups as diverse as the Rural Women’s Assembly and the Airport Workers Union marching side-by-side. All for the same ultimate goal – climate justice through urgent, fair and effective action on climate change.
Sadly however, it seems like our governments are not listening. As we enter week 2 of the negotiations here in Durban, there are very real fears that countries are blindfolding themselves to the reality of climate change. It seems like some powerful countries – led by the USA – are preparing to call a decade long ‘timeout’ on climate action. They want to have no new targets to lower emissions, or agreement on a legally binding deal, until 2020. This isn’t good enough.
We know that in order to prevent the most disastrous impacts, we need to increase our targets on emissions reduction, and quickly. So why are politicians and leaders turning in the other direction? There are many countries and groups that are asking their leaders to open their eyes to climate change, show courage and take effective action. Our great fear is that these people will be ignored. The next 4 days are critical.
Countries must respond to climate change today. As well as emissions reductions they need to provide money for the Green Climate Fund, that they set up at last year’s conference in Cancun. The sources of money are there, a proposed tax on shipping emissions (bunkers tax) or a financial transaction tax (FTT) are two ways to raise the income needed to help the poorest people to better respond to the realities of climate change.
Having said all this, it is important to remember that people are taking action on climate change in their everyday lives. The amazing women we’ve met through the Rural Women’s Assembly, the farmers, artists and activists who travelled on the Caravan of Hope, along with millions of others, aren’t waiting for our leaders.
The march on Saturday was a noisy reminder that people aren’t going to sit idly while our leaders close their eyes to climate realities.
Watch a video of the COP17 climate march.
More on Oxfam's work at the COP17 UN climate talks in Durban.