Civil Society Groups Walk Out of UN Climate Talks in Protest

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WWF and other members of civil society walk out of UN COP 19 climate negotiations in Warsaw, Poland (Photo courtesy WWF)


WARSAW, Poland, November 21, 2013 (ENS) – Thirteen environmental and climate justice groups today withdrew from the UN climate change negotiations in Warsaw to protest what they see as lack of action from governments to solve the climate crisis.

Friends of the Earth Europe, Greenpeace, Oxfam, and WWF are among the groups that walked out, along with climate justice groups from Africa, Latin America and the Philippines and the International Trade Union Confederation. Over 800 UN-accredited observers left the Warsaw National Stadium in frustration.

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WWF and other members of civil society walk out of UN COP 19 climate negotiations in Warsaw, Poland (Photo courtesy WWF)

They say that in Warsaw the developed countries have blocked meaningful progress on cutting emissions and providing finance and help for those harmed by climate change.

In a joint statement, the groups said, “The Warsaw Climate Conference, which should have been an important step in the just transition to a sustainable future, is on track to deliver virtually nothing.”

The frustrated groups relate their walkout to the plight of typhoon victims in the Philippines. Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan lashed the island nation earlier this month, killing more than 2,500 people and leaving 660,000 homeless.

“We have said we stand in solidarity with the millions impacted by Typhoon Haiyan, and with all climate impacted people. Our solidarity compels us to tell the truth about COP 19 – the Warsaw Climate Conference.”

“The actions of many rich countries here in Warsaw are directly undermining the UNFCCC itself, which is an important multilateral process that must succeed if we are to fix the global climate crisis,” the groups said.

With 195 governments as parties, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

The negotiations in Warsaw this year and in Lima, Peru in 2014 are supposed to lay the foundation for universal adoption of a new legally-binding agreement in Paris in 2015. World governments agreed to this plan at the 2011 UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa.

But in their statement today, the withdrawing groups said no progress is being made.

“Warsaw has not seen any increase in emission reductions nor increased support for adaptation before 2020 – on these things it has actually taken us backward. And a clear pathway to a comprehensive and fair agreement in Paris 2015 is missing,” the groups state.

Lou Leonard, WWF vice president for climate change, said, “These negotiations matter – and that’s why we’re leaving. We’ve heard again and again from scientists about the urgency of addressing the climate threat, but those calls are not finding their way into these talks.”

Young civil society demonstrators against coal at the Warsaw climate talks, Nov. 18, 2013 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)

“Instead,” said Leonard, “governments are having a political food fight, spending more time talking about political posturing and abstract principles than about protecting their people.”

“This meeting was supposed to help bring down emissions and deliver support to vulnerable communities; instead countries like the U.S. brought almost nothing to the table despite increasing progress at home,” he said.

Frustration increased when Japan announced in Warsaw that it declines to honor commitments previously made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as Canada has also done.

Australia’s newly elected government is dismantling the carbon pricing system put in place by the previous government, and the groups say the Australians have “jeopardized” the integrity of the talks by failing to take the UN climate process seriously.

Friends of the Earth international climate campaigner Asad Rehman said, “Climate change is probably the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. It’s staggering that so many developed nations would rather spend their time playing to vocal minorities at home rather than meet this global threat head on.”

“We can already see the devastating impact that climate change is having, particularly in some of the world’s poorest regions where people are least able to cope,” said Rehman. “This Warsaw summit is achieving nothing to help protect these communities or to reduce global carbon pollution.”

The groups were particularly offended by the participation of fossil fuel industries and corporations generally in the Warsaw meeting.

“The Warsaw Conference has put the interests of dirty energy industries over that of global citizens – with a ‘Coal & Climate Summit’ being held in conjunction; corporate sponsorship from big polluters plastered all over the venue; and a Presidency (Poland) that is beholden to the coal and fracking industry,” they stated.

“This week saw a ‘finance ministerial’ with almost no actual finance,” they said, “and loss and damage talks that have stalled because rich countries refuse to engage on the substance of an international mechanism.”

The groups say that rather than sitting in Warsaw meeting rooms it is a better use of their time to focus on raising awareness in time for next year’s negotiations in Lima.

Rehman said, “We must all do more in the months ahead to make the world wake up to the need for urgent action.”

Leonard said, “Next year’s meeting in Peru must get the world back on track to deliver a meaningful deal in Paris in 2015.”

The organizations and social movements associated with the walkout are:

– Aksyon Klima Pilipinas
– ActionAid
– Bolivian Platform on Climate Change
– Construyendo Puentes (Latin America)
– Friends of the Earth (Europe)
– Greenpeace
– Ibon International
– International Trade Union Confederation
– LDC Watch
– Oxfam International
– Pan African Climate Justice Alliance
– Peoples’ Movement on Climate Change (Philippines)

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2013. All rights reserved.


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