South Africa and the Climate Conference accelerator

The Yale student delegation is staying in a hotel as far away from Durban, and the COP17 conference center, as physically possible.  A muddy trek up a hill, past hasty developments of car dealerships and construction supply companies, brings you to the COP17 “shuttle” pickup – aka the parking lot of a bustling BP gas station.  An hour and a half ride through lush green hills overlooking the blue ocean brings you to the COP conference center.

Durban is definitely a modern resort town.  Big palm trees.  Fancy cars.  Young people with good posture walk with purpose between glass-lobbied skyscrapers.  It feels a bit like Miami, with a little less narcissism.  It’s warm and clean and, at least outside of the conference center, relaxed.  Also people drive on the left side of the road, so that’s cool.

The conference is moving right ahead, progressing from big “plenary” meetings, where grand ideas and gripes are laid out, to smaller, more specific informal and working group meetings, where sticking points are negotiated and discussed more directly.  The number of meetings is increasing, as are their length.

At the conference there is an intense, and frankly inhumane, pressure to attend every meeting and learn every facet of every issues being discussed. Each morning we pick up a printed pamphlet, which lists the day’s activities, that is more then 30 pages long!  An impossible addendum of unofficial “side events” lists those meetings you’d love to attend but never will (this list is only available online but if printed would probably resemble War and Peace in height). Many meetings last well into the night.

The big news of the day, from our end, was:

–       The release of the draft governing documents for the Green Climate Fund, a collaborative financial mechanism that, if adopted, can begin funding greenhouse gas emissions reduction projects as early as next year.  Expect to hear full reactions to this document tomorrow…

–       Discussions on the AWG-LCA[1] starting to heat up.  This is an alternative emissions reduction commitment program (created to cover those countries, like the US, who are not party to the Kyoto Protocol) that could, like the Kyoto Protocol, move forward from Durban with increased, and legally binding, GHG reduction commitments OR ground to a halt.

–       Apparently a  “climate” train is traveling throughout the conference center engaging people in cross-cultural community dialogue “while on the go”.  I haven’t seen this train but I will.  And I will ride it.

[1] The Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action.

Aaron Reuben

Aaron Reuben is an editor-at-large and the former editor-in-chief of Sage Magazine. He holds a Masters of Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, where he focused on governance of global marine resources. Aaron is a Get Out the Vote Director for Obama for America in western Pennsylvania. He is co-founder of the Brooklyn-based literary arts journal Armchair/Shotgun.

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One Comment

  1. Enjoyed your blog! It seems that the world press has lowered expectations for the outcome of COP17. So, any news you have of nations making progress on the pressing issues will be happily received.
    Keep us informed!


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