That's the sound of politicians and delegates from over 200 countries failing. Failing to communicate. Failing to listen. Failing to see anything beyond their repertoire of 'sustainability is inherently bad for the economy'. Yep. That's right. It's COP-17!
I remember 2 years ago, when the Climate Change Conference was happening in Copenhagen. The news was just littered with stories about it. I had never really heard about these conferences before. My interest in the environment was only just budding and suddenly the media was chock-a-block full of (mostly) positive stories! What action plans will these countries come up with? Will China act? What will become of the Kyoto Protocol?? And then I quickly learnt that, despite the media buzz, none of these politicians were going to come to a decision.
One year later, and COP-16 in Cancun is spectacularly exemplified in this picture:
(Picture taken from BBC Online article)
So it's now it's Durban's turn to host this years conference. And to be truthfully honest, I reckon heads will stay in the sand. Oh such cynicism, I know! Don't get me wrong, my faith in the potential of sustainability remains unharmed, I just don't think politicians are going to be the ones to the lead the revolution. Whether it's environmental experts, businesses or consumers taking the lead, I'm not sure. But I can see politicians only having a follow-up role, after a lot of prodding and poking. I have this picture in my head... you know those movie sequences with old-school battles where rugged men just start charging, screaming and wielding heavy instruments? Yeah, I sort of picture that, except replace the heavy instruments with mini-windmills and home-grown cabbages. And the men are not really rugged, they're just angry every-day people, and battle strategies are drawn up by environmental experts. But it's not really a battle as such, more just a huge mass of people chasing after oblivious politicians in 4x4s.
My name is Maximum Sustimus Greenius, commander of the Armies of the Renewable, General of the IEMA Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, *enter name of your sustainable idol here*. And I will have my local and organic soup, in this life or the next.
Urrrrr... yes well anyway you get the picture. Back to COP-17!
It's only Day 1 so there is still hope of some decisions being made. The biggest issue to deal with is the future of the Kyoto Protocol. I've never been a big fan of the Kyoto Protocol, because I've always had the sense that it just isn't working! The emission-reduction targets are barely satisfactory, and the most polluting countries haven't even ratified the Protocol (either out of choice *cough*US*cough*, or out of exemption *cough*CHINA*cough*). Having said that, I still think it is important to have a binding treaty for countries to keep to. Without the Kyoto Protocol, or perhaps a new treaty altogether, there just wouldn't be any political motivation whatsoever.
Kelly Rigg, in one of today's Guardian articles on the subject, sums it up pretty well:
"At the root of this failure is the perception that solving climate change is solely about sacrifice, about limiting rights to development."
And that's just it. A lot of people just picture sustainability as a cost, as a fashion, as a bourgeois fad, or as a hippy's religion. When really, sustainable development is an opportunity! I'm not saying it's free. Obviously, there are some initial investments - like companies who improve their heating systems, there are high upfront costs, but the rewards are quickly felt! Savings. Jobs. Markets. There is so much potential within sustainability, in so many different aspects; energy, food, housing, transport, business. Hell, even international cohesion would be a benefit... if these countries could only decide to make a decision.