The Real Threat In Durban – Corporations Occupying the UNFCCC

By Sonia Grant

Is that the incredible hulk?! Yes, the thought actually crossed my mind before I realized that the figure approaching was just a police officer wearing so much body armor that I initially didn’t recognize his human silhouette. He was coming to join the 50 or so of his fellow officers already surrounding a small crowd of peaceful protesters. These ‘threatening’ activists, with their banners, puppets, and songs, were demanding that the governments of the world start listening to people, not polluting corporations, in negotiating a deal to combat climate change at COP17.

Members of Greenpeace International,, groundWork, and the Canadian Youth Delegation gathered outside the hotel where the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) met today. The CYD took part in this action on the day that Peter Kent, Canada’s Environment Minister, arrived in Durban to continue negotiating on behalf of the interests of the same corporations that sat in the WBCSD plotting international trading schemes, such as Shell and other members of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). These corporations are actively involved in Canada’s tar sands operations and in dirty extraction projects around the world. Despite their rhetorical commitment to sustainability, these corporations are obstructing necessary action to substantially mitigate and adapt to climate change. They are effectively holding the global climate  – and its peoples – hostage.

So, what dangers were implicated in this action? What merited the large police presence? Greenpeace’s trained climbers certainly knew what they were doing. All the protesters on the ground were provided with water when they needed it, and a bottle of sunscreen was going around too. The biggest threat to anyone’s security looming over the beaches of Durban this morning was the feeling shared by many climate organizers that COP17 will not yield a legally binding agreement to aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change, and a corporate takeover of the international response to it, is the real danger here.  The International Convention Centre, where governments like Canada are selling our futures away to the fossil fuel industry, is a crime scene waiting to happen.

Governments are meant to represent people, not corporations. The voices and interests of communities on the frontlines of climate change should shape national climate strategies. Since the Canadian government refuses to bring these voices to COP17, we have no choice but to do it ourselves…


For more information, check out two recent reports by Greenpeace on corporate influence at the UNFCCC and the Dirty Dozen in Durban.




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