Environment groups walk out of Warsaw climate talks | RenewEconomy

Environment groups walk out of Warsaw climate talks

In an unprecedented move, leading environmental NGOs have walked out of the UN climate talks in Warsaw, saying they had had enough of the “coal COP”



Leading global environment and civil society groups have dramatically walked out of the United Nations COP19 climate change talks in Warsaw in an unprecedented move in UNFCCC conference history.

The talks in Warsaw have been dogged by uncertainty and a lack of progress, with campaign groups complaining daily of blocking tactics and buck-passing by many governments.

Groups including Greenpeace International, WWF, Oxfam International, ActionAid International, Friends of the Earth Europe and the International Trade Union Confederation joined the walkout.

Losing patience with the Warsaw talks, the groups accused governments of putting the interests of the “dirty energy lobby” first and of failing to address a global “climate crisis”.

In a statement, the groups said: “enough is enough” but some stressed they were not walking away from the UNFCCC process entirely, promising to return for the talks in Lima, Peru, in 2014.

The statement said: “The Warsaw Climate Conference, which should have been an important step in the just transition to a sustainable future, is on track to deliver virtually nothing. “In fact, the actions of many rich countries here in Warsaw are directly undermining the UNFCCC itself, which is an important multilateral process that must succeed if we are to fix the global climate crisis.”

The groups were preparing to speak to media and delegates inside Poland’s National Stadium before collectively walking out, handing in their official UNFCC badges.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said: “Oxfam is walking out of these talks because governments need to know enough is enough. People around the globe have a right to know about the desperate state of these negotiations.

“The stakes are too high to allow governments to make a mockery of these talks. Climate change means real and harmful impacts on people right around the globe. “It means people losing their lives, homes and livelihoods in floods and typhoons. It means people going hungry because crops have failed and food prices have sky rocketed. This is happening today – without action there will be worse to come tomorrow.

“Government’s primary responsibility is the security of their people. They are failing in this responsibility. They must draw a line under the Warsaw talks and come back in 2014 ready for meaningful discussions on how they will deliver their share of the emissions reductions which scientists say are needed and their share of the money needed to help the poorest and most vulnerable countries adapt.”

“We must demand action together – without this pressure our governments will simply not deliver what is needed.”

Samantha Smith, leader of WWF’s global climate and energy initiative, said: “We have been forced to take this action because of the failure of governments to take these talks seriously.

“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.

“Talks like these amount to nothing if countries refuse to come to them and negotiate in good faith or worse, try to drag the process backwards. There comes a point where the only option is to say enough is enough and to leave. With the science clearer than ever on the risk posed by dangerous climate change, heads of state need to step in and show leadership and drive this process forward.”

Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace, addressing the media about the walkout. Photo credit: Brendan DeMelle, DeSmogBlog

This story was originally published at DeSmogBlog. Reproduced with permission.

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  1. suthnsun 7 years ago

    A sad, sad day. I understand and agree with their strategy (to walk out) . I have said for a long time that governments seem unable to transcend their cognitive dissonance and deeply conflicted behaviours wrt ghg emissions. We really do need a mass grass roots global movement with clearly expressed unconflicted simple goals and sufficient momentum to counterweigh the corporate weight and shortsightedness.
    My preferred first step is to implement a global ban on fossil fuel exploration as soon as possible (yesterday!). This can only happen when the focussed and united resolve of sufficient global citizens speaks out and demands it.

    • Pedro 7 years ago

      Government negotiations on ghg emissions are appalling. Goes to show that most governments are in the pocket of big mining interests. But relying on our corporate elected leaders is not the only tool in the belt. I am going to head down the path of a grassroots divestment strategy. Hit them in the pocket as profit and loss seem to be the only thing they understand. The more uncompetative we can make the fossil fuel industry the better for RE investment.

      • suthnsun 7 years ago

        So Pedro, as I understand you, you would vote yes to a global referendum supporting a ban on fossil fuel exploration? (I would since it would be the quickest way to focus everyone’s mind and resources on making the transition and not wasting $200 billion or so a year on ff exploration)

        • Pedro 7 years ago

          If I ruled the world I would like to ban ff exploration and digging it up, but I don’t see how you can get agreement on a global referendum to ban ff exploration when you have professional monkey wrench countries like Australia involved. (your thoughts??).

          I believe in being “economically rational”, the cheapest form of energy (including externalities) should be the winner. firstly we need to set a fair price on pollution. Remove perverse incentives to burn ff. Remove vested interests of incumbents (state ownership of generation). Remove barriers to RE market penetration. I think it is also important to inform investors (banks/super annuation funds) of the risks of investing in the ff industry to hopefully increase the cost of finance.

