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Protesters Expelled From UN Climate Conference Hall

Cross-posted from Environmental News Service
DURBAN, South Africa, December 9, 2011 (ENS) – Demonstrators calling for “Climate Justice Now” interrupted climate negotiations today in Durban on what was to have been the last official day of the annual United Nations climate conference as agreement contined to elude negotiators.

After government delegates from around the world talked without resolution until nearly midnight, officials called it a night and decided to reconvene for further talks at 10:00 am Saturday morning.

Head of the U.S. delegation to Durban Todd Stern, left, with China’s head of delegation, Xie Zhenhua. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)

A special type of meeting indigenous to Southern Africa, known as an Indaba, is continuing until 4:00 am to resolve outstanding issues. At an Indaba, everyone has a voice and there is an attempt to find common ground.

Conference President Maite Nkoana-Mashabane(Photo courtesy ENB)

Conference President, South African Foreign Affairs Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, said, “The Parties are engaging genuinely and working very hard to ensure that agreement is reached on the matters before the conference. Parties are looking at convergences, guided by trust and a spirit of give-and-take.”

The Parties are considering their options “in relation to the issue of the Second Commitment Period of the Kyoto Protocol and future process” as well as long-term finance “with specific reference to the operationalization of the Green Climate Fund,” she said.

“Parties are expressing the hope that the Green Climate Fund can be launched here in Durban,” she said of the multi-billion dollar fund to help developing countries cope with climate impacts agreed in principle at last year’s UN climate conference in Cancun, Mexico.

“The various groups, including the Association of Small Island States, the Least Developed Countries, the European Union and the Africa Group are moving towards common ground on various aspects of the negotiations. Other parties are coming on board. Despite these positive sentiments, we are still not there yet,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.

Protesters block the halls at the Durban International Conference Center, December 9, 2011 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)

Meanwhile, civil society activists erupted in protest this afternoon, blocking the plenary halls and bursting into chants of “Climate Justice Now!” “Don’t Kill Africa!” “World Bank out of Climate Finance,” “No Carbon Trading,” and “No REDD!”

When UN Security began to remove the activists, Anne Petermann, executive director of the Vermont-based Global Justice Ecology Project, sat down. When she was asked to leave willingly, she refused to comply. While others were escorted out, Petermann refused to go, until she was lifted into a wheelchair, and rolled out of the conference center.

Petermann sent a statement to a press conference held by Climate Justice Now!, a coalition she co-founded in 2007.

“I took this action today because I believe this process is corrupt, this process is bankrupt, and this process is controlled by the One Percent,” Petermann said using language of the Occupy Movement.

“If meaningful action on climate change is to happen, it will need to happen from the bottom up,” she said. “The action I took today was to remind us all of the power of taking action into our own hands. With the failure of states to provide human leadership, and the corporate capture of the United Nations process, direct action by the ninety-nine percent is the only avenue we have left.”

Anne Petermann of the Global Justice Ecology Project (Photo courtesy Global Forest Coalition)
Journalist Rana Karuna of Mauritius on the beach in Durban (Photo byChangeandSwitch)

Also removed from the hall was Karuna Rana, a young woman from Mauritius, who refused to leave willingly. Rana is in Durban with a group of young journalists called Speak Your Mind.

Standing with Petermann in the rain at “Speaker’s Corner,” the Occupy site outside the Conference Center, Rana said, “I went to the protest action to take a picture, but I got emotionally empowered and I started to take part. I am the only young Mauritian here, so I found it my responsibility to speak on behalf of Mauritius, of small islands, and of global youth.”

“I’m scared for my future. Mauritius is a small island state and it’s terribly unfair to have no voice in this process,” said Rana. “If I did not take a stand, my voice would not have reached the negotiators.”

Desmond D’Sa, of South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, who also was expelled, said, “We cannot wait for 2020, as that will result in millions being displaced or dying in poverty due to extreme climatic conditions.”

Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace International Executive Director, and other Greenpeacers also were escorted out after the protest action inside the International Conference Center.

A South African human rights activist among those who battled apartheid and won, Naidoo wrote online today in an open letter to climate negotiators, “Now, twenty years after our victory, in the remaining hours of the Durban climate talks, with great urgency we call for a similar breakthrough – one as unexpected, as deserved and as vital as South Africa’s transition to democracy.”

Kumi Naidoo, head of Greenpeace International, second from right, and other protesters are removed from the conference center by UN security, December 9, 2011 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)

“You may not have felt it inside the rarefied air-conditioned corridors of the conference centre, but a restless anger stalks this land – an anger driven by a new apartheid that has trapped close to half of humanity in a deadly embrace of poverty, inequality and hunger,” wrote Naidoo.

“Our institutions – local, national and global, across public and private sectors – are rapidly losing legitimacy,” Naidoo wrote. “A mistrust that is driven by the human greed of a minority has plundered the hopes and aspirations of the majority. People sense it at a visceral level, this year alone it has toppled dictators, and someday soon – perhaps not this year or the next, but someday soon – the victims of rising temperatures will similarly find their voice.

“Your job is to meet their hopes before you meet their anger.”

Mike Ballile of Greenpeace International was also escorted out of the conference center. Ballile wrote online just after 11 pm, “We were told our chants of “2020 too late,” could be heard as the lame U.S. proposal for implementation after 2020 was rejected. We wanted vulnerable countries to know that we support their fight, and climate laggards to feel a little more pressure and from what we hear that’s exactly what happened.”

“The peaceful protest carried on until we were removed by UN police, de-badged, and escorted out the ICC,” wrote Ballile. “I walked out with other young people from Egypt, the Maldives and South Africa, and we were happy to have taken a stand and raised our voices to the injustice we had witnessed.”

Hopes for a fair deal in Durban are sinking, said Ballile. “But for a few hours this afternoon, in the heart of the conference centre, the governments were forced to listen to the people and not the polluters and our message was clear: act on climate change now!”

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Carbon Trading, REDD, UNFCCC