Warsaw climate talks: activists shunted out for showing solidarity with typhoon-hit Philippines

Developed countries counter agendas of the EU and the US

By Arnab Pratim Dutta
Published: Wednesday 13 November 2013


The climate talks in Warsaw will see its share of drama, even though many see it as a preparatory meeting for the big Paris finale in 2015 when a global agreement on climate change is expected to be signed. On the second day of 19th Conference of Parties (COP 19) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as participants struggled to find their way through the labyrinthine corridors of the one million square metre National Stadium, the venue of the meeting, UNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figures banned three participants representing the Young Non-governmental Organisations (YOUNGOS).

Graham Thurston Hallett and Maria Alejandra Escalante from non-profit Earth in Brackets and Clémence Hutin from Young Friends of the Earth Europe, were banned indefinitely from attending the negotiations because they carried placards with the names of the towns in Philippines devastated by the super-typhoon.
YOUNGOS fast in solidarity

A YOUNGOS' media release said: “In an arrangement with the Philippines delegation to demonstrate their solidarity with those impacted by this climate disaster, civil society were to accompany Yeb Sano (head of Philippines delegation) from the plenary hall to a side-event. UN security were informed of the gesture some minutes prior to the action and a green light was given. Despite authorisation, the three young people accompanying Sano, who unfolded a sign with the names of some of the devastated Filipino towns in a gesture of solidarity, were reprimanded by security and ejected from the UN halls.”

“We find the decision from the executive secretary of UNFCCC unprecedented and exaggerated. This is a decision that needs to be undone, so that Maria, Clémence and Graham can join us for the rest of the climate talks,” said Maruska Mileta from Young Friends of the Earth Europe.

The YOUNGOS had earlier written to Figueres, requesting her not to attend the International Coal and Climate Summit, which will be held for two days in Warsaw starting November 18. Civil society has denounced the Polish government for facilitating this coal summit as it is seen as a way of giving legitimacy to continue use of coal as fuel.

Sano, who said he would be on fast till a meaningful deal is reached at the current climate talks, got unexpected support from the NGOs whose members have also decided to go on fast to show solidarity with him and his country. Wael Hmaidan, director of Climate Action Network, a coalition of over 800 NGOs from around the world trying to influence climate change negotiations, announced at a press conference that he along with other members of his coalition have begun their fast.
“Starting from today, we have noticed that different constituencies of civil society and actions of solidarity are coming… including climate action network and youth organisations coming and faith-based communities also joining the solidarity fast till the end of the COP. The YOUNGOS have decided that they will join this fast,” the activists said.
Developing countries renew old agenda
In the negotiating chambers, developing countries set the tone for the next 12 days remaining in the negotiations by countering a European Union proposal called the Equity Reference Framework.
The EU had proposed that the 2020 emission reduction pledges from all countries should be reviewed to see whether the collective pledges will cut enough to keep temperature rise to below 2°C. If there is a shortfall, the remaining amount has to be shared by all the countries based on a methodology it has devised.

The developing countries, led by the group called Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDCs), opposed this proposal at a plenary. LMDC, which also includes India and China, argued that by doing this, the differentiation between the developed and developing countries based on historical responsibility for carbon emissions will be erased, a red line which cannot be abandoned.

“As Article 3.1 states, equity lies in developed countries taking the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof. Non-Annex I Parties cannot be on the same template as the Annex I Parties,” LMDCs argued. They added that there are separate tracks on reporting and accounting rules as per the nature of the responsibility, as reflected in the two Annexes, and that it is not conceivable that the onerousness of the responsibility of Non-Annex I should be the same as Annex I.

The United States wants a similar mechanism, but does not stress on any commitments if an emission gap exists in case the combined emissions pledges are not enough to avert a temperature rise of more than 2°C.
The LMDCs' posture was seen as a counter to agendas of both the EU and the US.

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