Durban Climate Change Conference 2011

Franko Petri rel=
WWF's Franko Petri
© Katharina Rossboth / APA

Franko Petri's blog

The United Nations climate change talks starting this week in Durban (28 November - 9 December 2011) present a unique opportunity for leaders of the world to move beyond political posturing and lay the foundations for an ambitious global climate deal. Follow the blog of WWF's Franko Petri to keep up to date with what goes on in Durban. 

A demonstration at the conference centre in Durban.  / ©: WWF / Franko Petri
A demonstration at the conference centre in Durban.
© WWF / Franko Petri
12 December 2011
Flop-COP 17 and the Climate Caravan Moves On

By Jörn Ehlers and Franko Petri

COP 17 was a tremendous trial of strength. The tough negotiations went on all night long until the wee hours of Sunday morning. Journalists and delegates slept on the ground and on benches in the conference premises for the second night, others slept in the garage. This gruelling summit cost us our last energy reserves. Little sleep, hardly any time to eat and air-conditioners took their toll. Some people of our WWF team fell ill, but had to carry on with their work anyway, for we needed each and every person for the many meetings, interpretations and subsequent communication to the world press.

A demonstration with slogan chanting and banners took place on Friday and blocked part of the conference centre for an hour. Within minutes it was swarming with hundreds of journalists and their cameras. Finally the UN security service dispersed the demonstration and cordoned off the occupied part.

Occupy also organized two actions outside the convention centre. Protests were not of much use to the civil society, for results were, to say the least, poor. At least the framework for the Green Climate Fund was established even if it is still not clear where all the envisaged billions should come from. A fixed agreement on a legally binding treaty was not reached. The phrase “protocol or legal instrument” lacks ambition and should it ever be enforced – not until 2020, it will be too late. Whereas actually it was supposed to be applied from 2015 on.

Japan, Russia, the USA, Canada and New Zealand will not participate in a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Neither will developing countries. Even if a legally binding agreement is accepted, it will only involve the countries responsible for a seventh of the global greenhouse gas emissions. WWF experts say we are heading directly for a 4-plus degrees world with these disastrous results; we have to come to terms with the fact that we are steering towards a planet where the steering wheel will no longer be controllable because of human-caused catastrophes. Even if COP 17 did have some rays of hope in the end, it was a flop-COP according to WWF's demands.

Evil tongues have it that the most important message of the summit was: Chocolate Santas are responsible for climate change – the UN conference participants' chocolate consumption alone caused 315 kilograms of CO2. Chocolate industry emits a total of over 3,7 million tons of greenhouse gases per year. This is at least what a Berlin-based chocolate producer claims. The thousands of climate summit participants can now indulge in sweets again. They need it as consolation for the fact that once again they were left short of making crucial progress. In any case this is far too little. Delegates need consolation and uncertain times await chocolate Santas.

The Climate Caravan will now move on. Before it stops next year in the country of Football World Cup 2022 – Qatar, many delegates should once again go to training camp: to Rio. People play good football there, but it should be doubted whether this will contribute to the progress of environmental protection. One of the biggest disappointments in Durban was particularly Brazil's attempt to weaken its national Forest Code and let forest destroyers get away with it without any fine. 20 years after the summit in Rio the world has indeed developed further. It has speeded up. We all have mobile phones, internet and social media access. We are networked as never before in the history of mankind. But is seems all this is not enough for us to face the challenges of the coming years. We are heading for a waterfall and at our best speed too. We are moving faster and faster, more and more intelligently, but unfortunately – we are not united and single-pointed. We recognize the problem and know the solutions, but the countries of the world just do not agree on a common solution. We do not realize we are all in the same boat and we all depend on each other. Governments bear the main share of the blame for the failure of this flop-COP.

Are such giant conferences always doomed to failure? No! After all, the Framework Convention on Climate Change was produced in Rio 20 years ago. The world agreed on a Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention to Combat Desertification was adopted and Agenda 21 was given life. Rio was a breakthrough at that time. We have adopted Millennium Development Goals, we know the forecasts of science, we know what is in for us. But we do not act accordingly. 20 years ago the Rio summit meant a new beginning. People were finally starting to talk about sustainable development and for the first time non-governmental organisations – NGOs, were also present. 17,000 participants arrived in Brazil for the mammoth meeting. You don't have to be a prophet to expect twice as many in 2012.

Even after the disappointing Durban summit, WWF's motto should be: Victory is in the end of a series of defeats. Nearly 80 WWF experts from all fields were present here for two weeks and gave their absolute best. We have been working on solving the problems of our world for 50 years and world conferences like the one in Durban are a big chance for us to convey our vision of the future to decision makers. 5,000 of our colleagues in hundreds of countries are constantly working on making the world a better place. Without WWF, our partners and other environmental organisations, the world would be completely different. We know the problems and we have been developing solutions for decades. We are frustrated, of course, that we can not save the world as fast as we would like to. But our world is complex and there are so many spheres of interest which make people have different opinions. Ours is a troublesome path and we are advancing much too slowly. But we know what awaits us and where we want to go, we know how to get there and where we want to be in 2050. And we will not stop pounding along towards a better world, we will continue working on providing all people of the world with better living conditions and protecting the nature paradise of our planet. Finally, it is a question of our own survival as biological species and the continuation of our planet.
Exhausted delegates in Durban.  / ©: WWF / Franko Petri
Exhausted delegates in Durban.
© WWF / Franko Petri
11 December 2011
The Big Wait in Durban

Many people of WWF's delegation had only little sleep yesterday. Negotiations on world climate went on all night long from Friday to Saturday. Our colleagues were starting to get sick. It is simply too much effort for many of us. Finally, a better proposal came in in the morning and we were pleased for at least it brought some rays of hope. The two degree goal was included in the text. A legally binding instrument, which states should bind to their goals, was proposed. Unfortunately it did not include any greenhouse gas reduction goals or deadlines for their actualization. And unfortunately this proposal too was rejected by Japan and Australia. If things in Durban do not advance, we will still be heading for a world 4 degrees warmer. We are losing valuable time.

