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.