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Climate-change pilgrims trek 1500km to Poland

14 December 2018

Demands for greater action made during divided UN summit


Climate change protesters demonstrate in the city of Katowice, Poland, this week, where the UN Climate Summit is being held

Climate change protesters demonstrate in the city of Katowice, Poland, this week, where the UN Climate Summit is being held

A GROUP of pilgrims have walked more than 1500km, from Rome to the UN climate summit in Poland, to call for greater action to tackle global warming.

The pilgrims included Yeb Sano, a former UN negotiator for the Philippines who made headlines around the world when he spoke tearfully to a previous meeting in 2013, only hours after Typhoon Haiyan had destroyed his family home (News, 29 November 2013). His brother A. G. Sano, who survived the storm and dug the bodies of 72 of his neighbours from the rubble, also joined him on the pilgrimage.

The group set off from the Vatican on 4 October, and walked through Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, and arrived in Poland on Wednesday of last week.

Mr Sano, who now works for Greenpeace in the Philippines, said: “Every day without meaningful action on climate change is an injustice committed against the poor and vulnerable, who look desperately to us for relief. Climate justice unites people from around the world — we have been walking to bring to families who need it, and the Catholics of Poland are praying for solutions to the climate crisis. We pray that UN climate negotiators will heed our cry.”

Jane Mellett, from Ireland, also took part in the trek. “We’re walking in solidarity with the most vulnerable,” she said. “Climate-change impacts are already destroying lives, and the climate science is clear. We urge leaders to step up climate ambitions and pass rules that will keep global warming below 1.5ºC. The time is now. Act in courage and love to protect everyone who shares out common home.”

SEAN T HAWKEY PHOTOGRAPHYClimate change protesters demonstrate in the city of Katowice, Poland, this week, where the UN Climate Summit is being held

The summit, which is being held in the city of Katowice, the capital of Poland’s coal industry, will conclude this weekend. Nations are hoping to agree on a “rulebook” to measure the individual national pledges contained in the 2015 Paris Agreement, (News, 11 December 2015). These pledges currently add up to limiting global warming to between 2.7ºC and 3.5ºC, much higher than the 1.5ºC target agreed in Paris.

This is why poor nations also want countries to promise to review and strengthen their 2015 pledges by 2020, to close this gap.

At the talks, a dispute broke out over the recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which stated that the world had 12 years to prevent global warming of 1.5ºC. While 193 countries were happy formally to “welcome” the IPCC report, four — Saudi Arabia, Russia, Kuwait and the United States — refused, saying that they wanted only to “note” the report, despite signing off on it when it was published in October.

Christian Aid’s senior climate-change adviser, Mohamed Adow, described these four as rogue nations. “These four major fossil-fuel producers are working together against the interests of the rest of the world, and jeopardising the chances of a safe climate,” he said. “These nations are climate villains, and they must be opposed.”

While these countries were refusing to welcome the IPCC’s findings, news broke that glaciers in East Antarctica had been melting faster than previously thought. The Antarctic glaciers were believed to be some of the more stable in the world — more so than those in the Arctic. With enough ice in the drainage basin of this area to raise sea levels by 28 metres should it all melt, the consequences for low-lying and coastal areas around the world could be devastating, and may yet focus minds at the summit.

Scheduled to finish tonight, the talks may last into the early hours, and even until Sunday.


Joe Ware is a journalist at Christian Aid.

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