Posted at 01:30 PM ET, 12/09/2011

Occupy South Africa? Activists stage a sit-in at U.N. climate talks

The Occupy movement has arrived in Durban.

As the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change talks near their finale, activists staged a sit-in aimed at highlighting the vulnerability of poor countries. The protesters, many of whom lost their accreditation badges after being removed peacefully by security, lay the blame for the current impasse on the United States.
Protesters at Durban Climate Change talks (Josh Lopez / Project Survival Media)

Protesters chanted phrases including “Climate justice now!” and “U.S. out!” The Obama administration’s resistance to a European proposal to start talks on a future legally-binding climate treaty has angered many environmentalists and some delegates at the annual conference.

Nine Greenpeace activists, including Kumi Naidoo, were thrown out of the conference and had their accreditation badges revoked. Before being removed, Naidoo said, “We are here to stand with the most vulnerable countries whose basic survival needs have not been met by the men and women in that conference hall.”

“We are here to call upon government ministers to listen to the people and not the polluters,” he added. “The United States delegation is right now organizing, line-by-line, the means by which United Nations member states will be eradicated from the map. We will not tolerate this.”

Protesters at Durban Climate Change talks (Josh Lopez / Project Survival Media)
.S. representatives have argued they cannot agree to a process that does not include commitments from major developing countries, such as China and India, to also make legally-binding pledges.

In a news conference Friday in Durban, the European Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard told reporters that if there is not a breakthrough at the negotiations, “I think it’s clear that the responsibility lies very, very heavily on the shoulders now of those few big ones who are still not giving in so much as for us to be able to agree what we need to agree.”

Paul Bledsoe, a senior advisor at the Bipartisan Policy Center, wrote in an e-mail that the “dysfunctional” process that came out of the U.N.-brokered climate treaty in 1997 known as the Kyoto Protocol needs to be reassessed.

It “has been a policy obstacle and political burden for this and previous administrations, so blame from Brussels for trying to end it will actually accrue as credit on Capitol Hill,” added Bledsoe, a former Clinton White House aide. “The lesson is simple — climate leadership can and must spring from U.S. economic and security interests, not as a U.N. byproduct.”

But Karen Orenstein, international policy analyst at the advocacy group Friends of the Earth, rejected this sort of analysis.

“The U.S., because of the paralysis of its own political process, wants to paralyze the process here,” she said in a phone interview. “You can almost describe it as a pariah state at the negotiations.”

The U.S. delegation could not be reached for comment immediately.

By  |  01:30 PM ET, 12/09/2011

Read what others are saying

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company