As for forest protection – at least the forest conservation instrument REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) was recognized. Unfortunately the topic of fund commitments and where money should come from – the public or private sector, remained an open question. Investors have not adopted any guidelines. Up to 20 percent of CO2 come from deforestation. Our forestry expert from Austria – Geri Steindlegger, is obviously frustrated: “If things go on moving at this snail pace, in the future territories as big as 30 football fields will be felled every minute”, he warns. This means 130,000 square kilometres a year – an area as big as the territories of Austria and Switzerland.

It is already evening and the sun is setting down. We have been waiting for seven hours for the negotiations of the ministers to end so that voting can begin, which was in fact supposed to happen yesterday. But countries such as India, China, Japan, USA – the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, did not want to make a commitment. Negotiations are running in circles. And here tents are already being dismantled, restaurants and UN premises are closing down, it is raining torrentially and everyone is waiting – waiting for decisions, which concern the whole world. Our WWF climate experts analyse texts, develop proposals and discuss with experts and politicians. But it seems that there will be no or at least a weak agreement in Durban. Or negotiations will be put off.

Waiting is gruelling. The plenum has begun. The endless negotiations have ceased. But the plenary rounds can also take many hours. The Austrian Minister of Environment Berlakovich, whom I just met, had to go out of the meeting hall because discussions are taking place in a circle. The South African presidency is desperate to see a result here. It is questionable whether such a result will actually be achieved. And the big wait continues for us and the world...
WWF's peaceful event "Sunset Down on Addington Beach” in Durban.  / ©: WWF / Franko Petri
WWF's peaceful event "Sunset Down on Addington Beach” in Durban.
© WWF / Franko Petri
9 December 2011
Tired Polar Bears and Hot Pandas

by Franko Petri and Jörn Ehlers

Extremely heavy melting ice globes. Activists dressed like nurses breathe in new life to “patient Earth”. Oversized life belts or rubber boots as souvenirs for the ministers: climate conferences are also a competition for the most interesting pictures. NGOs are masters of spreading their messages through visual means. And also camera teams from all around the world are thankful when they get in front of the lens something other than bleary-eyed delegates and experts who lose themselves in details.

Colleagues from tck tck tck really took the cake this year in Durban: 2000 children formed a human chain in the shape of a lion head at the beach in Durban. The slogan was – „Roar for the climate“. Photographers were invited on the rooftop terrace of a nearby hotel and their impressive pictures brought the event to the front pages of European daily newspapers and to the main news broadcasts.

WWF fell out a bit with a smaller and peaceful event this year. “Sunset Down on Addington Beach”. Shortly before sunrise a globe made by African craftspeople was passed on from generation to generation and was given to children. This went along with a loud drumbeat. At 30 degrees in the shade the lonely panda on the beach was getting hotter and hotter. And we, the pandas here, also flare up when we listen to the speeches of politicians and their reassurances and conciliations.

It is “Sunset Down” also here at the congress centre and not only because the sun has disappeared behind clouds and temperatures have dropped significantly. At the moment everyone is looking at the so called BASIC Group – Brazil, South Africa, India and China. The EU wants to oblige them with at least a medium-term legally binding commitment. In return, the EU promises an extension of the Kyoto Protocol. It is an unclear situation. China is speculating and sending out contradictory signals. India is shamming and shows no movement. South Africa however, has a great interest that the summit is successful and Kyoto Protocol does not die here of all places. Furthermore, the Group is pressured from the particularly vulnerable countries, e.g. the small island states, the so called AOSIS Group.

Apart from that the conference is once again losing itself in details. The German Minister of Environment announced that his country will gladly host the Green Climate Fund and promised 40 million Euro. That's a start. It would be even more interesting to see how the fund, which is envisaged to grow by 100 billion USD annually till 2020, will get filled. WWF proposes that it be filled by means from a global transaction tax and also a climate tax on aviation and shipping. The Austrian Minister of Environment talks in his press release about the importance of climate protection and forgets that in its influence on this matter Austria is only second to last after Luxembourg in the EU.

As with any climate change conference it is again not foreseeable whether an agreement will be reached. Negotiations will certainly continue till late this Friday night. There have also been such climate summits where the conference president has without further ado stopped the clock to allow further debate and enforce an agreement. Also at the Bali conference the US delegation leader cleared the way in the last minute and then fainted right away. Anything is possible in Durban. It is likely that we are to spend yet another uncomfortable night at the congress centre. A déjà vu for some of us. At the COP 7b in Bonn we slept in the corridors of the NGO centre dressed in polar bear costumes and in the end we were rewarded by the necessary at the time double majority for the Kyoto Protocol. A dubious pleasure which we would gladly give up this time. Bleary-eyed polar bears would not look good if in the end nothing comes out of all these efforts.
8 December 2011
Climate Change – Only a Symptom?

In the morning you can hear sirens everywhere. After all, ministers of almost 200 states are coming to the conference building in Durban each day. All of them have their own cordon of police vehicles and the International Convention Centre – one of the biggest in the world, looks like a besieged fortress. All of them have come here because they know what climate change means for the world. But they have come for another reason too – to obtain the best conditions for their own countries. For ministers are party representatives. And parties fight over power in the country. They all want to be re-elected. And they fear that too harsh measures would mean reduction of economic growth and decline in employment rates. Many of the poor countries have neither the technology nor the means to meet climate change effectively and would prefer to leave drastic measures to richer states. Which country is rich and which poor is likewise a matter of discussion in Durban. After all, China is considered one of the world's largest greenhouse gas emitters, only till recently – not a rich country, that has to make concessions.

