Climate activists, long frustrated with the results of the recent United Nations climate summits in Copenhagen and Cancun, are coming together to challenge negotiators at this year’s climate conference in Durban, South Africa, in hopes of encouraging viable and equitable solutions to global climate change.
#OccupyCOP17, as the encampment is calling itself, holds general assemblies using the same consensus model of decision making as adopted by the Occupy movements across the globe. The general assemblies take place during the Conference of Parties as an alternative decision making apparatus in which all peoples are welcome to participate.
The occupation site is directly across from Durban’s International Convention Center.
During an early general assembly, occupiers broke down into several groups to discuss various aspects of climate justice and solutions for climate change. Some groups proposed solutions like integrating environmental rights into local bylaws, and all groups touched on a theme of ending corporate influence within the negotiations and of climate change as a symptom of a global economic structure.
Occupiers protested outside a South Durban Shell oil refinery in one of their first actions.
“The way these big oil companies disrespect the rights of people, not just the indigenous people but people around the world, they blatantly disregard human rights,” activist Daniel Tseleie told Al Jazeera. “This is a trend we see with climate change, with fossil fuel extraction is that it threatens food and water security for people around the world.”
The occupiers are made up of climate activists from environmental organizations such as 350.org and organizations in the Climate Justice Network as well as indigenous peoples from across the globe. Delegates from countries more vulnerable to the effects of climate change are still considering occupying conference meeting rooms after the former president of Costa Rica offered the suggestion.
Climate activists have expressed anger at the results from the more recent United Nations climate summits at Copenhagen and Cancun, both of which resulted in deadlock.
With the Kyoto protocol, the only internationally binding agreement among 37 countries, reaching its expiration term in 2012, the negotiations are coming to a critical juncture in keeping the protocol alive—and activists are supplying plenty of pressure. Much of that pressure is aimed at the United States which isn’t a signatory to the protocol.
"We had faith 16 times before but no more…most of us are saying it's a conference of polluters," Patrick Bond, a professor atthe University of Kwazulu-Natal and a member of the occupy movement told the Huffington Post. "If anything good starts to happen then Washington will sabotage it.”