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Pablo Solón Romero is the former Ambassador of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to the United Nations and recipient of the 2011 International Human Rights Award from the Global Exchange. His work for human rights and climate justice have made him a key player in international negotiations on current climate change problems such as the Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

While COP-17 talks were occuring in Durban, South Africa, Pablo gave his insight on the negotiations that had already taken place and the possible conclusion of these negotiations.

Durban Turning Into “Great Escape 3″ Starring Powerful Countries, Says Pablo Solon at COP17


Pablo Solón addresses the results of the latest COP talks in his recent article “The Durban Package: Laisser faire, laisser passer”. As scientists around the world from all fields of study are producing evidence of rapid change in our environment and the consequential harm on all living beings within this environment,  we would expect the COP-17 talks to express urgency in taking action towards eco/human rights justice but instead the agreements made during COP-17 delay any action in resolving the critical state of human existence on Earth.

The Durban Package: “Laisser faire, laisser passer”

Pablo Solón

The Climate Change Conference ended two days later than expected, adopting a set of decisions that were known only a few hours before their adoption. Some decisions were even not complete at the moment of their consideration. Paragraphs were missing and some delegations didn’t even have copies of these drafts. The package of decisions was released by the South African presidency with the ultimatum of “Take it or leave it”. Only the European Union was allowed to make last minute amendments at the plenary.

Several delegations made harsh criticisms to the documents and expressed their opposition to sections of them. However, no delegation explicitly objected the subsequent adoption of these decisions. At the end, the whole package was adopted by consensus without the objection of any delegation. The core elements of the Durban Package can be summarized as follows:

Read more: https://pablosolon.wordpress.com/2011/12/16/the-durban-package-laisser-faire-laisser-passer/

Leaders across the globe have come together for COP talks in Copenhagen (COP-15), Cancun (COP-16) and now Durban; the common ground for these talks has become their passive attitudes and in turn, inadequate commitments towards reforming their nation’s use of natural resources. Pablo brings to light this tread followed throughout the COP talks. The aftermath of COP-17 reflects Pablo’s initial opinions and predictions made during the live coverage of the talks. The framework and procedure of COP needs to be considered for reform; these talks are meant to deal with the pattern of climate change issues included rising global temperature so our nations are coming together for the sake of our future but what future will we have if the actions being taken are simply excuses to allow human society to continue blindly as it has thus far. But consider, what actions lead to the present devastating state of the earth and our society anyway?

Pablo Solón Romero. “The Durban Package: Laisser faire, laisser passer”. pablosolon.wordpress.com. 16th Dec. 2011<http://pablosolon.wordpress.com/2011/12/16/the-durban-package-laisser-faire-laisser-passer/>


COP-17 Debrief

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On January 12th, 2012, IRIS will be hosting a debriefing of COP-17 with the delegation from York University and the youth delegation from Nanisiniq: Arviat History Project to share their experiences at this year’s COP talks in Durban, South Africa. York University delegates include Ewa Modlinska who is completing her Masters in Environmental Studies and Alex Todd, MA candidate in the Department of Geography. In addition, the panel will be joined by Associate Professor Ellie Perkins and Postdoctoral Fellow Rachel Hirsch from the Faculty of Environmental Studies who have expertise in this area. The youth delegation from the Arviat History Project will be represented by April Dutheil, a social advocate and researcher on the issues of the Canadian North. The debrief is an open disscussion and participation from the audience is welcomed.

Event Details

COP-17 Debriefing

Date: January 12, 2012

Time: 3pm to 5pm

Location: Stedman Lecture Halls (SLH) Room 120E at York University, Keele Campus

If you can not attend in person, it is still possible to join us electronically through http://connect.yorku.ca/cop17debrief

COP-17: First Impressions; The Good and Bad

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COP-17: First Impressions; The Good and Bad

December 7, 2011

Alex Todd

With the 17th annual Conference of the Parties (COP17) taking place in Durban, South Africa, from November 28 until December 9, the world is watching. As a member of the York University delegation for the second week of the conference, I am midway through a week of side events, interviews, information booths, and a COP-crazy Durban. This is my first time attending a Conference of the Parties. My first day of the conference was Monday, December 5. Below are some of my first impressions from my first day of COP – the good and the bad.

