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Warsaw climate talks set to deliver 'virtually nothing' - campaigners

by Megan Rowling | @meganrowling | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 21 November 2013 15:42 GMT

Climate activists gather outside the National Stadium in Warsaw after walking out of U.N. climate talks, criticising a lack of progress by governments, Nov. 21, 2013. PHOTO/Friends of the Earth Europe

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About 800 members of environment and development groups walk out of the UN climate talks in Warsaw expressing frustration at a lack of progress

WARSAW (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Around 800 members of environment and development groups from around the world walked out of U.N. climate talks in Warsaw on Thursday, expressing frustration at the lack of progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping vulnerable nations cope with the impacts of global warming.

They handed in their passes on the way out of the conference, known as COP19, many wearing white T-shirts emblazoned on the front with the message: #cop19 polluters talk / we walk.

On the back, they sported an additional message: #volveremos / we will be back.

A statement setting out the reasons for the action - the first such coordinated walkout by civil society participants - was signed by 13 international organisations and social movements from both rich and poor countries, including pan-African, Philippine and Latin American networks.

"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," they said.

"Rich country governments have come with nothing to offer. Many developing country governments are also struggling and failing to stand up for the needs and rights of their people. It is clear that if countries continue acting in this way, the next two days of negotiations will not deliver the climate action the world so desperately needs," said the groups, including Greenpeace, Oxfam International, Friends of the Earth, ActionAid and the International Trade Union Confederation.

Their protest was not directed at the U.N. climate change secretariat, they noted but rather at the recalcitrant behaviour of governments at the Warsaw negotiations, which are due to end on Friday but remain mired in disagreement. The protesters made clear they would re-engage with the process next year in Peru, with a view to achieving a global climate deal in Paris in 2015.

"We are now focusing on mobilising people to push our governments to take leadership for serious climate action," they said. "We will return … in Lima to hold our governments accountable to the vision of a sustainable and just future."

Before they left the National Stadium in Warsaw, where the climate talks are taking place, those leading the walkout spoke to journalists. Here are some of their comments:

Kumi Naidoo, executive director, Greenpeace International

"This is not a protest against the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), it is specifically about this COP (meeting)... Right now we hope that walking out might generate a sense of urgency and get our leaders to deliver more than what is on the table at these negotiations at the moment.

"Most of civil society and many governments in the developing world came here with very low expectations to start with. Now even this low expectation that we have is going lower and lower, and right now, when you have powerful countries like Canada, Australia and Japan going back on their fairly modest commitments. It is a statement that they are not serious.

"If they continue like this, we have no chance of getting a fair, ambitious and legally binding climate treaty by the time we get to Paris.

"Nature does not negotiate. We cannot change the science. The only thing that we can change is political will, and that is what we are trying to push through this action."

Winnie Byanyima, executive director, Oxfam International

“Oxfam is walking out of these talks because governments need to know enough is enough. People around the globe have a right to know about the desperate state of these negotiations.

“The stakes are too high to allow governments to make a mockery of these talks. Climate change means real and harmful impacts on people right around the globe.  

“Government’s primary responsibility is the security of their people. They are failing in this responsibility. They 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 which scientists say are needed and their share of the money needed to help the poorest and most vulnerable countries adapt.”

Asad Rehman, international climate campaigner, Friends of the Earth

"Rich, industrialised countries have effectively held global action on climate change hostage in the interests of their big, dirty energy corporations.

"To do so while thousands of people are facing unspeakable tragedy in the Philippines, following super typhoon Haiyan, and while hundreds of thousands of people are dying each year because of the impacts of climate change - such as floods, droughts and severe storms - is not only callous, but shows a total disregard for the climate science, which tells us we need to cut emissions deeply and fast."

Sharan Burrow, general secretary, International Trade Union Confederation

"There are no jobs on a dead plant... We say to the governments of the world you have failed us, and you must not do it again."

"The corporate dominance which is on show here is unacceptable. It is the same companies that advocate environmental and social responsibility that exploit workers and the environment through their supply chains."

Tetet Lauron, Ibon International/Peoples' Movement on Climate Change (Philippines)

"We need more than just sympathy (after Typhoon Haiyan)... We are doing this action now because we need international solidarity, so that we can together as a global community address the impacts of climate change."

Mithika Mwenda, secretary general of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance

“We are telling the global community that this has failed, we are walking out, and we should not be blamed for the people dying in the Philippines, in Somalia and those others...We have washed our hands of this process."

Harjeet Singh, international coordinator for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, ActionAid

"This bah, blah, blah is not going to work. We want to mobilise people back at home, put pressure on our own governments, put pressure on rich countries to make sure there is action...on real emissions cuts, and not false illusions. We want real money to be tabled now...and we are demanding a loss and damage mechanism."

Brandon Wu, senior policy analyst, ActionAid USA

“A huge range of social movements and civil society organisations are increasingly frustrated over the bad faith rich countries are showing right now at the U.N. climate talks in Warsaw. We stand in solidarity with the poor women and men who are affected every day by climate change. The script and screenplay of these talks need to change.”

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