Environmental groups staged a walkout at the international climate talks in Warsaw, Poland Thursday, a voluntary withdrawal from the process that they say is due to the lack of progress at the talks.
About 800 people from organizations including Greenpeace International, World Wildlife Fund, Oxfam, 350.org and Friends of the Earth walked out of the conference Thursday, but made it clear that they were not walking out of the UNFCCC talks — which are held yearly, as a whole — just this year’s conference in Warsaw.
“Warsaw, which should have been an important step in the just transition to a sustainable future, is on track to deliver virtually nothing. We feel that governments have given up on the process,” a spokesman for WWF said.
This is the first time environmental groups have walked out of a UNFCCC conference. In a statement, the groups said they had grown tired of the conference’s gridlock over issues such as aid to help poor countries adapt to and mitigate climate change, as well as the apparent disconnect between Poland’s commitment to coal and its job as host of this year’s conference.
The Warsaw Conference has put the interests of dirty energy industries over that of global citizens — with a “Coal & Climate Summit” being held in conjunction; corporate sponsorship from big polluters plastered all over the venue; and a Presidency (Poland) that is beholden to the coal and fracking industry. When Japan announced that it was following Canada and backtracking on emission cut commitments previously made, and Australia gave multiple signals that it was utterly unwilling to take the U.N. climate process seriously, the integrity of the talks was further jeopardized.
We as civil society are ready to engage with ministers and delegations who actually come to negotiate in good faith. But at the Warsaw Conference, rich country governments have come with nothing to offer. Many developing country governments are also struggling and failing to stand up for the needs and rights of their people. It is clear that if countries continue acting in this way, the next two days of negotiations will not deliver the climate action the world so desperately needs.
Several other environmental NGOs chose to stay at the talks — the World Resources Institute, NRDC, Care International and some members of the umbrella group Climate Action Network declined to leave with the other NGOs staging the walkout.
“We’ll keep pushing from the inside,” Michael Oko from WRI said. “There is very deep concern. The issue is so serious and we need to get things moving.”
Environmental groups have expressed their frustration with the international climate talks before — during last year’s talks in Doha, Greenpeace International’s Kumi Naidoo called on President Obama to send the U.S. negotiators back home, claiming they were only “producing more hot air.” This year’s talks will wrap up Friday.