THURSDAY 8 DECEMBER
Island worries —Few delegations worry about climate change more than those from small islands who are already contending with rising sea levels, more intense storms, flooding, droughts, and salt water intrusion. While a “paradise to visit,” a minister from Fiji explained that it is the local people who get to see the real effects of climate change. The islanders are worried, they say, that the negotiations are “going around in circles” and they cannot understand why so much time and energy is expended on discussing timelines for action sometime in the future. “We believe the time to act is now.”
Rumors and misconceptions—The chief negotiator for China, Xie Zhenhua, mentioned earlier on that there are many rooms at the Durban Conference Center—the ICC—but even more rumors. Dispelling rumors is difficult, and Todd Stern, the chief negotiator for the US, noted that many people, including a woman who heckled his speech during a plenary session, were under the misconception that the US was proposing that action on climate change be delayed until 2020. He said the US, along with many other countries, would be working hard to implement targets or actions that they committed to in Cancun.
Badlands—A tiny coating of topsoil makes all the difference between land that can sustain crops and livestock, and land that provides little else. With more land in sensitive areas subject to the impacts of climate change becoming degraded every year, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, together with other UN and international organizations, have embarked on a decade-long effort to raise awareness of the issue that has far-reaching consequences. While the term desertification conjures up images of deserts, it actually refers to drylands—and 44 per cent of all areas under cultivation are in the drylands. It is where 500 million smallholder farmers support two billion people and feed a third of the global population.