December 9, 2011

Frontline of Climate Change comes to COP17's Doorstep: Durban Flash Floods

On November 28, world leaders descended upon Durban, South Africa for the seventeenth annual UN climate negotiations. That night, a torrential downpour cost at least ten people their lives. Several townships around Durban were overwhelmed by flash floods, as streams swelled their banks and people were swept out of their homes by the rising water. Project Survival Media went to visit KwaMashu, one of these provinces, to find out how local residents are coping.

In a word, they aren’t. The flood and its survivors are being given almost no attention by the UN and delegates at the conference, and the people have received next to no assistance from the municipal government.

Now, in the final hours of negotiations, as COP17 draws to a close, it is unlikely that any sort of climate treaty will be agreed upon that meets the needs of the most impacted. In addition, it remains to be seen whether the Green Climate Fund, the singular high hope of many most impacted countries in desperate need of funding for adaptation measures, will be approved and launched.

Despite this incredible disappointment, many youth, NGO’s, and members of civil society are dedicated to offering what relief they can – and have launched a campaign facilitated through, with all funds going directly to the KwaMashu community. They hope to show the victims of the flash floods that despite the appearance of being ignored, there are people at these negotiations who truly understand that for many, climate change means survival or death.

This is also, as it happens, a unique opportunity to shine a light on developed countries’ inaction on pledging tangible resources for immediate adaptation, and that the United States and Saudi Arabia are holding up the one measure with potential to truly help peoples most impacted the world over (The Green Climate Fund).

As the global climate continues to warm, sudden, heavy downpours are expected to increase across South Africa, adding to the growing global tally of climate casualties. This isn’t the first not-so-funny coincidence of a climate-related “natural” disaster striking during a climate conference, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Cross-posted from Project Survival Media