Typhoon Haiyan casts gloom over climate change summit

Philippines' negotiator appeals to nations to break deadlock on climate talks; says he won't eat till a meaningful deal is clinched

By Arnab Pratim Dutta
Published: Tuesday 12 November 2013

Plenary on ADP (Ad-hoc working group on Enhanced Actions under the Durban Platform), the working group charged with designing the elements of a 2015 deal in Paris

The streets of Warsaw reverberated with patriotism as thousands of  citizens came out of their homes to celebrate their Independence Day. People carrying white and red flags and balloons lined up along the streets to catch a glimpse of a colourful parade that marked the 95th anniversary of Poland’s Independence day. It was a day of festivity; even the president and prime minister of Poland mingled with the crowds participating in the celebrations.

But inside the National Stadium in Warsaw, the venue of the 19th Conference of Parties (COP 19) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), there was no such gaiety to be seen. The annual climate change negotiations began on a cautious note. Negotiators from the Philippines, which was battered by the strongest typhoon ever, Haiyan that has reportedly claimed over 10,000 lives, made desperate appeals for urgent progress in the deadlocked talks.

Discomforting reminder

“This will have profound implications for many of our communities, especially those who struggle against the twin challenges of the development crisis and the climate change crisis. Typhoons such as Yolanda (Haiyan) and its impacts represent a sobering reminder to the international community that we cannot afford to procrastinate on climate action,” said Yeb Sano, head of the Philippine’s delegation.

People celebrated National Day on the streets of Warsaw. But there was no gaiety at the National Stadium, venue of COP 19  (photos by Arnab Pratim Dutta)

“To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change, I dare you to get off your ivory tower and away from the comfort of your armchair,” said Sano who discarded his written notes and announced he was not eating until a meaningful deal was reached in this summit.

The Warsaw COP is not a major climate change meeting but a preparatory one for COP 21 in Paris in 2015 where a global agreement on climate change is expected to be signed. But there are several issues that need to be resolved first; these include finance and mechanism to identify loss and damage arising from global warming.

Poland comes under heavy fire

On the opening day of the conference, the host country, Poland, came under heavy criticism from the developing countries for suggesting a market-based mechanism like Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) even without the parties setting mitigation targets for a 2015 deal in Paris. The Warsaw COP is already being seen as one promoting business—the International Coal and Climate Conference will run parallel to the climate change summit from November 18. The developing countries, especially the Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) group, which include China, India and the Philippines, strongly opposed any move to begin negotiations on market-based mechanism.

UNFCCC chief told not to visit coal conference

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of UNFCCC has been asked by the YOUNGO (Young Non Government Organization) not to engage in or attend the coal conference. In a letter written on November 8, the youth coalition said: “it is with deeply held concerns that we ask you (Figueres) to attend Powershift Central and Eastern Europe this year, as it disappointed us greatly to hear that you will also speak at the World Coal Association’s international summit.”


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