Singing, dancing and lack of decision at COP-17 Climate Change Summit


by Ian Sullivan

This blog originally appeared at

So the first week of #COP17, Durban Climate Change Summit is done. There has been energy and vibrancy outside the meeting rooms to focus our leaders on taking the action necessary to safeguard the future of our planet.

Outside the centre there has been a range of workshops, conferences and a lot of energy calling for new approaches to tackling climate change and supporting those affected. I was lucky enough to attend the opening of the Rural Women’s Assembly. It had a fairly standard set up but it wasn’t a run of the mill meeting.

The women arrived with what you might describe as a splash. They sung, they danced and they cheered their way into the tent. Speeches were interrupted and the speakers adopted the mantle “if you can’t beat them join them”, as the room erupted into a carnival with every new arrival. There were a fair few parties as the five hundred women arrived. These women are at the forefront of climate change. A warming planet and increased extreme weather will hit them hard.

Inside the conference centre there has been a mixture of stalling, prevarication and business taking place, as talks about emissions cuts and climate funds rumble along. In amongst the rounds of “thank yous” that constitutes diplomatic speak, there has been very little on how emissions will be slashed, or how the Green Climate Fund (GCF) will be paid for. My head’s been spinning at times.

After the Oxfam opening stunt of a dinner party, without food, we were back out in force to help keep the conference delegates cool. As the hot Durban sun beat down we kindly handed out fans - so they couldn’t use the heat as an excuse for not thinking clearly about the decisions that they need to make. The fans also had a clear statement about the need to fill the GCF, with a contribution from a small charge on shipping emissions. The fans have been popping up all around the conference centre and even caused a stir in the meeting rooms.

On Friday we greeted delegates as they entered the negotiating centre. This time with a strong message about the need to make sure that support for women, in particular women farmers remains at the heart of the GCF. This money is vital to help developing countries adapt to the effects of a changing climate.

The delegates need to take on board the energy and dynamism that the Rural Women’s Association showed, as they approach the final critical stages of COP17.

Ian Sullivan is Oxfam Great Britain, Online Campaigner