This is my third UNFCCC Conference of Parties, says Nigel Crawhall, Director of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee. At Poznan, I remember being shell-shocked by the scientific evidence of climate change and the non-responsiveness of the delegates. In Copenhagen, the event was a disaster, and also on a scale that made it very difficult to focus. Here at COP17 in Durban, the expectations are lower, the feeling is of quiet despair, punctuated with frustration, despair or resignation.
We look for glimpses of encouragement in the themes of climate smart agriculture, the National Adaptation Plans, and the mainstreaming of gender issues. Still, everyone knows that without a robust, ambitious binding global agreement on greenhouse gas emissions, that our world will be hammered by unrelenting climate instability, extreme weather, and the terrible consequences.
I work with African indigenous peoples and with a pan-African alliance of faith communities. Both groups know what is happening to the poor and to biodiversity. They are here as witnesses and as custodians of life. Both groups are speaking to the COP about the global good, about caring for life, and about what it means to be a compassionate human being.
Opinions quietly circulate that COP17 is the end of an era; that it marks the collapse of the multilateral governance system. Still, as the religious groups say: We Have Faith - somewhere in this great struggle there is the idea of a better world, of the beauty and importance of nature, of re-discovering our place on a living planet, in harmony, in humility and in joy. We have before us the witnesses of both the worst and the best that humanity can engender, and like it or not, the struggle continues.