Climate change is actually a belitlling term. Planet Earth has already experienced many climate changes. There was a time when Earth was completely ice-free. But sea level was 70 meters higher then. The climate change which we are facing today is comparable to a comet impact. In a short period of time mankind has managed to change the planet in such a way that only powerful volcano eruptions or other natural disasters can. The matter at this so called climate conference is not Earth but our own survival. While thousands of papers are distributed so that single sub-paragraphs and phrases are disputed, negotiators lose the overall prospect, the heart of it all. In less than 100 years we have morphed our planet in such a way that we have now brought ourselves to the verge of a global catastrophe.

We are now trying to combat the big global problems with similar means – the means that caused the problem in the first place – with technology and supercapitalist solutions which are part of the problem themselves. Einstein once said that we can not solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. If we could, all psychologists and psychotherapists would have been unemployed.

So we need a new kind of thinking and living, and a new definition of what a life worth living is. Only few countries such as Bhutan went up other paths. Gross National Product is not a measure of everything there, the highest national goal is “Gross Happiness Product”, as the person sitting next to me on the plane – a state secretary from Bhutan, explained to me while we were on our way to Durban. We need not only environmental impact assessments for large construction projects but also life-cycle assessments for each and every product that goes out on the market. We need solar-democracies and wind power-communes instead of oil monarchies. The paradigm of the future should be three-dimensional thinking – from A back to A and not linear thinking – from A to B.

WWF's aims at everyone having water, food and energy – durably and sustainably. Only thus can we protect what is left of the ecosystems and their biodiversity. We use billions of Euro to pave the road to our own demise. Good thing is that we will live long enough to see how silly we were today. Durban is a big chance for humanity. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon does not believe concluding an agreement is possible any more, like he said yesterday. Differences were too big, he reckoned. Financial crisis and the different views of rich and poor countries hinder the reaching of a global agreement. Tomorrow evening or on Saturday morning we will know how the world community has decided to deal with climate change.

Sirens on the streets of Durban should not only keep ministers safe in their luxury state vehicles but should finally waken them so they really think globally, act globally and make the right decisions this week.
Poster from Durban climate conference.  rel=
Poster from Durban climate conference.
© WWF
Posters from Durban climate conference.   rel=
Posters from Durban climate conference.
© WWF
"Most wanted" poster from Durban.  / ©: WWF
"Most wanted" poster from Durban.
© WWF
7 December 2011
The Ministers Arrive in Durban

by Jörn Ehlers and Franko Petri

Tension rises. Competent ministers from over 190 countries are arriving in dribs and drabs today and in the next days to maybe move the negotiations a bit further. For competent ministers may once again upset the negotiations apple cart.

More and more journalists arrive as heralds of “high politics” and though there are hundreds of computers in the conference centre almost all of them are occupied. Journalists have not yet had the chance to announce the really big news and many wonder about the rather low-key interest at home. When it comes to public attention – it must have been difficult for the Climate Summit with all its technical details to draw some of it with topics like Euro salvation, Afghanistan Conference and Thomas Gottschalk's last ZDF-show around.

This does not diminish the significance of the topic, but it is important to keep in mind that behind discussions on LCP, LCA, MVR or CDP – abbreviations unintelligible for the laity, lies one of the biggest challenges for humankind.

Regardless of what the final result here in Durban is, one thing is clear – climate change is much faster than politics unfortunately. In 17 years of climate diplomacy greenhouse emissions could not be cut back. On the contrary: scientists from the Global Climate Project have presented the expected greenhouse gas emission rates in plain terms. They estimate that we should expect another increase by three percent this year.

China leads the list. Emission rates in the land of the dragon have risen by around ten percent. But emissions have significantly increased at the other end of the world too. The USA recorded a rise of four percent. Numbers are even more alarming if we consider that in the '90s greenhouse gas emissions had increased by “only” about one percent. As far as the climate balance of individual countries is concerned: during the financial crisis they have apparently succeeded only in slowing down the increase. This will certainly go on like that for a while longer. If we are to meet the two-degree goal proclaimed by the world community, it is high time we reached top pollution rates. Afterwards emission rates should be steadily and drastically reduced. We can only wait to see whether Durban will contribute to this.

Here in Durban Canada won itself the name blocker of the climate negotiations. A “wanted” poster is looking for the Canadian Prime-minister and the Minister of Environment for “hijacking the negotiations process”. The reward is $100 billion – the exact amount envisaged for the Green Climate Fund. When you listen to conversations in the hallways – most participants are sceptical. We should not throw in the towel too soon though. It is known that ones who are not expected to live long do live longer and hopefully this will be true for the Kyoto Protocol which currently is the most important global treaty of the world community and concerns us all.
7 December 2011
Jim Leape, the Director General of WWF International speaks to Franko Petri about the role of WWF at the climate conerence in Durban.

7 December 2011
Yanil Hou from WWF China explains why China has moved in the right direction and has shown signs of committing to a legally binding treaty for greenhouse gas emissions.

6 December 2011
What Happens If We Go On Like This?

Durban is all about the magic “2” – the two-degree goal. This means we have to succeed in keeping the rise of global average temperature beneath two degrees compared to pre-industrial times. This is the current scientifically accepted frontier to keep us safe, not rushing towards a global catastrophe which we can no longer control.