Overall, the conference seems rather sophisticated, with most of the action split between the Durban Exhibition Centre (DEC) and the International Conference Centre (ICC), located right next to one another in the heart of downtown Durban. Most of my time here is spent in the DEC, which is home to approximately 200 information booths set up by a variety of institutions and organizations (including the York University / Inuit Youth Delegation headquarters – booth 197).

The information booths include pamphlets and other organization publications, as well as games and other giveaways, and allow for an effective use of time in between other events. The DEC contains several side event rooms with open delegate access, a media area, a computer centre with computers provided, and an area designed for bloggers to blog on their laptops.

Aside from additional side events and presentations not open for general delegate access, the ICC is also home to various information areas and transportation / travel information for delegates from out of town.

Furthermore, I have found the staff and volunteers at COP17 to be very helpful and friendly. They do a good job of keeping things running smoothly with their hard work.

The Bad

I, and several co-delegates, were perplexed by how difficult it can be to get a straight forward list of the day’s side events. There is a printed list of the day’s side events (complete with time and room) located in the DEC, but otherwise delegates are expected to get the day’s information on one of the CCTV screens located in the DEC and ICC. The screens contain a rolling list, requiring delegates to stand by and wait for the events of interest to appear so the time and room information can be recorded before it disappears. Daily programmes are printed and distributed at the publications counters in the DEC and ICC, yet these printouts include mainly a list of key international representatives and a limited side events list (inconveniently excluding the open events). Why not include the full event listing? I am at a loss. Highlighted on one of the programmes is a list containing some of the day’s open events, while omitting the times the events take place. Again I am baffled.

While not a huge impediment, I was struck by an irony regarding registration. Durban is packed with posters, banners and other advertising for COP17, from the airport to the downtown cityscape.

Yet, there appeared to be very little advertising for where to register for the conference. I walked all around the demarcated conference grounds until finally coming to the registration/entrance tent.

One problem with so many side events occurring simultaneously is that neighbouring speakers are always clearly and loudly audible in any given side event room. This becomes a distraction and makes the speakers harder to fully hear and follow. Perhaps this is something that simply cannot be avoided.

Lastly, there is a significant shortage of chairs in the computer centre and blogger’s loft, as well as in eating areas. When things are especially busy, one can watch ordinary delegates degenerate (somewhat understandably) into sneaky, selfish chair seekers. Again, this is an issue perhaps not easily avoidable, given the huge number of delegates and the finite amount of conference space.

Concluding Remarks

On the whole, I am thus far impressed with COP17, aside from a few snags here and there. The conference itself (as a physical space) seems an overall success. Whether or not the conference will be a success in terms of making any progress toward any kind of climate justice is another issue – we will have a better sense of that before long. Unfortunately, few have high hopes.


Arviat Youth Delegation Booth

Caravan of Hope in Durban

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Caravan of Hope in Durban

Demember 5, 2011

Ewa Modlinska

Global Day of Action rally on the streets of Durban bring inspiration and hope to the 17th Conference of Parties in South Africa.

Let me introduce to you Ndayiragije Diendonne, who travelled on a bus more than seven thousands kilometres from Burundi to make his voice heard at the climate change conference in Durban. Ndayiragije is part of the Trans-African “Caravan of Hope” where 300 farmers, youth, and activists from 10 eastern and southern African countries took busses to arrive at COP17 and try to tell the world how climate change is affecting their communities. After all, COP17 is hosted on African soil. And the people here, already disadvantaged by the current economic and political system, are and will continue to be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Before Saturday’s Global Day of Action protest, important gatherings took place in parks and the KwaZulu-Natal University where people shared their stories and talked about what climate justice means to them.

Before Saturday’s Global Day of Action protest, important gatherings took place in parks and the KwaZulu-Natal University where people shared their stories and talked about what climate justice means to them.

