COP17, UN’s Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa – 8th Dec.

Research and Independent Non Governmental Organization (RINGO) Constituency Meetings

The Brahma Kumaris are registered with UNFCCC as part of the RINGO constituency.  Julia Grindon-Welch and Valeriane Bernard attended these meetings. RINGO does not advocate; it is an independent group whose role is to supply information to COP, indicating how scientific research relates to the Climate Community. 50-100 representatives from RINGO met every other day from 9:00-10:00 am to share the highlights from the negotiations.  They also established a committee to draft the two-minute statement that each constituency is invited to present at the Closing Session of the High-Level Meetings which will be available on the RINGO website (

RINGO is thinking of dividing the statement under four areas of focus: Capacity Building, Data, Scholars, and Education.

Comments from the larger RINGO Group:

  • There should be encouragement and engagement of researchers in this process.  Science must inform policy.
  • Climate systems and human systems should be further explored.
  • Science includes social science, a multi disciplinary science that includes human security and public health. Good science needs to enhance other forms of knowledge including indigenous knowledge.

“Climate Change Demands Inner Change”, NGO Forum at University of KwaZulu-Nata


The final BK forum took place at the University of KwaZulu-Natal with the panelists:

  • Guillermo Kerber - Geneva Interfaith Forum on Climate Change, Environment and Human Rights, Switzerland
  • Ryan Allen - Manager of Transition Town, an NGO in Port Elizabeth
  • Sister Pratibha Patel - Regional UN Representative, BKWSU Kenya
  • Joshua Cooper, university lecturer on human rights and journalism, advocacy Hawaiian  Indigenous Human Rights

The moderator was Valeriane Bernard, who is Brahma Kumaris’ Human Rights Representative to the UN in Geneva.

Guillermo Kerber spoke on the importance of having a holistic understanding of the challenge, to see not only the social or political aspect but also the ethical and spiritual perspective.  He stated that if there is no change in political or social aspects, then we have to open our hearts to change them and have a shift of paradigm. He also said that we have to come together as faith communities because the most vulnerable are the poor, and they are the least responsible for climate change. Guillermo ended telling the audience that we have to find stories of hope, such as that of the youth group Eco Justice.

Ryan Allen shared that before we look for economical stability and stop climate change, we first have to look inside our communities and ourselves.  He continued: "This is a very important time in our lives, it is a transition time, and we have to be prepared."  He spoke about global peak oil and questioned how humans are going to be able to cope in the post-petroleum time.  He followed by stating that these transitions are opportunities for change, to re-imagine and re-design our communities.  We have to build inner resilience, build our own communities, find reasons for relationships rather than separation, and use friendship in our support systems.  We have to have creative communities that are able to connect and interact with ease.

Sister Pratibha Patel started by saying that outer change requires inner change. ''On one side change is healthy, on the other side people don't want to change.''  She clearly explained that the approach to the climate change problem has been mainly focused on the external, rather than within.  She explained, that human beings are greedy: they take the air, the water, the earth; they invade the natural habitat of the animals. What humanity has lost are moral values, our spiritual identity.  We can use technology or anything else, but with respect; we should not abuse it. We can use anything, but with balance.  She also said that we are destroying our first environment, the body, which is made of the five elements. She then explained that we have to look in the mirror of our own selves and ask the right questions. We have to bring balance with our spiritual identity, positive thoughts and self-respect.

Joshua Cooper explained that the basis to change climate change begins with the inner “I”.  This is the core of how he deals with climate change personally.  He followed by saying that we have to know the place that we live - in his case the islands of Hawaii.  The next step is to have a global civil society. He ended saying that what we have to do is to focus on the beautiful - focus on what we value, sustain it, be aware of its challenges, and share it.  In this way we can learn from other people, and communities, to have integrity and emerge the values of the heart of the Earth. For Josh, this means to respect indigenous people, which are in the heart of global biodiversity.

Intense Media afternoon on our last day of COP17

Radio Interview – Sister Pratibha Patel was interviewed by SA FM “Otherwise channel”
The Climate Change Studio in COP17 Durban Exhibition Area interviewed Sister Pratibha Patel from Kenya on how Brahma Kumaris connects to climate change.
Press Conference – Personal Empowerment for Sustainable Capacity Building. The final slot of the 30 minutes long press conference schedule on Thursday was given to Brahma Kumaris. A few journalists and other participants listened to Sister Pratibha Patel, Golo Pilz and Teresa Mungazi sharing on the spiritual, practical and youth perspective aspects of personal sustainable capacity building.

BK Press conference_web

On leaving the BK international delegation want to thank South Africa; the country and it’s people and the BK South African Family in particular for hosting us so generously.  We all had a wonderful time filled with sharing, learning, cooperation and unity, which increased the inner and outer capacity of the BK green team.

On the negotiating front there seems to have been some breakthrough in the international community’s response to climate change.

Summary taken from a press conference given by Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of UNFCCC

“I salute the countries who made this agreement. They have all laid aside some cherished objectives of their own to meet a common purpose – a long-term solution to climate change. I sincerely thank the South African Presidency who steered through a long and intense conference to a historic agreement that has met all major issues,”

In Durban, governments decided to adopt a universal legal agreement on climate change as soon as possible, but not later than 2015. Work will begin on this immediately under a new group called the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action.

Governments, including 38 industrialised countries, agreed a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol from January 1, 2013. To achieve rapid clarity, Parties to this second period will turn their economy-wide targets into quantified emission limitation or reduction objectives and submit them for review by May 1, 2012.

“This is highly significant because the Kyoto Protocol’s accounting rules, mechanisms and markets all remain in action as effective tools to leverage global climate action and as models to inform future agreements,” Ms. Figueres said.

A significantly advanced framework for the reporting of emission reductions for both developed and developing countries was also agreed, taking into consideration the common but differentiated responsibilities of different countries.

In addition to charting the way forward on reducing greenhouse gases in the global context, governments meeting in South Africa agreed the full implementation of the package to support developing nations, agreed last year in Cancun, Mexico.

“This means that urgent support for the developing world, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable to adapt to climate change, will also be launched on time,” said Ms Figueres.

The package includes the Green Climate Fund, an Adaptation Committee designed to improve the coordination of adaptation actions on a global scale, and a Technology Mechanism, which are to become fully operational in 2012.

Whilst pledging to make progress in a number of areas, governments acknowledged the urgent concern that the current sum of pledges to cut emissions both from developed and developing countries is not high enough to keep the global average temperature rise below two degrees Celsius.

They therefore decided that the UN Climate Change process shall increase ambition to act and will be led by the climate science in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report and the global Review from 2013-2015.

“While it is clear that these deadlines must be met, countries, citizens and businesses who have been behind the rising global wave of climate action can now push ahead confidently, knowing that Durban has lit up a broader highway to a low-emission, climate resilient future,” said the UNFCCC Executive Secretary.

The next major UNFCCC Climate Change Conference, COP 18/ CMP 8, is to take place 26 November to 7 December 2012 in Qatar, in close cooperation with the Republic of Korea.

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