So, we’re at breakfast after just having completed the 28-hour journey to Durban, South Africa, for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Kevin suddenly spots UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres walking past our table. I’m still frazzled but Kevin has a good eye, jumps up and introduces our table to the amiable Figueres. She then invites us to her afternoon gig — a Multi-Faith Rally for Climate Justice with Archbishop Desmond Tutu at Sharks rugby stadium. Wow! After clearing out the cobwebs with exercise and fresh air on the boardwalk just outside our hotel, we head to Sharks Stadium at 2 p.m.
The crowd is sparse (chilly weather? not enough publicity?) but the stage presence is powerful. After many speakers and performances (including Ladysmith Black Mambazo), Archbishop Tutu takes the podium. He compared overcoming apartheid with climate change challenges: “Now, we’re facing another huge, huge enemy. No one country can fight this particular [enemy] on its own. . . . We have only one home. . . . Whether rich or poor this is our only home and if we destroy this home we’ve had it. . . . We are inviting you to come to the side of right.” Later, the Archbishop joined Figueres and South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Ms. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (president of the UNFCCC’s 17th Conference of the Parties, COP17) on the stage to accept a petition of 200,000 signatures calling for climate change progress in Durban. After accepting the petition, which had been delivered by cyclists who had collected signatures across the country, Figueres cautioned about expecting too much from one conference, telling the cyclists and small crowd, “This is a long ride. No matter what happens in Durban, it’s a step forward.”
Kevin and I head to COP17 this afternoon to get our credentials for the two-week conference. We’ll keep you posted.
(Top photo: Archbishop Tutu, with Secretary Figueres at podium, and COP17 President Maite Nkoana-Mashabane in blue skirt.)