Greenpeace International Executive Leader Kumi Naidoo was peacefully expelled from discussions along with several dozen protestors calling for decisive action at the United Nations’ Climate Change conference at Durban, which extended into overtime today.
Naidoo had led an occupation of the hallway outside the convention center’s plenary room; the center was officially deemed UN territory for the duration of the talks.
The occupation began several hours prior to Naidoo’s removal when the Maldives’ Environmental Minister Mohamed Aslam joined Naidoo and approximately 100 youth calling for immediate action on climate change.
According to a rush transcript issued by website democracynow.org, Aslam addressed the crowd with the following words during a call-and-response demonstration:
“You need to save us. The islands can’t sink. We have our rights. We have a right to live. We have a right for home. You can’t decide our destiny. We will have to be saved.”
Minivan News was unable to reach the minister at time of press.
Speaking to journalists after being removed from the area, Naidoo said the talks were heading towards a “completely unacceptable” outcome.
“What we see here are baby steps. Baby steps is not what the situation calls for — it calls for fundamental change,” he told AFP reporters.
In an interview with CCTV News’ James Chau, Aslam and Naidoo were asked to comment on the conference’s progress.
“We’re nowhere there yet,” said Aslam, while Naidoo added more emphatically, “we are sleepwalking into a crisis of epic proportions.”
When asked about critics who oppose the reality of climate change, Aslam offered an invitation: “Come to the Maldives, have a look yourself.”
Naidoo said he wasn’t surprised at the developed world’s hesitancy to approve a new agreement.
“When you look at the amount of money that the fossil fuel companies in the US put into contaminating the global public conversation, it’s much much more than the GDP of Maldives,” he said.
Offering motivation, Naidoo said that many groups are lobbying in favor of climate change and that the issue would supercede other concerns, such as economic recession, in the long run. “The only race that will matter is not the space race or the arms race, its the green race.”
One of the leading debates at the conference has been whether developing nations should be held to the same standards as developed nations in cutting carbon emissions.
India, China and the USA have lately been viewed as roadblocks to the adoption of the European Union’s legally binding treaty on cutting carbon emissions, which would be signed by 2015 and come into force by 2020.
The treaty is designed to build on earlier agreements under the Kyoto Protocol, due to expire at the end of 2012.
India’s environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan today criticised developed countries for resisting binding agreements while pressuring developing nations to address climate change.
“I was astonished and disturbed by the comments of my colleague from Canada who was pointing at us as to why we are against the roadmap,” she was reported saying by the Press Trust of India. “I am disturbed to find that a legally binding protocol to the Convention, negotiated just 14 years ago is now being junked in a cavalier manner.
“Countries which had signed and ratified it are walking away without even a polite goodbye,” she said. “And yet, pointing at others.”
EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard has expressed concern over the prolonged discussions, but said there was still a chance of an agreement.
“Now it’s not the first time in a COP that [by] Thursday night you’d not have the deal,” she told Voice of America. “So that is why I emphasise there still is time to move and I must say there have been a lot of constructive talks.”
The EU has issued a joint statement with a grouping of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the Association of Small Island States in support of the EU proposal and requesting ambitious action from other countries.
The conference, which began on November 28 and was scheduled through December 3, is attended by 194 nations.