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Protest actions mar UN climate talks in Poland

/ 12:33 AM December 15, 2018

Massive protest actions have sparked inside the Spodek arena in Katowice, Poland, on Friday, as the UN climate talks limped toward its end. Youth, women and indigenous peoples across the world called out their governments to side with people and not polluters and profit. INQUIRER photo / Jhesset O. Enano

KATOWICE, POLAND—As climate negotiators scramble to iron out the implementing guidelines of the Paris Agreement, environmental campaigners and activists from across the world demanded that they face the urgency of the climate crisis and heed the calls of the most vulnerable.

On Friday, massive protests and chants rang inside the Spodek arena in this southern Polish city, where the UN climate talks had been limping toward its confusing end. Their voices came with the hope that their cries would reach the closed-door meetings where negotiators hammer out the rulebook seen as the pathway to higher climate ambition.

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INQUIRER photo / Jhesset O. Enano

Over a hundred people gathered at the steps heading to the plenary rooms on Friday afternoon, demanding delegates from nearly 200 countries to side with the people and not polluters.

Aaron Pedrosa of the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development said governments, particularly from rich countries historically responsible for global warming, had “gotten away with murder” for the past 24 years, from when the UN climate talks began.

“Unless people will pressure their own governments, they will continue to trade climate change as if it were a commodity, as if our lives were commodity,” he said. “But humanity is no longer open for business.”

The participants of the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change—from country delegates to civil society organizations—have felt the pinch since last week, after political divides had begun to clearly manifest during the technical phase of the talks.

Finance remained a sticky point for all negotiating groups, as they iron out the specifics on how to deliver and report financial assistance that should be provided by rich countries to developing nations.

The talks are expected to spill over the weekend as countries try to find a common ground on key issues.

Civil society groups, meanwhile, raised alarm over the draft “Katowice text” that was released by the COP presidency at 3 a.m. on Friday. They lamented the draft’s weak language and its favorable provisions for rich nations. They also decried the absence of certain concepts significant to developing countries, such as financing loss and damage, which refers to irreversible effects of extreme weather caused by climate change.

There was also no mention at all of “youth” in the 144-page text, despite the clear, disastrous impacts that would be suffered by the young ones and the future generations if governments do not act urgently to curb their carbon emissions.

On Friday morning, over 30 students from Katowice skipped their classes to show the faces that would be most affected in the climate conversation. Their message was simple: their futures depend on the decisions that will be made in the next couple of hours.

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Following a global movement started by Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old activist in Sweden, they carried banners that read “#ClimateStrike” and “12 years left.” The latter was in reference to the timeframe revealed in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report for the world to slash carbon emissions to prevent catastrophic events due to climate change.

“I think that our politicians don’t know how much power we have and what we can do,” Gosia Czachowska, 15, said. “But I think that even if they ignore us, we will find a way to be heard.”

Sitting on the entrance steps and with country representatives passing by, the young people sang the words of the late Michael Jackson: “All I really know is that they don’t really care about us.” /jpv

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