UNFCCC's Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice SABSTA had to take the necessary steps here in Durban and commission a study on the consequences of a temperature rise above 1,5 degrees. At present global warming has already risen by an average of 0,8 degrees. Global warming is taking place much faster at the poles and in the Alpine region. Nobody knows for sure whether we will meet the two-degree goal at all. If we do not do anything, the atmosphere will get warmer by three to four degrees. Some forecasts even estimate that we should expect a rise up to nine degrees by the end of the century. What will happen then – hardly any scientist dares to make a forecast.

What happens if we do not reduce greenhouse gases? In case of a two-degree temperature rise, 200 million more people will be affected by malaria. If it is a three-degree rise, the number of diseased may be 300 million. What is more, five to six million more people should be on the alert for dengue fever. Famine and struggle for resources will grow in any case. Europe will not be spared.

In case of a three-degree rise an additional number of up to 120 million people will be threatened by famine. Furthermore food prices will also rise. Particularly dramatic: our water will become scarce. More than 3 billion people can be affected by water scarcity. Drought will affect many parts of the world. South Europe is particularly vulnerable. At three degrees more, the Arctic will be ice-free in summer. Permafrost is thawing and thus releasing methane which further accelerates climate change. Greenland will melt completely by a three-degree rise and will let sea level rise. Melting of Antarctic ice shelves will also contribute to this.

The flora and fauna will be particularly badly affected. At a rise of two more degrees 95, percent of hard coral will die. Coral bleaching has already spread over the world oceans. What used to be beautiful diving paradise locations just a few years ago has now become coral cemeteries overgrown by algae and this has an effect on sea life. The causes are – rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification, for the sea absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere and alters submarine fauna and flora. Shell limestone decomposes as Renaissance marble art under the effect of sulphur dioxide. Life on land as we know it today will also change. A quarter of the species will suffer extinction at two degrees, at three degrees the number will rise to a third of the species.

These few examples already provide a fairly vivid picture of the dramatic consequences we are to expect should the nations of the world agree on a minimum compromise in Durban. If the ministers lose themselves in detailed discussions this week and no agreement on a second legally binding Kyoto-Protocol is reached, or if the emissions are to be reduced in a different way, we are losing valuable time – time we no longer have.

We do not talk about stopping climate change at big conferences as the one in Durban any more, only about keeping the rate of consequences as low as possible and financing the global aid campaign. 20,000 international fire fighters have gathered here in Durban to extinguish the global conflagration. The water they are using so far is mostly words. Nature does not care at all how much people in Durban talk. Because climate protection is not only about nature protection, it primarily has to do with our own survival.
Deep breaths at the WWF morning meeting.  / ©: WWF
Deep breaths at the WWF morning meeting.
© WWF
5 December 2011
Our Day Starts with Yoga

Our hard-working WWF team is getting bigger every day. It is trying to somehow cope with the infinite number of meetings, events, press conferences and reports. Whoever takes part in an event, writes a protocol thereafter and it is immediately sent out to all of us. And these protocols come in every few minutes, one can hardly read them. It seems that some colleagues have worked the night away – this is what the number of e-mails received during the night indicates. Our media people are constantly working on making the experts' detailed knowledge comprehensible for our team and on compressing it so we can work with it. Everyone knows this week will be one of the longest and most stressful of our lives. I alone have never received so many e-mails in such a short period of time. It is hard to cope with the flow of information. This is why our colleague from India started our morning meeting with a short yoga session of pranayama. We had two minutes to breath deeply and concentrate on our inner energy which we urgently need today.

What is the situation here in Durban? For days the positions of the countries seemed hardened. The USA is blocking everything, the EU is moving too little. Europe does not want any ambitious goals for a new Kyoto agreement. The EU is committed only to the previously existing goals. The developing countries are demanding more money from rich nations to tackle the damages of climate change to some extent. Representatives of The United Nations Environment Programme pointed out today that in view of the current emission reduction commitments, meeting the two-degree goal will not be possible.

Yesterday China expressed its will for the first time to accept a legally binding agreement given that certain criteria are met. This would be a major breakthrough because China and India have so far always rejected such an agreement. And China is responsible for nearly one-fifth of the global emissions. However, it needs to set tangible goals for greenhouse gas reduction and also to make a commitment to reach them till 2020. Otherwise we will soon have an atmosphere 4 degrees warmer than 100 years ago.

Africa also took the floor yesterday. The ministers of 50 African states call for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. The states rightly fear they will badly suffer the consequences of climate change. More than a billion Africans will be affected. They want a 40 percent reduction of the greenhouse gases till 2017 and 95 percent till 2050. In order to cope with the worst consequences they demand 1,5 percent of the developed countries' gross national product as climate aid for the developing countries.

The world is unblinkingly staring at Brazil today because tomorrow the Brazilian senate will vote on the amendments of the Forest Act. Should the senate approve it, 790,000 square kilometres of rain forest will be in danger. 28 billion tones of CO2 will be emitted in the atmosphere in the next ten years.

A series of important events are taking place today and tomorrow where the role of business ventures and industry will be a discussed topic. This is why our international WWF Director Jim Leape will meet UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and a number of ministers and state secretaries in Durban's botanical garden. Maybe the politicians and representatives should also take a short break before their speeches, breathe deeply, feel the aroma of the plants and do yoga for several minutes before they start speaking...
5 December 2011
Tracey from Botswana talks to Franko Petri about her concerns about Africa and climate change.

