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Hungry for climate action in Durban

Credit: Ainhoa Goma/Oxfam

The United Nations have unpacked the bunting and draped the decorations around Durban, South Africa, for the next round of climate negotiations, COP17. Leaders, policy experts, delegates, caravanites, photo exhibitions, puppets, the world’s media and all manner of colorful characters have arrived to get their teeth into securing progress in the fight against climate change.

Oxfam kicked off our efforts with a dinner party in the sea to provide a stark illustration of the effects that extreme weather will have on our already creaking food system. Poor people already spend a big proportion of their incomes on food and this will increase if crops fail due to an unpredictable climate.

We’re bringing messages of support from across the world, demanding that leaders act on climate change. As things stand, almost 1 billion people are going hungry, and this is set to increase.

A lot can be achieved over the next two weeks. Firstly, rich countries must start to fill the climate fund that was agreed last year in Cancun. They need to start raising the $100 billion that is needed per year to help developing countries adapt to the effects of rising temperatures. In these tough economic times leaders need to look at options like a tax on global shipping emissions – which account for the same carbon output as Germany. Or a tiny Financial Transactions Tax (aka Robin Hood Tax) to raise the money that they’ve said is needed. We’re also looking for progress on extending the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012, ensuring that countries stick to, move to the top end of their target range and go further with the emissions cuts that have already been agreed.

Although the Summit starts tomorrow, people are already spreading the message and ramping up the pressure. The Trans-African Caravan of Hope has arrived in town with over a million signatures of support. Oxfam launched our photo exhibition, Enough to Eat by local NGO Women on Farms, highlighting the challenges that women food producers face. Today in Durban former Archbishop Desmond Tutu led an interfaith rally where over 200,000 calls for action where delivered on an arc. People around the world are calling on leaders to make the decisions necessary to tackle climate change.

If they need some inspiration then they should head a few kilometers outside of Durban. There, they can visit the former home of Mahatma Ghandi, where he spent 21 years developing and promoting his non-racial and non-violent ideals. They can also stand on the spot where Nelson Mandela cast his vote in South Africa’s first democratic elections. Great things have been achieved in Durban! As Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Ian Sullivan – Oxfam Great Britain Online Campaigner