17th Mar 2018

NGOs walk out of climate talks in Warsaw

  • Climate talks in Warsaw enter final week (Photo: Mikko Itälahti)

Over a dozen leading pro-environment NGOs walked out of the United Nations climate change talks in Warsaw on Thursday (21 November) saying that a handful of countries, led by Poland, are threatening to derail a future global agreement.

The World Wildlife Fund, along with Oxfam International, Greenpeace and others, issued a joint statement condemning the Warsaw climate talks as a sham.

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“Enough is enough,” they said.

Martin Kaiser of Greenpeace told EUobserver that Poland and its Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, “haven’t shown any leadership for these negotiations.”

On Wednesday, Tusk dismissed his minister of environment, Marcin Korolec, and replaced him with a former deputy finance minister responsible for preparing shale gas taxation.

“He [Tusk] wants to push more fuel industries in Poland. He is listening to the coal industry, rather than his people,” said Kaiser.

Poland generates 90 percent of electricity from coal.

But other big EU member states are also showing reluctance. Kaiser noted that Germany has not sent any signals that it is prepared to back ambitious carbon-reducing emissions.

Country negotiators are unable to set a timetable, an essential component in the talks, on when to scale back their respective carbon emission output.

Each country is required to set their own carbon mission target date, which is then assessed by others.

The talks are supposed to commit countries to a timetable so that world leaders can sign a global climate agreement in Paris in late 2015.

“Without a timetable set out, we have no leverage to make sure that countries have to come together to work on this before Paris,” an EU official told The Guardian, a British daily.

Last week, Japan reneged on its commitments altogether, when it announced it would scupper its original 25 percent carbon reduction target by 2020.

The new target is a 3 percent increase, compared to 1990 levels, for 2020.

Australia also backtracked on previous commitments, infuriating smaller developing countries who say a changing climate impacts them the most.

China is wary of setting a timetable, along with a handful of other countries including Venezuela and India.

Experts say that if countries like China do not commit to mitigation targets then it would become impossible to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels - needed to prevent dangerous levels of climate change.

The US, Brazil, South Africa, and Mexico are reportedly in favour of a timetable so long as everyone else commits to one as well.

Environmental groups, along with leading climate scientists, warn that the scale and intensity of natural disasters are set to increase due in part to industrial pollutants introduced directly into the atmosphere.

They point to the recent typhoon in the Philippines, which affected up to 13 million, and killed almost 4,000.

But Poland is said to be watering down draft agreements, while at the same time, hosting a parallel conference on coal in the capital.

“We are not walking away from the UN process on climate change, just this conference in Warsaw, where the interests of the most polluting industries have been set above the needs of global citizens,” said Samantha Smith, lead climate expert at WWF, in a statement.

The EU, for its part, wants its member states to cut greenhouse emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

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