The Climate Carnival in Durban.  / ©: WWF
The Climate Carnival in Durban.
© WWF
4 December 2011
Dark Clouds over Durban 

by Jörn Ehlers and Franko Petri

At the moment in Durban things are happening mainly on the streets. After the first week of haggling over our climate future, negotiations in the congress centre are stuck. Almost traditionally, there was a big demonstration halfway through the conference. Five years ago in the Canadian city of Montreal, our WWF colleagues braved temperatures of minus 10, wearing costumes of polar bears in order to resist the ice cold wind. But under the African sun bikinis are more appropriate. So it was no wonder that some topless female activists stole the show from the other demonstrators with their politically correct painted bodies.

It was a lively climate carnival that stood in total contrast to the dreary negotiations in the congress centre. Even the visible police presence changed nothing. Apparently, before the demonstration there had been some small incident involving the youth organisation ANC. But this did not show at the demonstration. Many thousands had rallied to stand up for climate justice. Along with environmental NGOs such as Greenpeace, WWF and Friends of the Earth, a number of social organisations and unions had called for a protest march about the global climate.

„Amandla“, the slogan of the movement against Apartheid, was shouted again and again. Supported by African drums and vuvuzelas, the demonstrators were trying to make it clear to the delegates in the congress centre that it is high time to end the tactical games and to reach a binding agreement. In the midst of the tumult the WWF delegation joined its supporters who were dancing the toyi-toyi in protest against the stagnant negotiations. Especially our South African colleagues were really enthusiastic in firing up the crowd. They stole the limelight with their loud call “Food-Water-Energy for all forever”.

The protest march started in the Durban city centre. It is not unsymbolic that the nearer the demonstrators got to the congress centre, the more dark clouds covered the sky. When the march arrived at the centre, the first raindrops fell and cooled down the lively mood somewhat.

Meanwhile our experts are again sitting at their computers, taking part in the various forums, and trying to shift the process into the right direction by lobbying. In the meantime we received the first messages from Europe – among other things German Chancellor Angela Merkel is trying to dampen the expectations for a successful summit. This is not exactly a position that can speed up the stagnant negotiations. Apparently, the march for the climate will have to go a much longer way than the three-kilometre march in Durban to the congress centre. And the drums and vuvuzelas must grow a lot louder so that they can be heard by every single delegate even in the most distant negotiation rooms.
4 December 2011
Watch a video of the WWF march for climate justice on Global Day of Action at the UN Climate Conference in Durban.

Africa pavilion at the Durban climate conference.  / ©: WWF
Africa pavilion at the Durban climate conference.
© WWF
3 December 2011
Africa under Climate Stress 

Next to the conference centre here in Durban, some huge tents are put up for the nations and continents to showcase themselves. I’m just coming from the Africa pavilion. It contains an indoor rainforest and a hut as can be seen in rural Africa. In the background you can hear canned sounds from the primeval forest, and the temperature inside is like that in a palm house. The artificial rainforest is surrounded by information stands of the African countries, universities, and scientific institutions. I browsed through the stacks of recent scientific papers and was quick to make some interesting finds. Today I’m curious about the effects of climate change on Africa.

The people of Africa are frightened of what the next years and decades hold in store for them. Africa certainly is the poorest and therefore most vulnerable continent. Most African countries are categorized as developing countries and cannot raise the astronomical sums necessary for them to adapt to the consequences of global warming. The sensitive ecosystems are almost overrun by the incredibly swift developments.

Over the past 40 years the average temperature on the continent has risen from 0.6 to 1.5 degrees. This has affected the drinking water situation, agriculture, and public supplies. Studies indicate that in Africa a rise by only one degree leads to an increase of the water run-off by up to 10 percent. This water will be missed in agriculture as 95 percent of all arable land is not irrigated but is dependent on rain. With less rain, higher temperatures and drought in large regions, the food situation of the Africans will deteriorate. By 2020 some countries can be faced with crop shortfalls of up to 50 percent. Also the drinking water situation for at least a quarter of a million people will worsen over the next ten years.

As a consequence of climate change, infectious diseases transmitted by insects will spread increasingly in Africa. Malaria, Dengue fever, meningitis and other diseases are on the rise. Even now in Africa, 1 million people die of malaria every year and 350 million people receive hospital treatment for this disease.

Above all, studies show that summer precipitation along the Mediterranean coast will decrease by 25 percent. In parts of Southern Africa and Eastern Africa precipitation will increase by up to a third until 2040.

Even now it is obvious that floods and storms in certain regions are becoming stronger and more frequent. South Africans are actually feeling this in the days of the climate conference. Many locals complain about the almost daily rain here in Durban. This is not normal, according to their experience. Yesterday the 10,000 or more conference participants who were not aware of this, had to run to the buses to hide from the heavy evening rain. In this way they experienced the weather situation up close.

African forests are a victim of large-scale deforestation. They serve as carbon sinks that prevent the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere. If they continue to be cleared, climate change will accelerate.

The situation is especially bad in Madagascar. Its large rainforest areas were mostly cleared – with tragic consequences for the whole island. The rain season has shortened, and now the first downpours comes in January and not in November as they used to. The village elders can no longer transfer their knowledge about weather and agriculture because everything is changing, reports Martina Lippuner. She comes from Switzerland and has worked at WWF in Madagascar for more than two years. She is a forest protection expert (REDD+). Farmers on the island are complaining about increasingly bad crops. Many families are forced to move to the coast, because the soil no longer yields enough. Farmers have to become fishermen, which leads to major social conflicts with the fishermen that have lived longer on the coast. But the coastal areas are also under increased climate stress. Storms have become stronger and more frequent. „In the past the strong winds continued for only five days, now it’s almost three weeks”, complains Martina.The sea level rise on the coasts of the Black Continent will also become a problem for coastal regions. Even according to the most optimistic forecasts the sea level will rise by an additional half metre in this century.

