Friday, April 18, 2014

Climate talks in Warsaw ‘a waste of energy’

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Many activists had walked out of the conference.

The United Nations, UN, climate talks in Warsaw, Poland, have ended with activists disappointed that the quest for climate justice had become even more elusive.

The COP19 – the 19th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – ended on November 23 with delegates reaching a compromise on how to fight global warming.

“The climate conference in Warsaw was a waste of energy,” said Martin Kaiser of Greenpeace Germany.

“It was already clear by midweek that small steps forward would be sold as successes but would not help us to negotiate a global climate protection agreement by 2015,” he added.

Ahead of a new global climate treaty in Paris in 2015, an agreement was reached by delegates, at the two week-long conference, after a series of last minute compromises.

But environmental groups were angered by the lack of specific commitments on finance.

“There is no sense from the outcomes of Warsaw that climate justice is any closer than before the COP was inaugurated,” Simon Anderson, Head of climate change group at the International Institute for Environment and Development, IIED, said.

“The delays in countries disclosing how they will address reducing greenhouse gas emissions continue. It would seem that we are moving almost inevitably to a 4C degree warmer world,” he added.

Just like a previous Conference of Parties – COP15 in 2009 – in Copenhagen dashed much of the hopes hung on it; environmental activists left Warsaw with a bitter after taste in their mouths.

Having been billed as a climate finance COP, Warsaw failed to deliver, according to them.

“The need for both finance and disbursal mechanisms that genuinely reflect and respond to the needs of countries and people that need to adapt and become more climate resilient become even more important,” said Dr. Anderson.

“In the absence of agreement on a mid-term target and a clear pathway, poor and vulnerable countries are unable to understand how the developed countries are going to deliver the promised target of US$100 billion annually by 2020. Looking at decisions related to long term finance, developing countries can see a few gains, but there were reassuring words and little else,” he added.

THE GREAT WALK OUT

COP19 held with the shadow of Typhoon Haiyan – a devastating natural disaster in Philippines that led to over 5,000 deaths.

Angered by the deliberate atmosphere of lack of ambition and hope hanging in the conference room, hundreds of representatives of social movements, trade unions, and non-governmental organizations staged an unprecedented walk out last Thursday, in protest.

Among those who walked out included Friends of the Earth International, the International Trade Union Confederation, Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance, Bolivian Platform on Climate Change, Jubilee South (APMDD), 350.org, Greenpeace, WWF, Oxfam, ActionAid, and the Philippines Movement on Climate.

“Polluters and corporations dominated this conference with their empty talk, so we walked out in protest. Polluters talk, we walk,” Jagoda Munic, Chairperson of Friends of the Earth International, had said.

“While people around the world are paying with their lives and livelihoods, and the risk of runaway climate change draws closer, we simply could not sit by this egregious inaction. Corporate profits should not come before peoples’ lives,” Munic had added.

Nnimmo Bassey, renowned environmental activist, said that the walk out sent a strong signal that “the days of empty talks must come to an end.”

“They sent a strong signal that the pre-COP planned for Venezuela in 2014 and COP21 planned for Paris in 2015 must be different significantly from the climate games being currently played in these events,” Mr. Bassey, founder of Home of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, said.

After over 35 hours of non-stop negotiations, countries agreed to publish their plans in the first quarter of 2015.

The negotiations, however, were characterized by discord, particularly between developed countries like the US and emerging economies like China and India.

While the rich nations wanted the new global deal on emissions to, unlike the Kyoto Protocol, include the ‘like-minded developing nations’ – like Saudi Arabia, Bolivia, China, Venezuela; the latter nations kicked hard against it.

“In this COP, as at others, Japan, Canada, the USA and Australia maintained a formidable climate-inaction quartet, locking the planet on the inescapable path of runaway global warming,” said Mr. Bassey.

“We recall that Japan was the first country to signify that they would not go ahead with another period of the Kyoto Protocol, the only piece of global legally binding, albeit weak, agreement aimed at curtailing emissions to save the planet.

“A further downside of the COP was pointed by the chief negotiator for China who noted that a developed country delegate gave ‘multiple signs that it was utterly unwilling to take the UN climate process seriously, the integrity of the talks was further jeopardized,’” he added.

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