Coverage of COP17- Climate Change and popular struggles

Community people: COP17 is a ‘conference of polluters’

Communities demand democracy and accountability in climate negotiations

, by Pambazuka, TWN Africa , Pillay Sharon

Corporations have colluded with governments to capture climate change negotiations for their own interest. At the start of the ‘Dirty Energy Week’ in South Africa, participants called for real commitment to heal the Earth.

More than 100 community, union and NGO representatives gathered on 23 November to kick of the ‘The Dirty Energy Week’ gathering, organised by the South African based environment justice NGO groundWork, together with 14 national and international NGOs and community organisations1. On the eve of the UN negotiations, they are gathering to discuss climate proofing communities and cleaner energy solutions.

One of the key issues addressed is the roles civil society, NGOs and the community play to ensure that the negotiators are not selling out communities and nations. The concern is that governments are not acting fast enough to combat the effects of climate change. COP17 is being labelled by community people as the ‘Conference of polluters’. It has been stated by the participants that many corporations who are part of the COP17 government delegations will be endangering the lives of people by negotiating on behalf of corporate interests rather than the interest of the people.

The conference was opened by Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International and the Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action, an NGO working with communities challenging the oil industry in the Niger Delta. Bassey, an environmental justice activist and author shared brief snippets of his soon to be released publication, ‘To Cook a Continent’.

Bassey stated that Africa is central to the climate change debate and they need to block emissions from South Africa to save the continent.

‘South Africa is responsible for the majority of the total green house gas (GHG) emissions of the continent. We are advised that Africa should adapt to climate change, despite the fact that we have not contributed to this enormous problem. It is nothing but a slap in the face of Africans because climate change is externally inflicted on most of the continent,’ he said.

It was noted by presenters that corporations are working alongside governments, presenting an array of greenwash/marketing-hype that deepens the inequalities in societies. NGOs and community people play an important role in the climate debate as many of them live on the fence line of dirty industry and are suffering from crumbling communities and environments because of climate change. They present factual voices from the ground, with credible information of local suffering and they debunk the ‘jargon’, technical and deceptive debates at these climate negotiations.

Community people from around the world discussed their challenge with undemocratic local conditions as well as undemocratic international conditions that have led to corporations capturing the United Nations climate negotiations.

1 Alternative Information Development Centre; Centre for Civil Society,

UKZN; Earthlife Africa Jhb; Federation for Sustainable Environment;

Friends of the Earth International; Global Anti Incineration Alliance;

Greenpeace, Africa; groundWork; Oilchange; Oilwatch; Sierra Club; South

Durban Community Environmental Alliance; Vaal Environmental Justice

Alliance; Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO)

For more information about the ‘Dirty Energy Week’ contact: Sharon Pillay, Media and Communications Manager, groundWork, Cell: 072 257 7 317; or email media[AT]

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This article is available in french Pour les communautés: la COP 17 est une « conférence des pollueurs »