It was hard to get a grip on the deliberations of the United Nations COP (Conference of Parties) 17 Climate Change Conference, which took place in Durban over the last two weeks, and ended a day late with a last minute agreement reached yesterday, but it certainly placed Durban and South Africa on the world news map. It also had a magnificent tourism benefit, the Durban hospitality industry saying that it was bigger and better than the 2010 soccer World Cup.
Close to 15000 delegates from 200 countries met for two weeks, and agreed in the 11th hour to one global law regarding greenhouse emissions. The Durban Platform for Enhanced Action is a bundle of agreements, which extends the Kyoto Protocol by five years, establishes a Green Climate Fund, looks to transfer clean technology to poorer countries, seeks the protection of forests, and addresses further technical issues, reports the Cape Times. No specific deal has been made yet regarding greenhouse emissions, but the principle is that every nation has agreed to reduce these, a first as it includes the worst greenhouse gas offenders USA and China too. The agreements will be finalised in 2015, and enforceable from 2020. President Zuma had asked the delegates in his opening address to ‘save tomorrow today’.
Reaction to the outcome of the conference has been mixed, some saying it was a lot of ‘hot air’, was ‘too late’ and ‘too vague’. Scientists have said that global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2017, to avoid dangerous climate change. Greenpeace International said that ‘the new accord could take the globe over the 2°C threshold at which we pass from danger to global catastrophe‘, according to a report in The Times. At the Conference, ESKOM and Sasol were named South Africa’s most heavy polluters, reported Business Report. ‘Green bank’ Nedbank funded the Eskom Medupi coal-fired power station, which violates World Bank environmental regulations.
Durban is expected to have generated R1 billion in revenue, having received R200 million from the government and utilising R50 million of its own funds to stage the conference. Accommodation in the city was fully booked, reports The Times, with 160000 bed nights and 495000 meals sold. Delegates supported local restaurants, tourist shops, and transport companies. Durban was highlighted as a city with good organisational skills and infrastructure. Critically a delegate commented about the non-climate friendly 5* hotel changing towels every day, and not requesting the guest to indicate when this should be done, a lesson for accommodation establishments to demonstrate their contribution to going green.
Glamour VIP visitors to the conference, including Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt as well as Prince Albert and Princess Charléne, attracted further media attention to Durban. The Jolie/Pitt couple rented a villa at Zimbali Coastal Resort, at R8500 per day, reported the Sunday Times. Oprah Winfrey and the President of Panama have previously rented the house. The Monaco royal couple stayed at The Oyster Box again, where the princess had stayed during their South African honeymoon.
At least one COP17 Conference delegate found time to extend his visit to Durban to fly to Cape Town, and is staying at Whale Cottage Camps Bay.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage