UNFCCC COP 19: Over 800 delegates walkout at UN Climate Change negotiations

By Uniting African Climate Change Reporters
Thursday, November 21, 2013

Negotiations at the ongoing climate talks in Warsaw took a dramatic turn today as over 800 delegates representing different civil society organisations staged a historic walkout at the conference. The delegates under the umbrella of an amalgam of civil society organisations from Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas led by the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), Greenpeace International, Oxfam, WWF, and ActionAid. Others include the International Trade Union Confederation, Friends of the Earth Europe and 350.org.

Citing frustration and disenchantment with the clear absence of commitment to agreements by developed countries, the groups maintained that their decision to walk out was the best in the circumstances as the Warsaw conference is already primed to arrive at a fruitless pitch. Delegates carrying placards with messages such as “enough is enough,” “Polluters talk, we walk,” and “we demand climate justice now” marched through the stadium before assembling outside to make speeches.

Mithika Mwenda of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) singled out Japan’s goalpost-shifting tactics as well as the “brazenly cold disposition of USA, Canada, Russia and Australia to immediate and deep emission cuts, changes to the development pathways, climate finance and technology transfer, and global emissions budget” as major pointers to the impending failure of the Warsaw conference hence the inevitability of the walkout.

According to Tasneem Essop of WWF, 800 civil society members have walked out believing that “the best use of their time” was now to focus “on mobilizing people to push our governments to take leadership for serious climate action.” In a similar vein, Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace declared to the surging crowd “The real hooligans are the CEO’s of fossil fuel companies.”

In its statement of support, 350.org stated that “It’s powerful to see groups from across civil society coming to the same conclusion that in order to keep open any hope of an international climate treaty, we need to challenge the power of the fossil fuel industry. By walking out of COP19, we’re walking into a fight with the real enemies to progress: the coal, oil and gas companies that have a stranglehold over our governments and economy. It’s time to stop sitting in negotiating halls and stand with the Philippines and millions more who are calling for real climate action in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.”

The well-coordinated walkout, which took the Polish national stadium venue of the conference by storm today was greeted with shock and disbelief by the conference secretariat and the UNFCCC. In a swift reaction today, Marcin Korolec, the sacked Polish Envrionment Minister who still chairs the COP in a statement declared, “I regret the fact that some NGOs decided to leave the COP19 climate conference to express their disapproval towards the extending negotiations. The climate conference and non-governmental organizations share common goals – all of us want to ensure effective climate protection. Non-governmental observers have always mobilized negotiators to greater efforts and ambitions.”

Korolec ended his statement on a positive note, asking the CSOs to reconsider their decision as “today in the morning after all-night negotiations, we have achieved considerable progress on climate finance. The talks about the shape of a new global agreement were also held throughout the night. I am convinced that we are getting closer and closer to the final success. I hope that the voice of NGOs will remain present in the discussion on how to solve the most important problems of our planet.”

The 2013 Climate conference in Warsaw has been bogged down by several issues including the sack of the COP President in a Polish government reshuffle on Wednesday, the controversial hosting of the World Coal Summit in Warsaw on Monday, Japan’s declaration of its inability to abide by a previous pledge to emission cuts and the historic action by the civil society organisations.
However, The U.N.’s climate chief, Christiana Figueres, believes that the conference would achieve its goals as “Everybody is working very hard; everybody is working through the night; there is nobody here who is lazy.”

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