How poet Tranströmer can help us interpret the Durban climate deal


Reading the early Sunday mornings dispatches from Durban was a bittersweet emotional experience. Indeed, the climate negotiations resulted in a deal that in short means the Kyoto protocol lives on, that all countries, even the largest emitters, have united on a goal for the future and an agreement on setting up a climate fund that is going to aid finance investments for lowering emissions. However, the treaty contains no binding obligations, is probably going to start too late for us to avoid increases in temperatures above two degrees Celsius, and how the climate fund itself is going to be financed is still unknown. As I'm reading the reports, I come to think of the poem this year's Nobel laureate in literature, Tomas Tranströmer, chose for his speech at the Nobel prize gala dinner in Stockholm City Hall last night, called From March -79.

Weary of all who come with words, words but no language I make my way to the snow-covered island. The untamed has no words. The unwritten pages spread out on every side! I come upon the tracks of deer in the snow. Language but no words.

Regardless of if we choose to put our optimistic or pessimistic glasses on when analyzing the result from Durban, the only result we know for sure is that our children will be worse off than us, as Damian Carrington of the Guardian puts it. And our children will judge us by our actions, not by our words.

Tranströmers metaphorical language can be used to describe how much more action matters than words. I might pick the very same words as a colleague to convey my view on leadership, but our differences will only be obvious when we act on those words. Only then can our credibility be judged.

During a speech in Durban the other day, the Chinese minister, Xie Zhenhua, gave an impassioned speech backing India and accusing developed countries. "What qualifies you to tell us what to do? We are taking action. We want to see your action," he said. His body spoke the language of irritation. But not words.

The Swedish Green Party's former leader Maria Wetterstrand tweeted "of course faults in the Durban roadmap must be pointed out. But it is the sense of everyone now ready to get to work, does make a difference." And she does have a point. The fact that everyone has agreed on a destination and a road map is good, even if there's still disagreement on which road to take on that map.

The unwritten pages spread out on every side. During the coming months and years, actions, not words, will make a difference. At least if we want to try to avoid dangerous temperature rises in the atmosphere and the irreversible effects on the planet's eco system that might follow.

When Muhammad Gaddaffi promised cease fire after the UN established its no-fly-zone over Libyan territory, someone asked David Cameron if this didn't mean that Gaddaffi was under control and the war had ended. The British prime minister answered "we will judge him by his actions, not his words".

With the deal from Durban in our pocket, it's time to make our way to the snow-covered island and see if we can find any tracks in the snow.

EnglishPer GrankvistCOP17, Durban