  2. Keith 7 years ago

    Very sad that the good guys had to leave, although I understand why. It does however indicate disempowerment and this needs to be addressed.

    I think the time has come where there are enough countries committed to action that those using spoiling tactics can be the ones told to leave. Warsaw (and other international meetings) aren’t Australia’s plaything to mess up.

    Time to kick the bullies out. Not sure how this can be engineered, but it seems amongst the most important next steps. Let Australia (Canada, Poland) cool their heels on the sidelines and have to put up with what the grownups decide to do.

    • suthnsun 7 years ago

      How provocative Keith “grownups decide to do”!? LNP will be incensed by your suggestion they are not the adults.
      A good idea though, being on the ‘outer’ should be good medicine for a remotely well-adjusted person. On the other hand, recent events are showing very clearly the degree to which this ‘person’ is not very psychologically healthy so you run the risk of them becoming quite febrile.

      • Keith 7 years ago

        Hi Suthnsun,

        I guess this isn’t a game, so time for those who are concerned about the future stood up to bullying. With Mark Textor, a bruising bully, a significant advisor to Abbott, push back is essential.

        I’m becoming convinced that the Coalition needs to be “called” on its outrageous behaviour, not just here but more so in the international spotlight. Years of effort are being trashed and I for one am not prepared to say that I agree with this.

        I know it isn’t an easy course as lots of countries are playing it hard, but nevertheless there is increasingly an awareness that this is serious and hiding behind “let’s wait until the economy improves” isn’t going to work. The truth is that increasingly the cost of not acting is going to get in the way of addressing the various problems.

        • suthnsun 7 years ago

          Agree entirely, Keith. If we can think of productive ways to push back let’s do it!

          • Motorshack 7 years ago

            If you want “productive ways” to cut carbon pollution, just stop buying the products in question. No need for grand political movements or formal government policies. Just don’t buy fossil fuels or the products that depend upon them.

            My personal carbon footprint is less than a tenth of the average for the English-speaking world, and the change has been purely a question of personal choice. I don’t own a car, I don’t eat meat, I don’t have a big house, and yet I live very well. My diet is quite well balanced, my living quarters are warm, clean, and dry, I have world-class health care, and I have access to modern telecommunications. I am also very well educated, even though I have spent very little money on my education.

            The real problem is not corrupt politicians or evil, greedy corporate managers, but is rather the large mass of people who simply are too comfortable – or perhaps too stupid – to do what is obviously and easily possible. Instead they sit around blaming others for their own failure to do what they could do right now, on their very own authority, and at no financial cost whatsoever.

            Indeed, one of the advantages of my lifestyle is the huge amount of money I save. In contrast, the rest of the “rich” world is mired in the gigantic debt they have accumulated to finance their current carbon-intensive lifestyle.

            So, I trust that you will excuse me while I sneer at this level of stupidity. From where I sit most people in the “developed” world are getting exactly what they have bargained for.

          • suthnsun 7 years ago

            Pushing back against fossil fuel consumption on an individual level is a splendid strategy and the broader support we can gather from everywhere to doing that the better. I think Keith was referring more to a pushback, at a political level, against our recalcitrant new government here in Oz. This is something I am looking for help with because it’s not something that I am familiar with and don’t see particularly productive examples. I did attend the getup climate action rally last weekend, that’s a first for me.
            Would you support a global referendum to ban fossil fuel exploration as a first step Motorshack? (perhaps UNFCC could set up ‘constabulary’ to police it, once we got a better than 50% by country and by population agreement)

          • Motorshack 7 years ago

            You’re missing (or deliberately glossing over) my entire point.

            If people stopped buying the products, the political question would be moot in the first place.

            I read on this website that a ten percent drop in electric demand is all but wrecking the business models of the conventional power industry. So, what would a fifty percent drop do?

            And don’t tell me how tough that would be. My average electric bill is about one dollar (U.S.) a day, despite the fact that I use electric heat in northern New England, and all my power comes from the grid. Yet, I am not suffering in any way at all. I just do not buy one watt-hour more than I need.

            I say again, I do not waste my time kissing the asses of corrupt, spineless politicians. I just go straight for the throat of the fossil fuel industry. It is a lot more fun, and it actually works.

            Moreover, it is the only thing that does work.

