'Total inaction' at UN climate talks, Africa groups charge

by Elias Ntungwe Ngalame | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 21 November 2013 19:30 GMT

Environmental activists play with a giant globe on the streets in a rally demanding more action to battle climate change during the 19th conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP19) in Warsaw on November 16, 2013. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

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There is nothing actually happening in Warsaw and this is very disappointing to us"

WARSAW (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – African civil society organisations joined a walkout from the UN climate talks in Warsaw Thursday, citing a failure of the talks to make any progress on their demands.

“All African (civil society) delegates have decided to leave the climate takes because it is not serving our interest. There is nothing actually happening in Warsaw and this is very disappointing to us” said Augustine Njanmshi of the Cameroon branch of the Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme, a non-governmental organisation that works on sustainable resource use.

Other civil society organisations that joined in the walkout echoed the same message.

"We are walking (out) to send a strong message due to the total inaction at the talks, lack of ambition and progress on the demands of climate change vulnerable countries at a time when we need action most. It is a total failure in Warsaw and we from Africa don’t want to be associated with this failure," said Asad Reyman, a Tunisian and campaigner for Friends of the Earth.

The Africans were joined by other civil society groups from Asia, India, the Philipines and other countries, ending their participation in the two-week-long climate negotiations scheduled to end Friday in Warsaw.

Placards suggested that while they were leaving this year’s talks, they planned to return for the 2014 climate negotiations in Lima, Peru, to continue pushing for action on climate change.

“This is the first time in UN climate talks we are seeing such a coordinated action involving several groups speaking with one voice for their common interest. I think we need such international solidarity if we expect any progress to be made in this whole climate debate,” said Joseph Amouggou Armathee , a Cameroon negotiator.

Thursday’s walkout followed a brief earlier walkout Wednesday by the G77 group of developing countries from negotiating sessions aimed at establishing a mechanism to deal with worsening losses and damage from climate impacts.

While some poorer countries say such a mechanism is needed to help them deal with losses from climate change that adaptation can’t do enough to avoid, some richer countries fear such a mechanism could lead to legal liability being imposed on countries with the highest historic levels of climate-changing emissions.

“We came to Warsaw with high expectations to get ambitious efforts by polluter countries to cut down on their carbon dioxide emissions,” said Samuel Samson Ogalah, of the PanAfrican Climate Justice Alliance. But despite stark evidence of worsening climate impacts – including more severe storms like Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines – African countries were instead “shocked” by announcements that major emitters including Japan and Australia intended to reduce their efforts to curb climate-changing emissions.

“This, we think, is provocative and frustrating the negotiation process,” Ogalah said.

African civil society groups have decried a lack of action on other negotiating issues as well, including climate finance to help poorer nations adopt cleaner development and adapt to climate change, and a loss and damage mechanism.

“Negotiations is about give and take. Each party on the negotiation table has to be ready to forfeit something for any such process to be successful. If the polluting countries think they only have to dictate how African countries have to proceed with adaptation and mitigation without  listening to our cry on loss and damages incurred by our suffering population, then then it is a futile process,” said  Habtemariam Abate of the Ethiopian Civil Society Network.

Mithika Mwenda, coordinator of the PanAfrican Climate Justice Alliance said that “the primary responsibility of our governments is to protect the security of their people” and “they are failing in this responsibility.”

Countries “must draw a line under the Warsaw talks and come back in 2014 ready for meaningful discussions on how they will deliver their share of the emissions reductions that scientists say are needed and their share of the money needed to help the poorest and most vulnerable countries adapt to the effects of climate change,” he said.

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