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December 08, 2011

Protesters Occupy Durban Climate Conference

by Gabe Joselow

About 100 protesters staged a two-hour demonstration Friday at the convention center in Durban, South Africa, where United Nations climate talks are stuck in deadlock.  Youth activists at the U.N. climate conference are disappointed with the lack of progress and are demanding more urgent action.

As government negotiators met behind closed doors at the COP17 conference, meters away a group of protesters made their voices heard.

U.N. security guards surrounded the area while the activists - some from the environmental group Greenpeace, others from various youth organizations - made it clear that they did not think the delegates were acting in their best interest.

Adam Greenberg, a student from the United States, who participated in the action, said he and other American youths at the conference adamantly disagree with the U.S. position at the talks.

"But I think it's very clear.  There's between 50 and 80 approximately U.S. youth here, [and] except for the four that are here with the State Department, everyone else is very directly against the line that the United States is showing," noted Greenberg.  "They've spoken out about it very clearly, very loudly, very prominently that that does not represent us, that does not represent science, that does not represent our future."

A day earlier, another American youth interrupted a speech by the head of the U.S. delegation, Todd Stern, protesting against the U.S. position that it does not expect to adjust emissions targets until 2020.

And earlier this week, six Canadian youths turned their back on an address by their country's environment minister, to protest against Canada's plans to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol, a legally binding mandate to cut carbon emissions blamed for global warming.

Cat Hudson, with the U.K. Youth Coalition, said she hopes the protests that began here at COP17 will reverberate back in Britain.

"Also, I want it to go back home," said Hudson.  "We're representing thousands of people back home who support us and so if it's going to go viral, and people are supporting us, then it's definitely going to influence people here like the whole 'Occupy' movement type thing, that's definitely just a fact."

Police eventually removed the protesters without force.  Their message delivered loud and clear, the students went on their way.

And negotiators from governments around the world continued their meetings, with still little reported progress on any deal to combat climate change.