          • suthnsun 7 years ago

            I think I applauded the first phase of your point Motorshack, i.e individuals by their deliberate lack of personal ff consumption and in aggregate make a big difference – entirely laudable.
            The second phase is to treat consumptions which are ‘overheads’ to personal consumption and so intrinsically out of reach to those individual efforts. i.e all broadacre food production especially grains etc. and cotton which are currently very ff dependent. , all levels of government and infrastructure and defence etc. etc.
            So, as I see it ,there is a limited scope available there and it requires knock on effects even beyond collapsing the targeted business models, since we need to go to zero emissions globally very soon. So necessitating a pathway to motivating it and achieving it. These are technical and political areas.

            Some aims can be accomplished in parallel, some are naturally sequential, some actions leverage others, all are necessary to be understood and used productively to get to the necessary and sufficient endpoint…

            My personal preference has always been and would always be to act independently and in no way governmentally or corporately but I know the global solution required of us currently demands more than that can deliver.

            Have I still ‘glossed over’ your point, I can’t see it myself.

            Your eunuch metaphor is very unsavoury but did express your viewpoint very aptly. Humanity certainly has to do better than that at every level and that’s a big leap from current performance I grant you.

          • Motorshack 7 years ago

            If my metaphor is “unsavoury” then what language should we use to describe the destruction of the entire ecosystem on which we all depend? And what language is appropriate to describe wealthy countries that fart around endlessly, instead of reacting effectively to the problem? Immoral? Hopelessly brain-dead? Deserving of everything they get?

            As for farming, you don’t want to get me started. I once spent four years married to an organic farmer, and the issues you mention are not even a decent warm-up exercise for a real debate on environmentally sensitive agriculture.

            For one thing, most grain is grown as feed for livestock, who then walk off fully 90% of the food value originally in the grain. So, at the very best, eating meat is only 10% efficient on nutritional grounds. Thus, if we all went vegetarian, the global food crisis would be brought under control almost instantly, and we might well need less acreage to be plowed up in the first place.

            Then there is the small matter of wasting somewhere between a third and half of all the food that is grown. It rots in the fields, or it gets thrown out because it stays on the store shelf too long, or the end-user scraps a good chunk of what does make it all the way to the kitchen.

            For another thing, more labor intensive organic methods not only use fewer pesticides and less fossil fuel, but have the potential to be much more productive, because of something called “inter-cropping”. This is a technique in which several complementary crops are grown on the same bit of land at the same time, which cannot be done easily, if at all, on highly mechanized industrial farms. Human workers can easily walk through such fields without stepping on things, but tractors cannot.

            The overall point is that you are just parroting, very dutifully, the usual tired propaganda put out by the corporate folks who do not want anyone looking too closely at the way they run the food business.

            In contrast, I have spent years actually growing a large fraction of my own food, and experimenting at first hand with these techniques. These methods work, and, again, anyone, even in the city, could benefit from using them personally, but most people have not even begun to think about the question. Never mind intelligently.

            Finally, if you want a massive example of what is possible in the absence of fossil fuel, go read up on what Cuba did when their subsidized oil supply disappeared after the collapse of the Soviet Union. They were pretty hungry for a couple of years, and among other things they went back to plowing with oxen, but they are now quite self-sufficient in food, and use nowhere near the fuel that the “developed” countries do.

            So, I stand by my original point.

            Changing personal buying habits is the only thing that will actually work, but unfortunately the vast majority of people seem to have the curiosity and audacity of the average sock puppet.

          • suthnsun 7 years ago

            Motorshack, you have a great many skills and are obviously very clear thinking, so I guess you have achieved personally about as ‘fulsome’ a consumption reduction as an individual can achieve in your habitat.
            The differences in approach between us seem to be;
            1) I am targeting decline in ff consumption, you are targeting reduction in all consumption rightly on the basis of underlying ff use.
            2) If emissions intensity was ratcheted down to say <10g/kWh globally plus energy efficiencies of 50% achieved then the effective emissions at that point compared to today would be <5g/kWh and I would be happy with that as long as it happens fast enough because carbon sinks may take the rest to slightly negative – i.e world saved from complete catastrophe but 'frivolous' consumption still may go on at a subdued pace. On the other hand you seem to want efficiencies of 90% , elimination of frivolous consumption and not really targeted ff emissions reductions.
            3) I think the practical 'reach' for an individual's personal use of ff energy is somewhere between 30 and 50% of the total used by society, hence to get at the other 50% we need some sort of political global solution.
            You think personal decisions can account for 75% with sufficient rigour but I can't tell from what you say where the other 25% will come from and so I can't tell how we could reach the sufficient target.

            4) I think if we did agree, by some global mechanism, to ban ff exploration it would set off a trillion dollar pa investment in a total transition of the energy economy and to a lesser extent transition social organisation. In very short order the ff economy would be finished entirely. You think everyone must slash personal consumption and implode the economy but would resist a global agreement of any kind(?) I can't see how you get to turn off coal generation?

