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COP 19: Climate talks opened with tears

 

Posted Wednesday July 06, 2016

COP 19, UN Climate Summit, Haiyan, Coal, Energy  
 

Yeb Sano’s emotional address and description of the plight of people in post-Haiyan Philippines couldn’t hold the emotion longer in the summit as the politics of the conference took over with the Polish hosts came under attack from green groups because of the Government's support to the coal industry, opening of new lignite mines and power stations.

 

Basudev Mahapatra

 
 

Typhoon Haiyan and the devastation caused by it in Philippines overshadowed the opening day of U.N. climate talks – COP 19 – on November 11, Monday, at Warsaw, Poland.  The envoy from the Philippines, Yeb Sano, broke down in tears and gave a call to the world to be serious about the issue of climate change and come with strong actions to save the mankind from its disastrous impacts.

Super Typhoon Haiyan – one of the strongest storms ever recorded – is believed to be one of Asia’s most destructive natural disasters in recent decades. “With unconfirmed wire service reports of about 10,000 dead in Tacloban alone, Typhoon Haiyan threatened to become the deadliest disaster in Philippine history, surpassing Tropical Storm Thelma, which killed 5,000 people in 1991,” reported The Washington Post.

 

Sano connected Typhoon Haiyan to climate change and the fossil fuel industry’s role in fuelling the crisis. He spoke of the terrifying devastation that Typhoon Haiyan wrecked upon the Philippines, before connecting the dots directly to the climate crisis.

Referring to the view of a class of scientists who deny connection of global warming with any single weather event, Sano gave a call to those “who continue to deny the reality that is climate change” saying, “I dare you to get off your ivory tower and away from the comfort of you armchair.” He further said, “I dare you to go to the islands of the Pacific, the islands of the Caribbean and the islands of the Indian ocean and see the impacts of rising sea levels; to the mountainous regions of the Himalayas and the Andes to see communities confronting glacial floods, to the Arctic where communities grapple with the fast dwindling polar ice caps, to the large deltas of the Mekong, the Ganges, the Amazon, and the Nile where lives and livelihoods are drowned, to the hills of Central America that confronts similar monstrous hurricanes, to the vast savannas of Africa where climate change has likewise become a matter of life and death as food and water becomes scarce. Not to forget the massive hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern seaboard of North America. And if that is not enough, you may want to pay a visit to the Philippines right now.”

“In solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home and with my brother who has not had food for the last three days, I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate. This means I will voluntarily refrain from eating food during this COP until a meaningful outcome is in sight,” said Sano in his address at COP 19.

After Sandy, which hit the US east coasts in November 2012, Haiyan once again initiated the debate over climate change connection behind such disastrous storms. But Sano’s emotional address and description of the plight of people in post-Haiyan Philippines couldn’t hold the emotion longer in the summit as the politics of the conference took over with the Polish hosts came under attack from green groups because of the Government's support to the coal industry, opening of new lignite mines and power stations.

Julia Michalak, a Pole from the Climate Action Network, said that the Polish Prime Minister was in the hands of the state-owned coal company. “He had lowered expectations from the conference and blocked European Union progress on emission targets. Poland simply did not deserve to host such a prestigious event,” she said adding that “He has declared that coal will be at the heart of the energy sector for the next decades and he is mainly responsible for people in the here and now, and not for future generations. So he does not care about my future or that of my children, he is looking for current electoral success.”

In reply Beata Jaczewska, head of the Polish delegation, said Poland could not phase out coal straight away. It was building new coal stations to replace old, inefficient ones and so saving emissions. The Polish Government was working towards an international agreement that covered all nations, so that the global temperature increase did not exceed 2C above pre-industrial levels.

Choosing a middle path between the horrifying impacts of disasters and the energy needs forcing many countries to go for coal fired power plants, Christina Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Climate Change Convention, said negotiations needed to concentrate on developing existing funds and methods of delivering them so that developing countries could adapt to climate change.

Much was being done to combat climate change, but it was not enough. “Efforts have to be faster, higher and stronger if we are to avoid the 2C limit we have already agreed”, she added.

As the demand for phasing out coal came into fore, hope for a strong outcome to deal with the climate crisis started dimming. Because it’s not only Poland but many other countries like India have extensive plans to exploit the coal reserves and produce coal fired energy. India has planned for many mega and ultra mega power plants based on coal.

It indicates that the emotional appeal of Sano may not have enough impact on the countries that are dependent on coal for their energy needs.

So, what can be expected from COP 19?

[Based on inputs from 350.org and Climate News Network]

 
   
 

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