hopes and fears for Durban

It’s been hard journalistically to generate much excitement about the climate change talks currently taking place in Durban, South Africa. Even the name is a complete put-off – COP17 – I suppose it was meant to be catchy… but the acronym stands for the achingly dull ‘Conference of Parties 17’. Yes, that’s the seventeenth time world leaders have met to try and agree binding targets.

Speaking to Christian Aid’s climate change specialist, I confessed that having once been someone who was passionate and engaged on environmental issues, I had completely lost track of where the climate change debate had got to. "You’re not alone", she said, "most people feel like that".

So what’s on the table at Durban? It’s being billed as the ‘last chance’ to renegotiate the Kyoto Protocol which expires next year, and it’s hoped that developed countries will make good on promises to contribute billions of dollars to the Green Climate Fund, which is meant to help poorer countries mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

But it’s already got off to an inauspicious start, with one diplomat was quoted in the Telegraph as saying it’s ‘already heading for an impasse…{} and frankly there’s no way to gloss over that". Desmond D’Sa from the South Durban Community Environment Alliance – representing local communities affected by climate change right on the doorstep of the summit – has been more frank – "We expect this conference to be a failure. We can’t see anything coming out of it; it’s just world leaders coming to South Africa to have a talk".

I’ve done a lot of research on COP17 over the last few weeks, but I can’t say anything I’ve read has convinced me that my apathy is mis-placed.