And now let’s go back to the Africa pavilion at the climate conference. As I talk to the representatives of some African countries, most of them complain about the long-term financing of adaptation measures to climate change that Africa cannot fund on its own. It is the rich industrial nations – including a number of former colonial powers – that have caused the climate crisis. And the Africans are the ones who will have to take its consequences in the coming decades.
Durban, at the "Fossil of the Day" award.  / ©: WWF
Durban, at the "Fossil of the Day" award.
© WWF
2 December 2011
Brazil threatens to destroy the Amazon rainforest with new Forest Code

After the „Fossil of the Day“ award for worst climate policy was given to Canada (for exiting the Kyoto Protocol) and Poland („Poland = Coaland“), now it is Brazil’s turn.

Yesterday was an ominous day because of Brazil. What happened? Brazil used to be an exemplary country in terms of rainforest preservation. Between 2006 and 2010, 60,000 sq km of rainforest were put under protection. This equals two thirds of the whole area of Austria. In this way the country prevented the emission of 2.2 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere that would have come from burning down or clearing the forest.

At the climate conference in Cancun 2010 Brazil was still pointing out how important forest protection was both for the country and the whole world. After all, 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from felling the world’s forests. The Brazilian Forest Code stood the test of time and deforestation decreased. According to the previous Forest Law, clearing is allowed only on 20 percent of the Amazon forest land, and 80 percent must remain intact.

Sadly, the large landowners and especially the rich livestock ranchers thought this level of protection went too far. They need the land for their huge cattle herds, for agriculture and above all for the logging industry. These factors are the ones that lead to the destruction of our forests and consequently our climate. This year the rich elite of Brazil made a move to amend the exemplary Forest Code – its parliamentary representatives introduced a bill that made all environmentalists shudder. The new law will change everything. It will give green light for total deforestation. “A total of 790,000 sq km will be affected”, warns Carlos Rittl, climate expert of WWF Brazil. This is equal to the area of France and Great Britain together.

If the new law is passed, up to 29 gigatons of CO2 will be released into the atmosphere. Illicitly cleared areas will be legalized and there will be no obligation for their reforestation. Forest destruction will be no longer punished but rewarded. And everything is done solely for the short-term profits of the corporations.

The loss of the Amazon rainforest will severely affect weather in Brazil. Not only the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon will be trampled but also the biodiversity will be lost. In the end the consequences will be felt by all Brazilians as soil nutrients are lost, drought leads to crop shortfalls, agricultural produce is severely threatened and the water cycle of South America is completely upset. Naturally, this will also affect the global climate and the weather cycle.

The bill was already passed in the Chamber of Deputies of Brazilian Parliament and will now be discussed in the Senate. Finally only President Dilma Rousseff will be able to prevent the destruction of the Amazon rainforest by imposing a veto. Environmentalists and human rights activists are now set on rallying against the changes. Because what happens in Brazil affects the whole world. It seems crazy that one country has so much power that it can cause problems to the entire planet. But this is the world we live in. WWF and its partners will do everything in their power to stop the new law.
2 December 2011
Watch Franko Petri's interview with WWF Brazil's Climate Expert Carlos Rittl about the amendement of the Braziian Forest Code and what it means for the world's climate.

1 December 2011
What does WWF do in Durban and which countries are against the Kyoto Protocol?

What is a typical day like for us WWF experts here at the climate conference in Durban? The WWF is represented by 80 climate and media experts from around the world. This makes us the strongest environmental organisation of the Climate Action Network (CAN). So what do we actually do here?

Maybe I should describe an average work day of ours. We get up between 5 and 6 a.m. Soon after 5 a.m. we receive the first internal messages from our coordinators, who process the numerous e-mails from different time zones received during the night. At 7.30 a.m. we hold our daily morning meeting with our colleagues in the hotel. First, the strategic summary of the day is explained. The climate experts fill us in on yesterday’s sessions and we discuss the session results.

As soon as we are all up to speed on the negotiations, we coordinate our programme for the day. The seemingly endless schedule of events is running on several screens. Hundreds of sessions are held daily in the conference building, often simultaneously in different rooms. Climate protection is a complex matter, so experts are needed for the various topics which are covered in the respective sessions: the Kyoto Protocol, financing, the Green Climate Fund, national negotiating positions, global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation to the consequences of global warming that can no longer be averted, forest protection, international law, etc.

In the meantime there are ongoing presentations at the forums and interviews with journalists from around the world. We have spokespersons in the most important world languages, as well as a large number of African colleagues from Southern, Eastern and Central Africa. Our representatives communicate with the country delegates and the representatives of international organisations, and they also support our colleagues from the Climate Network.

If there is time, we go to the countries’ press conferences, and we write articles and summaries for the media. Meanwhile we film, blog, and go on Facebook and Twitter. At the same time we try to keep up with the unbelievable number of e-mails for updates and coordination. WWF International has almost 1 million fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter. In the meantime we hold some smaller meetings and work goes on well into the night. And after only a few hours the whole climate merry-go-round starts anew – with little hope for the results we desire.

Which are the countries that prevent the world from reaching an agreement on its own fate, in spite of climate research findings that describe more and more threatening scenarios? Japan and Russia completely reject a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Yesterday Canada officially stepped away from the Protocol. The USA refused to join, arguing that the country’s economic situation did not permit it. China agrees to a second period of the Protocol but only if it applies just for industrial nations. Then there is the EU, which supports a second period of the Protocol until 2017, but only under certain conditions. Anyway, the greenhouse gas emissions of the EU make up only around 11 percent. In comparison, the USA and China together are responsible for more than a third of the global climate change.

