COP18 Shuts Door on Youth, Civil Society, and Impending ‘Carbon Tsunami’
Urgency and ‘opportunity’ for United States
As the final week of the UN climate conference (COP18) slugs on, reporters from inside the conference grow increasingly weary of limited access for both themselves as well as citizen representatives. Also, despite daily reports confirming the urgency of the climate situation, outside media attention has failed to convey this impending crisis.
“We have a climate cliff for sure. We’re facing a carbon tsunami,” said leading environmental scientist, Bill Hare, when asked about the urgency of the ‘climate cliff’ in comparision with the current US fiscal debate, which has recently exhausted corporate media airspace. Hare spoke in an interview with Amy Goodman from Democracy Now,which has been reporting from the COP18 climate convention in Doha, Qatar.
Hare went on to say that the silver lining, in this time of woe, is that “there’s lots of money to be made.” Speaking the language of politicians, he continues:
[There are] a lot of new industries to be built—by actually taking the steps to introduce renewable energy—wind, solar power, electric cars and hybrid cars. These are the technologies of the future and these can generate jobs, help rebuild economic growth, at the same time that we get out of the carbon intensive pathway of the past. I think its a challenge for politicians, not just here in Doha but in the United States to realize that opportunity and actually introducing something like a carbon tax in the US would help dig the US out of its fiscal cliff and produce substantial economic benefits in the long-term.
Closing the Door on Youth and Civil Society
Reports from outside the Qatari National Conference Center, where convention is being held, reveal that many of the talks have been strictly behind closed doors, specifically excluding youth delegrates, civil society representatives and members of the press.
Exiled to the hallway outside of the conference, Inter Press Service (IPS) reporter Stephen Leahy spoke with youth and civil society representatives who are growing increasingly frustrated by the lack of access. Leahy writes:
For no obvious reason, security at the meeting known as COP 18 is very strict. Worse, the much smaller than usual contingent of participants from civil society is under a number of restrictions. No posters. No flyers. No demonstrations except in designated locations well away from the negotiations. When allowed to speak at official sessions, civil society organizations’ (CSO) speaking time has been cut in half to a single minute.
“Civil society is increasingly seen as inconvenient and is being phased out of this process,” said Trudi Zundel, a Canadian student at the College of the Atlantic in Maine. “It’s hard enough to participate here without an official role. Now civil society, along with the media, are shunted off into the furthest corners of this giant building,” Zundel told IPS.
Zundel was initially barred from entry for participating in an “unsanctioned protest” on the final day of the previous conference in Durban last year; she was admitted after signing a declaration promising not to participate in anything similar in Doha, IPS reports.
Fellow College of the Atlantic student Anjali Appadurai—who delivered the viral “Get it Done!” speech at the close of COP17 in Durban—was also blacklisted for protesting.
“CSOs and youth are being pushed to the margins here,” she said. “We represent the broader public. Our input should be valued, but it’s not at this COP.”
Also, unlike COP15 in Copenhagen and at the UN Rio+20 conference last June, there is a ‘no minors’ rule, though youth delegates like Jane Nurse and Beatrice Yeung were able to meet with with Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland and former U.N. high commissioner for human rights.
“She asked us why youth weren’t angry about lack of progress and urgency here,” Nurse said. “We are angry, but if we show it we’ll get kicked out.”
Yeung, who traveled from Hong Kong unaware that the COP rules relating to minors had changed, told IPS, “Climate is an issue of intergenerational justice. Youth see the urgency. Our leaders don’t.”