I just attended a moving speak-out at which African men and women, farmers, musicians, and youths, told Mary Robinson about the urgency with which they view climate change.
The overarching slogan was, “One Africa, One Voice, One Position.”
All these people spoke with great urgency about how climate change is already impacting them in direct ways, and how they are not responsible for this situation. All they want, speaker after speaker affirmed, is justice.
The sense of a huge gulf between the elites and ordinary people in Africa couldn’t have been stronger.
Robinson responded by saying that she’s doing her best to persuade big polluting nations to sign up for successor agreement to Kyoto, but she also talked about the need to give the poor people of the world access to renewable technologies so that they too can participate in development.
Robinson was gracious, and her stress on development as a human right was powerful in comparison with the horrorshow going on in COP17. One might debate the adequacy of human rights as a framework, but, given the gravity of the situation, it makes little sense to split hairs.
The huge fly in the ointment, though, is that Robinson continues to argue that development and climate justice can be brought to Africa (and other parts of the world) through markets – and capitalism. So much of her talk of human rights is just pie in the sky.