By Climatico Guest Contributor: Dean Rizzetti

Protests in Durban

Protests in Durban (Source: BBC World Service)

Protests at Durban have delivered neither the cacophony of Copenhagen nor the resort-inspired civility of Cancun. Instead, they have been a mix of anger and despair, with talk of occupation and the slightest glimmer of hope.  

Rallies through the streets

Activists took to the streets on Saturday, with more than 6000 people marching through Durban in a diverse procession of noise and colour. Reports said the rally was ‘lightly policed”, with NGOs, farmers, unions and even UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres in attendance. 

Tasneem Essop, head of international climate strategy at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said: “Today’s march was an amazing moment of solidarity that showed people want real action from their governments on climate change – not just talk. The will of the people is strong. The problem is that the will of our leaders is weak.”

These marches have become a mainstay of climate negotiations, and activists and delegates were reportedly buoyed by the energy of the marches. However, Saturday’s rally was a shadow of the massive rallies witnessed at Copenhagen, where as many as 100,000 took to the streets and cities around the world held rallies in solidarity.

Greenpeace pursues their ‘Dirty Dozen’

Meanwhile, Greenpeace has managed to create international headlines to promote their Dirty Dozen campaign, which aims to name and shame the 12 companies that Greenpeace claims are holding climate talks back through political leverage.

Six activists were arrested and fined for attempting to hang a banner at the Global Business Day Conference, while senior Greenpeace activist Tzeporah Berman managed to gain access to the Global Business Day conference to condemn the ‘dirty dozen for “their role in undermining global talks to tackle climate change, to save lives, economies and habitats”.

Canada’s youth raise their voices

Canada’s aggressive negotiation stance has also drawn the ire of Canadian youth delegates, with six activists to the conference turning their backs on Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent during his opening statement.

Activists had printed phrases such as “Turn your back on Canada” and “People before polluters” on their t-shirts, but were quickly ejected from the conference and their accreditation revoked for disturbing the conference.

While talk of Occupying Durban spread in the early days of the conference, the shear scope of the task and the negotiators’ manifest failure to respond in a way that is as seen as appropriate is the overriding theme of protest.  While the Global Occupy Movement continues to generate momentum and headlines against bankers and corporate greed, the dashed hopes of past conferences seems to have limited the enthusiasm for wide scale climate protest.  While protesters from around the world plea for a global deal to control rising emissions, the gap between civil society and major governments seems to grow ever wider. 

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