NGOs quit COP19 as 'no progress' seen
Probir K Sarker

The Group 77 and China staged a three-hour walk out early Wednesday as there was no progress in the talks

  • Members of NGOs, trade unions and civil societies who are UN accredited observers at the climate conference come out of the venue Thursday 
    Photo- Satenik Sateniña Abrahamyan

In an unprecedented move, over 800 non-government organisations and civil society bodies, who are part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change as observers, walked out of the negotiations Thursday as the Conference of Parties (COP19) has so far failed to progress over the key issues including finance.

Aggrieved, the organisations say they decided to voluntarily withdraw from the Warsaw climate meet which is set to end today. The decision came around 12:30pm CET (5:30pm BdST) and the members left the conference venue, the Warsaw National Stadium, around 2:30pm in a procession towards the city centre and demonstrated there.

Greenpeace International, Oxfam International, International Trade Union Confederation, ActionAid International, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) International, Friends of the Earth (Europe), Aksyon Klima Pilipinas, Bolivian Platform on Climate Change, Construyendo Puentes (Latin America), Ibon International, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance and Peoples’ Movement on Climate Change (Philippines) are among the organisations. Some NGOs, however, refrained from joining the protest as they did not find it a right approach.

Earlier, the Group 77 and China, of which Bangladesh is a party, staged a three-hour walk out early Wednesday from the negotiation table on loss and damage mechanism as there was no progress in the talks and some developed countries made unacceptable suggestions.

The rich nations were suggesting that the mechanism be kept under the purview of disaster risk reduction mechanism or adaptation fund – a stark shift from the agreement in Doha conference last year about going for a new mechanism to help the poor and vulnerable countries.

Since the beginning of the COP19 on November 11, the civil society organisations have been holding coordination meetings among themselves, speaking for immediate release of finance at the negotiation tables and also demonstrating in and outside the conference venue to press the nations for a fruitful negotiation.

In a joint statement, they said: “We are now focusing on mobilising people to push our governments to take leadership for serious climate action. We will work to transform our food and energy systems at a national and global level and rebuild a broken economic system to create a sustainable and low-carbon economy with decent jobs and livelihoods for all. And we will put pressure on everyone to do more to realise this vision.”

The observers think coming out of the Warsaw climate conference, it is clear that without such pressure, the governments cannot be trusted to do what the world needs. “We will return with the voice of the people in Lima [Puru’s capital, venue of climate summit next year] to hold our governments accountable to the vision of a sustainable and just future,” said the press release.

This year’s climate talks is dubbed as “finance COP,” since the issue of formulating an international loss and damage mechanism to help the climate vulnerable nations already in peril is supposed to be settled here. Moreover, the functions and modalities of Green Climate Fund, under which the developed nations had pledged to support with $100bn every year from 2020, are yet to be finalised.

However, the progress so far is not satisfactory because of opposition from the developed nations, especially Australia, the US, Japan, Canada, the European Union and host Poland, say the observers.

Only two days before the conference began, Super-Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines where death toll is reportedly between 2,500 and 10,000 with millions of people, animals, establishments and land affected by the calamity.

The movements think there are few indications that the governments of rich industrialised countries will allow the talks to make meaningful progress. Already the US stressed that they were already giving aid to the poor countries when there are disasters while the EU maintains that to reach the goal of finance issue, it needed time.

While raising reservations about the finance issue, Australia last week announced that they wanted to cancel a very successful climate legislation that they have. Host country Poland has repeatedly been criticised for its pro-coal policy which the protesters say goes against the opinion of the countrymen. In parallel with the COP19, the Polish government organised an international coal and climate summit which has created much hype at the talks.

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,” says a press release of the WWF.

“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. In fact, 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.”

Samantha Smith, leader of WWF's Global Climate and Energy Initiative, said: "We have been forced to take this action because of the failure of governments to take these talks seriously. We are not walking away from the UN process on climate change, just this conference in Warsaw, where the interests of the most polluting industries have been set above the needs of global citizens.

"Talks like these amount to nothing if countries refuse to come to them and negotiate in good faith or worse, try to drag the process backwards. There comes a point where the only option is to say enough is enough and to leave. With the science clearer than ever on the risk posed by dangerous climate change, heads of state need to step in and show leadership and drive this process forward.”

Jagoda Munic, chairperson of Friends of the Earth International, said: “Polluters and corporations dominated this conference with their empty talk, so we walk away from it in protest. Polluters talk, we walk.

“While people around the world are paying with their lives and livelihoods, and the risk of runaway climate change draws closer, we cannot sit by this egregious inaction and let corporate profits come before peoples' lives,” Munic said in a press statement.

Philippine Climate Commissioner Naderev Saño said: "It has been very difficult for my delegation negotiating with the typhoon at the back of our minds. It is also very frustrating to see the lack of urgency in this process. Over the last two weeks, we have been dismayed by actions by developed countries that lowered their emission reduction targets even as they continue to block progress on finance and loss and damage. Political will seems to be going in the opposite direction.”

In solidarity with those who walked out of this conference, he said: “We thank you for your support. While we physically cannot join you, we are with you in spirit. We share your anger and frustration.

“To those who are left in the conference centre, we are seeing this sense of frustration spreading not just in Warsaw but all over the world. We must heed the call for serious action and urgency."

Fossil of the day

On Thursday, the first place fossil went to India for continuing to be a spoilsport on equity at the ADP sessions.

India was awarded a Fossil on Wednesday for pushing to get the only mention of equity to be deleted. And in the late night ADP session, India once again spoke against equity: opposing South Africa’s proposal on the Equity Reference Framework and wanting to cancel the equity workshop at the upcoming ADP session in Bonn.

Climate Action Network (CAN) International says it certainly expects more from a party that showed promise of being an equity champion just two years ago in Durban.

The CAN is a worldwide network of over 850 NGOs in more than 100 working to promote government and individual action to limit human induced climate change to ecologically sustainable levels.

Care for the Filipino animals

Apart from groups supporting the affected people of the Philippines with food and medicine, volunteers of World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), the only organisation to have a global full-time disaster management team, have been working in typhoon affected Cebu City.

Mike Baker, CEO of the WSPA, said: “Our people on the ground say that the shocking number of human casualties looks likely to be reflected in a similar picture for their animals. With over a million farmers affected, we know that animals will urgently need help in the form of emergency food, water, shelter and vets for the injured.”

In a statement, he said: “The scale of the destruction is unprecedented. By helping animals now, we can also help the people of the Philippines to recover in the long-term.

“About one billion of the world’s poorest people rely on livestock and other animals for transport, food and their livelihoods. This is why so many governments have been convinced to prepare plans and take action for animals as well as people, when disaster strikes.” 

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