This is not political gloss-over

by Sarah

I feel pretty confident saying that some of the statements delivered in this morning’s high level segment by NGOs had the blood pumping through the veins of the room.

Prior to the youth speech- which was delivered by three of our wonderful, intelligent, and inspiring number and ended in all of us calling loudly to pull together (”Harambe!”)- two African women in particular had a point to make, and courageously made it. Get on the ball.

Ms. Grace Akumu, on behalf of African NGOs, expressed gratitude and gladness to have met people here, formed relationships and partnerships, and to have learned so much in the past two weeks. She also highlighted the let-down that these negotiations have been for those with the most to lose if the predicted destruction comes to fruition. “It is our honest obdervation that COP12 was not meant to achieve any meaningful and tangible decisions that would reassure Africa,” she said.

“Those responsible for causing the problems of climate change appear always to come to negotiations driven first and foremost by economic interests, then political hegemony and lastly by environmental concerns.” This is eloquently put, in my opinion. It expresses the disconnect that occurs when we personify nations and place all value in economics rather than realizing that we are all people, together, with responsibility to each other. What followed in her statement are perhaps some of the most important words of this conference:

“No tangible and meaningful decision was arrived concerning equitable distribution of CDM projects,” she continued. “Although we are being told that we should keep in mind that CDM is market driven, we also wish to remind all that markets have not worked for Africa and they are not just about to. If they had worked, Africa, considering our endowment with all resources known to man, would not be in this pathetic state we are found in today. We wish to state that markets are creations by human beings and experience has proven they also fail. Therefore, should the avenue of free market be pursued, it will be a sure way to fail CDM in Africa.” The truth of these words shakes my bones.

Sharon Looremeta, Masaai project manager for Practical Action, did not hide her anger: “Climate change tourists, that’s what I call you,” she said. “You come here and take pictures, and then go home and forget about us. I hope these pictures stay with you forever, when you are deciding how to act.” Masaai herds are dying, she said. Livelihoods are disappearing, and people are suffering. She went on: “We said, “the review of the Kyoto Protocol was important for Africa, because we need more funds for adaptation — more than what we have now”, and you said, ‘later’;We said, “we need deeper emissions cuts so that our children and grandchildren can have a better chance in life”, and you said, ‘later’;We said, “we need new mechanisms to help sustainable development in Africa” and you said, ‘later’.I am a mother. I have a daughter. When she asks me what came out of the meeting in Nairobi, I don’t want to have to tell her that you said, ‘ask me again next year’.”

It is not fair that people suffer. Why should we put economic interests ahead of human ones? It seems these conferences are not the venue for real change, for taking real responsibility, for showing care for each other and acting on justice. I am glad I saw these women speak, and I am glad they had the opportunity to do so. I hope I, and others, can continue to hear their voices and that our voices come together even more.

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