Activists Walk Out on Climate Talks as Nations Disagree

Frustrated with a lack of progress from negotiators, activists groups made a dramatic exit just before the close of this year’s world climate change meetings by walking out en masse from Warsaw’s National Stadium, where the meetings were held. The 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held November 11–22, was meant to firm up the timeline for a legally binding 2015 agreement on climate change goals, but observers were dismayed by continued fighting over details among the delegates.

Six green activist groups, including Greenpeace and Oxfam, jointly announced their disgust with the process as they left the meetings, where they are only allowed to observe. Nations are still quarreling primarily over two key issues. One is the concept of funding for poor and undeveloped countries to deal with climate change and its consequences, and the other is the way responsibility should be divided up among countries for reducing carbon emissions.

Watch group Climate Action Tracker (CAT) released its own review of the talks as they drew to a close, presenting an even more frightening perspective. The group says lessening climate change ambitions among countries like Japan and Australia could lead to warming of 3.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. “Governments are taking a ‘bottom up’ approach to climate action, unilaterally degrading their pledges without review: the type of pledge first, review later approach to commitments that could lead to a very weak agreement in 2015,” said CAT’s Bill Hare.

The goal has long been to come up with a global agreement that would have a chance, according to scientific calculations, of limiting the average temperature rise to less than two degrees Celsius. The climate conference to be held in Paris at the end of 2015 has been earmarked as the time and place where such a deal should be struck. But it remains to be seen if the major stakeholders, including the United States and China, can find enough common ground.

U.S. special envoy for climate change Todd Stern reportedly was eager at the Warsaw meetings to come to an agreement on a timeline that would allow for a deal in Paris. Stern said the United States plans on having its own emissions reduction commitments in place by the first quarter of 2015. A sticking point in that agreement will be whether the major industrialized countries feel they are being burdened fairly relative to each other and to poorer countries.

The Conference of the Parties is set to reconvene in 2014 in Lima, Peru.


Published in WholeFoods Magazine, January 2014 (online 11/27/13)