Unfortunately, I was at the Convention Centre listening to a United States representative give a media update of hoping to achieve a “balanced outcome”, of major economies not being prepared to sign a legally binding agreement, and of different governments taking different pathways – the same old story.  But what I can write here are some of the messages that were voiced at the protest: “our Africa, our climate, our rights”, “protect our workers and communities”, “grow food, not emissions”, “listen to the people”, “respect the earth”,  “time for climate justice”…

Ndayiragije and the Trans-African Caravan of Hope are leaving Durban today because they do not have the money to stay until the end of the week when the COP17 negotiations come to an end. Meaningful participation of people from the ‘developing’ world in future COPs means that there should be financial resources for both the official delegates as well as for people from affected communities. Climate justice is about building institutional spaces within the United Nations so that ‘people’, and not just official delegates, get to participate in the formation of international law on climate change. The distance between the official delegates in the Convention Centre and those who are protesting outside is too big.

I have asked Ndayiragije if he believed that COP17 would result in an agreement. He just smiled. “Then your seven thousand kilometers journey was a waste of time”, I responded too quickly. He looked at me and then at the protest, and said, “no, this is not a waste of time.”

For videos from the protest, please click on the links below:




Ndayiragije Diendonne











Equity and Right to Development in Climate Change talks

December 6, 2011

Ewa Modlinska

As climate change talks in Durban continue to be submerged in self-interest and bureaucracy, Indian panel re-emphasizes the importance of equity and fairness for an effective climate agreement.

The continued controversial topic in COP17 is how ‘developing’ countries should be included in a post-Kyoto agreement. There is a number of very powerful developed countries, including the United States and Canada, that will not sign a legally binding agreement until developing countries (especially emerging economies such as India, China, and Brazil) are forced to limit their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This is supported by the argument that due to the global nature of GHGs, the actions of Annex I (developed) countries in limiting their GHG emissions will be offset by the emissions of developing countries as their economies grow. This definitely has some standing. However, the proposed as well as existing national climate change policies presented here in COP17 by developing countries show that the developing world is already taking action on climate change proportional to their political and economic realities.

Developing countries want to take action on climate change, but they also want to make sure that any kind of (binding or voluntary) agreement that comes out of Durban will adequately incorporate equity and justice. The historical perspective on climate change is that ‘developed’ countries have contributed most to the present day crises: with less than 20% of the world’s population, developed countries are responsible for 75% of global GHG emissions (UNFCCC 2009). The people most vulnerable to climate change impacts, however, are the undernourished communities in developing countries as well as climate-change refugees that will be displaced by sea-level rises and natural disasters. Yet, these people have not received the economic benefits that developed countries gained from industrial, carbon-intense development. Additionally, some developing countries were/are disadvantaged by industrial, and now, capitalistic development. In the name of climate-change action, how can we (the higher-income countries) now refuse developing countries their ‘right to development’? Placing GHG emission targets on developing countries means limiting their economic growth.

A reality check for climate change negotiations is recognizing the different economic and political capacities of countries to introduce climate change mitigation measures. By allowing voluntary measures in the Cancun Agreement for both developed and developing countries, the financial burden for climate change action has shifted to developing countries. The Cancun Agreement moved away from the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ of developed and developing countries that was introduced in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The issue here is that while the developed world does not want to pay for climate change measures via GHG limits to capitalistic growth, developing countries cannot afford to pay for climate change action. Additionally, the Global South should not have to pay for something that they are not responsible for creating.

If we want developing countries to economically grow in a sustainable manner, a lot of money will be required to decouple their economic growth from GHG emissions.

Reflecting on the COP17 side-events’ schedule and coverage, it becomes clear that the discussion has shifted to financial-support instruments for developing countries and voluntary commitments for both the developed and the developing worlds. The idea of a second-commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol or an altogether new legally binding Durban Protocol seems to have been abandoned. But nothing is certain until the end of the negotiation talks. Presently, the side-events discussion has centered on the Green Climate Fund (GCF) as well as marked-based initiatives such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD). The continued discussion on the transfer of finances from the developed world is a welcomed initiative. But if we are talking about equity and justice in climate change negotiations, financial initiatives should not replace the necessary actions that developed countries should take as part of their responsibility for releasing GHG emissions.

Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests and Centre for Science and Environment side event at COP 17: The imperative of equity for an effective climate agreement. Monday, December 5, 2011