The developing countries stand between the two fronts. Especially the island states (AOSIS) are worried about their existence in view of the rising sea level. Without a legally binding Kyoto Protocol for the next decade to stop the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and without financial aid, the poor countries remain at the mercy of the dramatic consequences of global warming. This is about the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

At the WWF we think in decades, but politicians don’t have to do that. Their time horizon stretches no further than the next election. Sometimes it feels like tilting at windmills when countries place their own interests before those of the planet. That’s why we at the WWF will have to work nights again at the next climate conference.
30 November 2011
Who Will Close the Gigaton Gap?

South Africa is an interesting country. Not until 1994 did it manage to overcome the racism that had been a state policy for decades. The streets of Durban’s city centre were cleaned before the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) just as they were before the Football World Cup 2010. The country is striving to appear at its best. Nowadays the gap between rich and poor in South Africa is very wide, and the crime rate is high.

Thousands of COP-17 volunteers have been deployed throughout the city. They are easily identifiable by their green-and-white uniforms. The volunteers are supposed to show the friendly face of this city of 3.5 million. However, their more likely purpose is to make the delegates feel safer when they dare to walk out of the heavily guarded fortress of the conference premises. Even the most beautiful beaches cannot change anything about this.

Today I visited the huge tents of the Climate Change Response Exhibition. Here, on an area of 20,000 sq m, more than 200 exhibitors showcase their concepts of climate protection. The WWF pavilion, which will be here for two weeks, is the most visually appealing – it is built of recycled bamboo, and the sitting spaces are made from old colourful saris with soft filling that invite visitors to linger. In front there are African folklore groups drumming with might and main. But I have no time for this, the work goes on.

Meanwhile, in the climate protection fortress the negotiations continue. The news that Canada will step away from the Kyoto Protocol came as a bombshell. This will cause the so-called gigaton gap to widen even more. The latest report of the United Nations Environment Programme indicates that by the year 2020 there is a gap of 5 to 9 gigatons of greenhouse gases that must be bridged to keep global warming at under 2°C. But instead of closing, the gap keeps getting wider and wider. Countries’ ambitions for climate protection are simply too low. We have not yet found a formula of keeping our standard of living while simultaneously reducing CO2 emissions and helping people in the developing countries to achieve a climate neutral and worthy existence. There is a lack of collective will, of funding for climate protection and of solidarity in the global community, which has not yet realized that the atmosphere will not conform to our petty national concerns. At least the global community has agreed on a date for the next climate conference – this is the least common denominator. The COP 18 will take place in December 2012 in the desert country of Qatar.
29 November 2011
Tasneem Essop, Climate Expert from WWF South Africa, shares her views with Franko Petri on the problematic countries for the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

29 November 2011
Who Is Funding the Battle Against Climate Change

The most important conference for saving our planet has begun. The weather has finally changed. After several days of rain in which eight people in South Africa lost their lives, it is now hot and damp. But not much of this gets to the delegates. They spend the whole day under artificial light in air-conditioned halls. It is like an anthill. The exhibition areas of NGOs, governments and other organisations are brimming over with people. The pathways between the meeting rooms are so long that many delegates have to type on their laptops while walking to save precious minutes.

Barbara Lueg from WWF also rushes from one appointment to another, from one interview to another. Her job is not a simple one. She is an expert on climate protection funding – this is to say she frames concepts of establishing and sustaining climate protection funding mechanisms.

30 billion USD from 2010 to 2012 – this was promised to the developing countries by the developed ones. And part of this money has already flown to them. 30 billion USD might sound big, but this huge sum is not new money for the climate protection project. Many of these billions comprise of old promises of the countries and will be set off against the normal development aid quota stipulated by the UN as a millennium goal. WWF is calling for a clear demarcation between brand new money for poor countries and what has already been promised.

The topic from 2013 onwards is long-term financing until 2020. It is not yet clear how much money will actually flow from the rich countries to the poor ones. It is true that last year at the Cancún conference a promise of 100 million USD annually until 2020 was made, but so far there is no framework for this.

WWF insists that the biggest part of the money should come from open sources. Unfortunately the money which comes from state budgets is not enough. Therefore WWF calls above all for two more sources: first of all money should flow from a global financial transaction tax, and secondly it should come from pricing aviation and shipping emissions.

Pricing aviation and shipping emissions should be used not only for financing, but most of all for reducing the greenhouse gases emission effect in these sectors and thereby no adverse effect should be brought about by the developing countries. The principle of “collective but individual responsibility” should be applied to the climate negotiations. This comes to say that the developed countries have a lot more to do than the developing because as rich, polluting countries their climate footprint is much bigger than the footprint of poor countries.

The vaunted Green Climate Fund is an essential instrument for assuring developing countries that the rich nations truly mean their promises. This fund was first mentioned in Cancún. In the course of this year a founding document was prepared which should now be submitted at the Conference of the Parties in Durban. At the last founding committee meeting in Cape Town a document was prepared in which many countries made radical compromises. But the USA and Saudi Arabia voted against it. So the document was not adopted by consent. One can only speculate about the reasons. Some suppose that both countries want to keep the consent as a bargaining chip for other concessions. Other observers suggest that the concessions made by newly industrialized countries such as Brazil and China were not sufficient to them. Nevertheless, the document will be submitted in Durban over the coming days.

