Hors d’oeuvres or a full course meal for Durban

2 December 2011

Lina Li
Shanshui Conservation Center


Sitting in front of gate 24 in Hong Kong’s airport, I await for my flight to South Africa… another COP ….(deep sigh). I'm about to head off to my 3rd COP and the memories of Copenhagen come rushing back – my first COP; that debacle was enough reason for any COP rookie to be pessimistic!  With the complexities on legal form, saving the KP, the endless wrangling over mandate, the Eurozone crisis to the economic depression in the US and around the world generally, it's hard not to be pessimistic in the climate debate.   

But for someone from an NGO dedicated to the Cause, a stronger dose of optimism must over-ride the pessimism to survive the long and painful negotiations.  I live to change the world to a better one, but right now I have mixed feelings about how COP17 will pan out.  Already, my climate-sensitive radar is scanning the contents on the Round Table here in Durban – will it show a display of wholesome dishes or will it be a range of hors doeuvres just enough to wet the appetite, but not to fully satisfy the longing for a FAB deal for our planet.

Ying and Yang – is BIG bad?
As always, I picked up the China Daily as a good 'time killer' during the 3 hours from Beijing to Hong Kong. Surprisingly, it happened to include a 'climate special' — Minister Xie's news conference on Durban expectations is covered on the first and second page, and four full pages are dedicated to the text of the newly published white paper, 'China's policies and actions for addressing climate change.'

Actually I'm not surprised at all.  The climate is THE topic.  There has been so much at stake for China and the world in the past 20 years and even more so in the past two years. China is watched, with good and bad intentions.  China is learning to respond and to have better interactions with the world.  And Chinese NGOs have a big role to play here in Durban.

I wonder if being BIG as an emerging economy is what's causing China bad press or could BIG simply be a blessing in disguise, much like the rule of ying and yang; we all need to apply balance in our lives, learn to pause… and smell the coffee, to take it easy and share this planet in good faith.

How many last chances?
“WWC calls Durban the 'last opportunity' to act responsibly for climate justice,” this is the title of one of the hundreds of emails I just downloaded. Why it caught my eye was because I think I have been allergic to the term 'last chance' since Copenhagen.  Like the boy that cried wolf, the phrase 'last chance for history'  has left me doubting what's become a COP tradition to call for urgency and ambition.  Are we supposed to be in a marathon fight for the sake of having a fight or should we actually be showing an increased degree of maturity to strategically change the status quo?

Find enemies or provide hope?
How? Everyone who cares about climate change too much to give up on the UNFCCC process has been trying to figure a way out of the maze.  Statistics vary though and a new report by Greenpeace titled “Who is Holding US Back” focuses on blaming the big cooperates in the US who do a good job turning against the process through strong lobbying.  The “UNEP Gap report II” report, on the other hand, offers a top-down and bottom-up analysis on how to fill in the gap between current pledges and what's required by science.  

Beyond your imagination…
My last highlight today is a nice advertisement at the airport on my way to Gate 24.  It's of a small iceberg on top of the ocean level, and underwater is a giant mountain.  I should have taken a photo, but I am sure you can imagine how it exactly looks! “BEYOND your imagination” is the slogan. And the first thing jumped into my head when passing by it was “isn't this climate change? The crisis we are facing?” Probably! But it can be also the new future we create when addressing that TOGETHER. Good luck, everyone! And Good morning, South Africa!

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