            It sounds like the thinking processes you have pursued plus the lifestyle 'technologies' you have accumulated are a store of 'wisdom', intrinsically educative, I hope you continue to find ways to use and expand those..

          • Motorshack 7 years ago

            My most fundamental concern here is a combination of two things.

            First, I doubt very profoundly that human beings in general are really capable of acting all that intelligently in groups. They are too easily conned into things that sound plausible, but really only serve the interests of the small group running the con game.

            The particular problem is that coordinating a group almost inevitably involves a hierarchical communications structure, and the folks at the top get an overwhelming amount of editorial control over what is said in public.

            That might make me sound like a cynic, but actually I am a retired software designer with a couple of decades of experience in the telecommunications business. That work has convinced me that human social groups are either very small or they are organized as hierarchies, and it is very, very hard to come up with anything else.

            And that in turn is why I focus my personal energy on what an individual can do with a minimum of involvement in the political hierarchy. Unfortunately, most people are so habituated to listening to those at the top of the heap that they simply do not realize what they could do on their own, which is actually a very great deal.

            So, that is the social problem.

            Politicians, of course, may get around to doing something effective about climate change, but only if it gives them a competitive edge against other politicians. The actual problem they are solving does not appear to be anything more than a convenient excuse for playing the game. Their chief goal is to stay at the top of the heap, and nothing more.

            Of course, I have no objection to anything that contributes to a solution to the environmental problem, but I have no real expectation that politicians as a class actually care about that at all.

            Second, our environment is threatened by much more than global warming. That is a big problem, but even if we stop pumping CO2 into the air and oceans we are still at grave risk of causing a global collapse of the ecosystem, and avoiding that does indeed involve cutting our material consumption to the very bone.

            For example, in the last three or four decades about 40% of all agricultural land, both actual and potential, has been turned into desert. In part that is climate change, but that is only one factor. It is also the result of bad management such as overgrazing, pumping out fossil water aquifers, etc.

            Now, I know about such things because, as mentioned in a previous comment, I was once closely involved in farming, so I tend to follow such news, and I know where to get that news from non-mainstream sources. However, I’ll bet that most people reading this have no idea how fast we are wrecking our one and only real source of food.

            So, the combination strikes me as lethal for our species. We are probably too stupid to organize effectively, and even if we were smart enough we are far to ignorant to take action in an intelligent manner. We are too focused one problem to even notice how many others are about to kill us as well.

            In short, we are totally screwed, and the best we will manage, if that much, is that a few of our descendants will manage to survive, by the skin of their teeth, on a completely devastated planet.

        • Chris Fraser 7 years ago

          Our political power in consumerism might be limited to how we source our energy, or maybe divesting ourselves of fossil shares. But, somehow targeting countries that consume our coal would be altogether different. If we could somehow give Japan a disaster-proof Nuke (that is, it should be run by the French or the Americans and not Tepco), they would stop buying our coal. I’m sure ther are many ideas I’ve not heard of.

          • Motorshack 7 years ago

            Why bother? If you replace your Japanese car with a bicycle you will directly cause the Japanese economy to consume less energy. That in turn will cause them to buy less coal, if that is where the energy is coming from.

            The problem is that almost no one actually stops to consider how easily they could dispense with the car.

            Something like 75% of the global economy is consumer goods, so every time you figure out how to skip consuming something that bit of the economy simply ceases to exist, all the way back to the mining of the basic resources.

            And that is true no matter what sort of product we might talk about, or where it is made.

            Nearly everyone is living the life of a hamster, endlessly running nowhere on a wheel in a cage. Worse, every time someone starts to realize the futility of what they are doing, the corporate marketing people promptly convince them that the problem will be solved with a brand-new, gold-plated, high-tech, low-carbon wheel and cage. Just sign this handy installment loan contract, and you will be off and running again.

            In point of fact anyone can get off the wheel and leave the cage. There are no locks on the door. It is just clever marketing that keeps people from noticing that they could take complete control of their lives any time they want.

            So, after decades of watching most people volunteer, and often beg, for this sort of indentured servitude, I have to think there is something wrong with most people’s brains.

            And that, in turn, convinces me that human beings will take the planet straight off a cliff, without even slowing down. Apparently the majority of people simply cannot understand that they are the victims of a childishly simple con game.

  3. Nhan 7 years ago

    I knew before , will fail, unless someone took the initiative, make the breakthrough everyone must follow

  4. bruce 7 years ago

    And what GOD gave man is HIS WAY is better , but man in his IGNORANCE thinks hes better then Jesus Christ = TRUTH . AMEN

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