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Warsaw Climate Talks Deliver Tepid Results: NGOs Walk Out in Protest

No agreements were reached on standards for lowering emissions, how reduction plans will be evaluated, or who will pay to help countries most affected by climate change.


Key development and environment organizations walked out of the international climate change talks held in Warsaw, Poland last month saying, according to, that the meetings were “on track to deliver virtually nothing.” Defectors included Oxfam, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Europe, and the World Wildlife Fund.  The activists said that the lack of progress was due in part to the heavy influence of the fossil-fuel industry, whose lobby was highly visible during the talks.  


At the same time, other organizations such as the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) did point to some progress having been made. Referring to agreements on new rules for financing forestry protection, Nat Keohane, vice president for international climate at EDF said, “Against the backdrop of talks that in so many other areas failed to deliver, I think this was a really bright spot.” Forest degradation and deforestation account for a significant 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.


The talks proved to be contentious throughout their two-week period as poorer and wealthier countries argued over who should bear the brunt for meeting existing targets to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the effects of climate change.


The U.S. and other countries agreed to put forward their individual plans for lowering emissions by 2015, but negotiators in Warsaw were unable to agree on crucial details such as what these plans must include or how they will be evaluated. For its own part, the United States has still failed to ratify the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.


The parties also discussed a goal, set in the Copenhagen talks of 2009, to mobilize $100 billion a year "loss-and-damage" mechanism for disaster relief for poorer countries by 2012. Yeb Sano, the head of the Filipino delegation, popularized this issue in the world press when he announced that he would go on hunger strike in solidarity with the people who had recently lost their homes to Super-typhoon Haiyan until a "meaningful outcome was in sight."  Sano fasted througout the entire conference, as Warsaw negotiators failed to develop the details for how to make this financial assistance to poorer countries a reality, including not agreeing on how much money will come from public sources versus private financing,   


Summing up the generally tepid results of the talks, Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate change and energy program at the World Resources Institute commented, “It’s quite clear that there’s not enough understanding of the real risks of climate change to people around the world. The level of ambition here is not yet adequate.”