Coal Smoke Obscures Climate Ambition in Warsaw

[Warsaw, PolandNovember 23, 2013] Countries have been exposed at the climate negotiations, in Warsaw, as beholden to vested interests, such as the dirty fossil fuel lobby, after they once again missed an opportunity to put the world on a pathway to securing a comprehensive climate action plan in 2015, according to Climate Action Network.

“At the time when climate impacts are hitting communities around the world, we have seen the true nature of international climate politics: economic interests keen to maintain the status quo have been the hand pulling the puppet strings of governments in these negotiations,” Climate Action Network International Director, Wael Hmaidan, said.

The Warsaw meeting saw some developed countries inject an ominous air into the talks, leading to the evaporation of trust. For example, Japan rolled back its climate commitments and Australia tabled legislation to repeal its price on carbon during the first week of the talks. 

Then, BASIC countries pushed back on efforts to lock all countries into taking climate action as part of the 2015 Paris plan because they feel they have not been supported to take such action in the past, specifically, in regard to the absence of funding from developed countries like the EU and the US.

CAN welcomed the establishment of an international mechanism to provide expertise to help developing nations cope with loss and damage caused by climate impacts, though the mandate and scope of the mechanism will need to be strengthened to meet the needs of the vulnerable. 

Mohamed Adow, from Christian Aid, said: "In agreeing to establish a loss and damage mechanism, countries have accepted the reality that the world is already dealing with the extensive damage caused by climate impacts, and requires a formal process to assess and deal with it, but they seem unwilling to take concrete actions to reduce the severity of these impacts," Adow said.

On finance, a key issue at the Warsaw talks, the picture was mixed. The adaptation fund achieved its $100 million fundraising goal, and more money will flow to countries that can stringently prove they are reducing emissions from deforestation. But, no clear deadline was set to make the first payments into the Green Climate Fund and the road towards the $100 billion a year by 2020 commitment is murky, with no timelines, pathways, and sources outlined. Thus leaving developing countries without a predictable flow of funds to take climate action.

“Furthermore, Warsaw did not provide a clear plan to fairly divide the global effort of responding to climate change and a timeline of when that will happen, which is needed as countries progress towards the 2015 deal,” Adow said.

The intransigence of many countries has led to unprecedented levels of frustration within civil society. Hundreds of members of civil society, from the youth, faith, and environment movement, have fasted for the duration of the negotiations to call for climate action. The fasters are acting in solidarity with the Filipino climate commissioner, Yeb Sano, who called for countries to “stop the climate madness” at the opening of the talks just after his country was devastated by a typhoon. Haiyan was just a taste of the kind of extreme weather we can expect to increase if carbon pollution doesn’t peak in the next few years, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“A mass movement has now developed of people from throughout the world who will fast for a day every month until a deal to save the climate is agreed, in Paris, in 2015,” Hmaidan said.  

The movement emerged as many groups, including some CAN members, chose to walk out of the talks on Thursday.

With many countries, cities, and states to hold elections next year, civil society will go forward from Warsaw to issue a clarion call for citizens around the world to demand climate action from their governments. Attention will first turn to the EU, which must, in March, agree a strong carbon pollution reduction target for 2030.  

Next year will see climate change rocket back to the top of the international political agenda. The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, has put world leaders on notice to bring bold pledges and action to his Climate Summit, in September. 

Despite countries failing to bring the necessary mandate for change to Warsaw, the negotiations did add to the chorus of voices heralding the end of the age of coal, according to Liz Gallagher from E3G. Just this week, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres, reminded the dirty energy lobby that most of the known coal reserves must not be burned, destroying the Polish Government’s attempt to brand the fuel as climate friendly. 

Figueres' comment adds to those of the IEA, OECD and even businesses such as PwC, who are also calling for most fossil fuel reserves to remain untouched and for governments to put a price on carbon. 

“The fact remains the venue for international collaboration on solving this problem which, before long, will affect us all, is the UNFCCC,” Gallagher said. “Countries need to go home and spend some time listening to their people, rather than the dirty energy lobby and come back to the negotiating table next year with a serious approach to solving this problem and securing a climate agreement in Paris, in 2015,” Gallagher said

The Warsaw Outcome

  • A missed opportunity to put the world on a pathway towards a comprehensive climate action plan in 2015 that would keep the climate safe 
  • The establishment of an international mechanism to provide expertise to help developing nations cope with loss and damage caused by climate impacts was welcomed, though the mandate and scope of the mechanism will need to be strengthened to meet the needs of the vulnerable.
  • No progress was made on clear plan to fairly divide the global effort of responding to climate change and a timeline of when that will happen
  • On finance, a key issue at the Warsaw talks, the picture was mixed. Some European developed countries, including Germany and Switzerland, send a signal of trust by helping the Adaptation Fund reach its  USD100 million fundraising goal. While this can now be used to fund concrete adaptation projects in vulnerable developing countries, it is still only a drop in the ocean given the huge adaptation costs.
  • More money will flow to countries that can stringently prove they are reducing emissions from deforestation. A process for ensuring governance, and protecting indigenous people and biodiversity was established.
  •  But, no clear deadline was set to make the first payments into the Green Climate Fund and the road towards the $100 billion a year by 2020 commitment is murky, with no timelines, pathways, and sources outlined. Developing countries  have been left without a predictable flow of funds to take climate action.
  • Some simple accounting rules were agreed in regard to the information countries put forward on their climate action commitments

Contact:

For more information or for one-on-one interviews with NGO experts, please contact Climate Action Network International’s communications coordinator Ria Voorhaar on +49 (0) 157 317 35568 or rvoorhaar@climatenetwork.org

 

Climate Action Network (CAN) is the world’s largest network of civil society organizations working together to promote government action to address the climate crisis, with more than 850 members in over 100 countries.