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Climate Change Ghost Dance–Duck and Cover

Published: December 7, 2011, Author: Rÿser Rudolph C.

Even as delegates of states’ governments, businesses, labor, non-governmental organizations and indigenous peoples meet in Durban, South Africa for the last week of a two week negotiation, many observer have concluded, “the UN climate talks failed long ago.”

In an apparent effort to avoid accounability under the commitments made as a signator to the Kyoto Protocols, the government of Canada is sending signals at the Durban, South Africa session of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change that will now consider withdrawing from that agreement.  Since Canada committed itself to substantial reductions in CO2 and green house gas emissions by 2012 and has actually failed to do any reductions, but has increased emissions by 6% it appears that Canada is attempting to avoid accountability when it must report whether it met the reduction committments.  Many small states, developing countries, non-governmental organizations and indigenous peoples are bemoaning the prospect that Canada’s decision to pull out could cause the collapse of all efforts to negotiate a global agreement.

It is clear that the current negotiations ignore the fact that climate changes have already been occurring world-wide and it is likely that any final agreements under a treaty will only slow CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions. Climate changes are already moving swiftly and indigenous peoples in their vulnerabilities have been reacting to these changes with adaptations (some successfully) out of necessity. I suggest the following (originally sent to the indigenous peoples’ coordinating adhoc body at the Durban talks:

“We are of the mind that most GHG and CO2 producing countries remain uninterested in caps and restraints.  Indigenous peoples have to create several strategies for addressing this reluctance that may include ongoing efforts to participate in the climate talks, addressing Kyoto and a range of other state-sponsored discussions. Some strategies have to consider the fact that climate changes are already well underway and indigenous peoples’ vulnerabilities must be addressed. Indigenous peoples must now consider what can be done collectively and individually given the inability of states’ governments to move forward in deliberate and focused ways, while climate changes sweep over indigenous peoples’ territories.”

We are obliged to move swiftly now since 40 years ago it was apparent that climate changes would be innundating indigenous peoples in many parts of the world through drought, floods, hurricanes, heavy snows, etc. The states may not survive (many are already in collapse). Many indigenous peoples have the tools and capacity already to make the necessary adaptations.  They are often constrained by commercial and state interests taking over indigenous territories.  Those are human created obstacles we have yet to overcome.  For now…there is considerable evidence that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change talks have the quality of a Ghost Dance that could produce important outcomes, but for now they are whistling in the wind as the storm continues to take its toll.

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