WWF insists that the negotiation talks should not start anew or the conference will get nowhere. In the next year the Green Climate Fund board should work out anything that still needs to be clarified. However, for the GCF to begin to work, the founding document should be adopted in Durban. And finally – even if this document is adopted, money should yet start flowing. „What is the use of an empty piggy bank, even if it is a big one?“ - asks Barbara Lueg rightly. No promises on paper help the 13 million people in East Africa who die of famine - they need direct help. It would be nice if the damp weather could also soften the different positions at the conference. As the former South African President Nelson Mandela used to say - “It always seems impossible until it is done.”
29 November 2011
Tasneem Essop, Climate Expert from WWF South Africa, talks to Franko Petri about problems with setting up the Green Climate Fund.

29 November 2011
Feel the atmosphere in Durban! This video takes you around the WWF stand, made out of recycled materials, as well as the rest of the conference centre.

29 November 2011
Feel the atmosphere in Durban! WWF staff explain how the WWF stand was made and why.

28 November 2011
Rain, Stress, the Forests and the Battle for Money and Sinecures

It is in a rainy Durban that thousands of delegates, negotiators, non-governmental organisations and journalists from the whole world arrive these days. Hardly any sunbeam breaks through this thick cover which separates sky from earth. The natives complain about the cold weather in the midst of summer. It is usually above 30 degrees at this time of year, but now the thermometer shows only a little above 20 degrees. If it was several degrees lower, you could think you were in Europe, were it not for the palm trees that fringe the streets.

Today is the day of final preparations, one meeting right after the other. The main messages are being shaped so that the states of this world are given the right message when they argue about their national sinecures in the negotiation halls.

I have just returned from a meeting of the Climate Action Network (CAN). The short reports of the experts show how complicated and delicate the matter is. The hope that a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol will be agreed upon here in Durban fades away. The EU does want this, but it demands that the other countries also go along with it. The USA will be particularly grilled by the environmental organisations because a lot depends on America. Japan, Russia and Canada generally reject an extension of the Kyoto commitment period. South Africa has a special role – on the one hand, it is the host country of the conference and should stand for the success of this world conference. On the other hand, it is also a normal state which will have to defend its interests. The country mines a lot of coal and sells it to China and India where it is burnt.

Behind all the issues and negotiations lies big money: the much vaunted Green Climate Fund exists only on paper till now. Even if the GCF framework should be established here in Durban, which would be a great progress, everyone wonders how the Fund would be filled with money. And it is a question of large sums – at least 100 million USD till 2020.

Forest protection is one of the most important topics for WWF. Every year the world loses 130,000 square kilometres of forests through deforestation and forest degradation caused by human activity. This means an area as big as the territories of Austria and Switzerland.

Today WWF presented in Durban a new, important chapter of the „Living Forests Report“. The Austrian forestry expert Gerald Steindlegger who is one of the most important WWF-forestry experts at an international level, called on the countries to stop deforestation by 2020. If we do not manage to do this, we will loose ten years of forest protection and more than a million square kilometres of forest will be forever lost.

This means that by 2030 24 gigatons of greenhouse gasses will be emitted in the atmosphere – the equivalent of half of the total CO2 emissions for the whole world. In order to prevent this disastrous scenario from happening, the world should provide 30 to 50 million USD annually. If we do not do anything and we lose the forest, global warming will go on. These costs are not even petty cash compared to the astronomical amount of the sums which will accrue if we do not do anything.

And it is still raining here in Durban and it is starting to get dark. Hopefully the gloomy weather will not occupy the negotiation tables. Early tomorrow a two-week marathon-conference begins – a monster-convention which will not allow much time for sleep for either delegates, or us, or journalists. Good night from Durban!
28 November 2011
Gerald Steindlegger from WWF's Forest Carbon Initiative speaks to Franko Petri about the threats of worldwide deforestation and the dramatical impact on climate change.

25 November 2011
The Comet Threatening Humanity 

A comet is rushing towards Earth with unimaginable consequences – it's getting hot! But this comet does not come from outer space, it is home-made. The comet that is threatening humanity is called global warming or climate change. We are the ones who put it on trajectory by burning organic substances – oil and gas. It is coming directly towards us and will severely affect us in the coming years and decades. Can we still prevent the catastrophe?

Yes, says WWF. There are many examples on how international negotiations can avert global threats – from a nuclear war to destruction of the atmosphere. In 1985 it was recognized that we deplete the ozone layer of Earth with chemicals. The chemicals that caused this global problem – chlorofluorocarbon and bromine-containing substances, were banned in 1987 with the Montreal Protocol for the Protection of the Ozone Layer. This international treaty had significant repercussions on the world and the ozone layer could take a rest.

In the 80's the next global threat emerged: climate change. Scientists claimed that Earth is heading for a global warming period. In the beginning it was not clear what caused it. But today we surely know that our industrial society is responsible for this. No serious scientist would doubt this any more.

And so in 1997 the Kyoto Protocol was adopted – the first legally binding agreement which aims at preventing the consequences of global warming or at least mitigating them. 37 industrialised countries and the EU agreed upon reducing greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5% from 1990 levels. But the Protocol expires in 2012. It should be extended by all means. If this does not happen we are heading for a warm period – beyond 2ºC. This is the scientifically accepted frontier where we can still control the negative consequences of climate change – at least from today's perspective. This magic number of 2ºC was recognized by the world community at the Copenhagen Summit in 2009. Since the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 a series of climate conferences were held under the auspices of the UN – to this day with poor results.

The negotiations of thousands of delegates at the Bali, Poznań, Copenhagen and Cancún conferences filled the newspapers in the last years. Why should we come to a breakthrough now in Durban, South Africa? Not many of the people familiar with the complicated political matter give this conference a chance. WWF has been working for many years on all levels worldwide towards a reasonable climate solution. Read WWF's expectations and demands for the climate conference in Durban.

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