Deal struck at climate-change summit

by
29 November 2013

Sean Hawkey/WLF

AT THE UN climate summit in Warsaw, Poland, last week, an agreement was struck to help the world's most vulnerable countries to deal with the impact of climate change.

Widely criticised as a missed opportunity to make progress on a global-emissions deal promised for 2015, the Warsaw summit came close to failure. The conference president, Marcin Korolec, was sacked from his job as Polish Environment Minister during the two-week meeting; and the hosts conducted a meeting of global coal-producers while the summit was taking place.

Negotiators and environment ministers from 190 countries were kept 24 hours beyond the Friday-evening deadline; but, after the meeting, the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage was created - a system designed to provide technical support, information, and, potentially, finance for the world's poorest countries who are suffering from climate change.

Typhoon Haiyan cast a shadow over proceedings. The head of the Philippines' delegation, Yeb Sano, made an emotional speech, saying that he was going to fast for the duration of the summit, or until meaningful action was taken to tackle climate change.

"Disasters are never natural," he said. "They are the accumulation of the constant breach of economic, social, and environmental thresholds. Most of the time, disasters are a result of inequity, and the poorest people of the world are at greatest risk because of their vulnerability, and decades of maldevelopment, which is connected to the kind of pursuit of economic growth that dominates the world; the same kind of pursuit of so-called economic growth and unsustainable consumption that has altered the climate system."

His symbolic "fast for the climate" triggered similar actions around the world. The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams, who chairs Christian Aid, led the call to fast in solidarity with Mr Sano and the victims of Haiyan, and urged governments to take action in Warsaw. An interfaith coalition announced that members would fast for a day a month until next year's conference in Lima, Peru.

There was a lack of new pledges to cut emissions, and also a lack of donations to the Green Climate Fund. Announced by developed countries in 2009, the fund is designed to provide $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor countries adapt and develop without having to rely on polluting fossil fuels.

A special one-day climate meeting of world leaders is to be hosted by the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon on 23 September next year, in New York.

One observer at the summit, the senior climate-change adviser at Christian Aid, Mohamed Adow, said: "This was a missed opportunity. . . We need a clear plan to fairly divide the global effort of responding to climate change, and a timeline of when that will happen.

"Next year needs to be the year of climate ambition, if we are to heed the words of Yeb Sano and stay on track for a deal in 2015 that assures a safe future for millions."

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