BARCELONA, Spain, November 5, 2009 (ENS) – About 70 activists blocked the main entrance to the UN climate change negotiations in Barcelona on Wednesday, demanding steep cuts in the greenhouse gas emissions that are raising the planetary temperature.
Calling themselves “The Climate is not for sale,” the demonstrators blocked the doors of the Barcelona Convention Centre Fira Gran Via with their bodies, chanted slogans and waved banners urging developed countries to commit to a legally binding international climate agreement.
“We are here, we are staying here if there are no cuts, we are not leaving,” they chanted, denouncing the influence of business lobbies in the climate negotiations. Security officials and police watched the demonstration but made no arrests.
“If the climate were a bank, it would have been saved,” said the group, in a statement released ahead of the protest.
This week’s talks are the last round of negotiations before the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December where governments are expected to finalize a deal to take effect when the current provisions of the Kyoto Protocol expire at the end of 2012.
The demonstrators demanded emissions cuts by industrial countries of up to 40 percent by 2020. The European Union has offered only a 30 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and only if other developed nations match that level of cuts. The commitments of other developed countries are in the 10-25 percent range. The United States has yet to state an offer.
The action followed a move by delegates from African nations to boycott the negotiations in protest over the reluctance of developed countries to make firm commitments on emission cuts and funding to help developing countries meet the challenges of climate change.
“There is no progress whatsoever being made in these negotiations, there is no need to continue like this,” said Gambian chief delegate Pa Ousman Jarju, speaking for the African bloc at an emotional news conference.
Grace Adhiambo of Kenya, Kamel Djemouai of Algeria and Bruno Sekoli of Lesotho also represented the African delegates in their outrage over the slow progress of negotiations.
“We want our developed country partners to negotiate in good faith and put numbers on the table,” said Akumu. She said Kenya already is suffering the effects of rising temperatures and emphasized that the country is facing food scarcity if rich countries do not contribute funding to help Kenya overcome global warming.
The African walkout forced cancelation of several technical meetings and puts pressure on developed countries to commit to higher greenhouse gas emission reductions. But many African delegates were back at the talks today, although some said they might stage a full-scale walkout on Friday.
Greenpeace activists scaled Barcelona’s famous landmark, the still unfinished cathedral, the Sagreda Familia, to hang a huge bannner declaring “World Leaders – Make the Climate Call.”
Greenpeacers staged an extreme weather event today for delegates in Barcelona to give them a taste of what the future will look like if they do not create the right conditions for what Greenpeace views as “a fair, ambitious and binding climate deal in Copenhagen next month.”
Amidst a mock storm of thunder, lightning, rain and wind outside the Barcelona conference center, the Greenpeacers deployed a banner reading, “Our climate, your decision.”
Water scarcity is of primary concern to other delegates.
Delegates are working on negotiating texts that have no reference to water and its management as tools for climate change adaptation, warned the Stockholm International Water Institute, NGOs and UN agencies.
Previous negotiating texts discussed in Bonn and Barcelona contained clear references to proper land and water resource adaptation as key to stemming the effects of climate change. But the streamlined text being discussed this week lacks any direct reference to water, even in sections about climate change impacts.
Participants in a special Water Day event on Tuesday called for recognition that water is the primary way that climate change will impact people, society and ecosystems, due to predicted changes in its quality and quantity.
“It is imperative that negotiators recognize the crucial importance of wetlands and freshwater as key factors in any climate adaptation plan,” said Denis Landenbergue, WWF International’s manager of wetlands conservation. “To ignore the role of water is to cripple any climate change adaptation plans.”
“Let me be very clear. There is no development without water,” said Pasquale Steduto, Chair, UN-Water and Service Chief, Food and Agriculture Organization. “There is no food security without water. There is most likely also no energy security without water. Water is the primary medium through which climate change influences the Earth’s ecosystems and therefore people’s livelihoods and well-being. If water is not further recognized in adaptation strategies and plans, we are making a big mistake.”
“Even with the best mitigation strategies, water related effects of climate change will come,” said Anders Berntell, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute. “The challenge for many nations is how to adapt. Climate change is in effect water change, since it will be through water that the changes will be realized first and foremost.”
Speaking to journalists on Monday, the opening day of the Barcelona climate change talks, the UN’s top climate official Yvo de Boer said the two-year mandate agreed by governments in Bali to deliver a comprehensive, fair and effective answer to the climate threat must now be fulfilled.
He emphasized that more than 100 world leaders committed themselves to success in Copenhagen at the New York Summit on Climate Change held at UN Headquarters in September.
While the Barcelona meeting is unlikely to resolve the big issues on finance and emission reduction targets, it is critical in terms of putting the essential architecture in place to make a Copenhagen agreed outcome function, said de Boer, who serves as executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Highlighting the significant advances in the negotiations on adaptation, technology transfer, capacity-building and reducing emissions from deforestation, REDD, he said Barcelona can shape these advances into language that can make them essential components of a Copenhagen agreed outcome.
De Boer said that some details of implementation will be left until after Copenhagen, but Copenhagen “can and must capture a result to which nations can be held accountable.”
In another NGO action, TckTckTck campaign director Ben Margolis presented de Boer with one of the 1,000 ringing alarm clocks used to wake up negotiators from around the world as they arrived on Monday for the opening day of talks.
As activists held up pictures of recent actions, Margolis recapped the September 21st Global Wake Up Call involving over 2,600 events in 134 countries organized by TckTckTck, Avaaz and other partners. He recounted events of the October 24th International Day of Climate Action, organized by 350.org, which entailed more than 5,200 events in 181 countries.
De Boer thanked TckTckTck for helping to raise public awareness but said that the alarm bells are not ringing loudly enough. A lot of governments have not yet awakened to the urgency of the situation, said de Boer.
The average temperature of the Earth’s surface has risen by 0.74 degrees Celsius since the late 1800s, the UNFCCC points out on its website. The temperature is expected to increase by another 1.8° C to 4° C by the year 2100 – a rapid and profound change – should necessary actions not be taken. Even if the minimum predicted increase takes place, it will be larger than any century-long trend in the last 10,000 years.
A century and a half of industrialization – the burning of ever-greater quantities of oil, gasoline, and coal, the cutting of forests, and the practice of certain farming methods – have increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, especially carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.
These gases form an atmospheric blanket trapping the Sun’s heat close to the planet. Eleven of the last 12 years are the warmest on record, and 1998 was the warmest year.
The current warming trend is expected to cause extinctions, scientists predict. Numerous plant and animal species, already weakened by pollution and loss of habitat, are not expected to survive the next 100 years.
Human beings face severe storms, floods and droughts. The UNFCCC says that computer models predicting more frequent “extreme weather events” are on target.
The average sea level rose by 10 to 20 cm during the 20th century, and an additional increase of 18 to 59 cm is expected by the year 2100. Higher temperatures cause ocean volume to expand, and melting glaciers and ice caps add more water.
If the higher end of that scale is reached, the sea could overflow the heavily populated coastlines of such countries as Bangladesh, cause the disappearance of some nations, such as the island state of the Maldives, foul freshwater supplies for billions of people, and trigger migrations of millions of climate refugees.