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‘Sufferings of many’ pay for ‘luxuries of few’ as COP24 adopts guidelines for Paris accord

As critical negotiations on how to enact the Paris Agreement on climate change ended on Saturday, December 15, 2018 in Katowice, Poland, legal and policy experts joined grassroots campaigners in sharing their views at the direction of the talks.

Greta Thunberg
Greta Thunberg

Fifteen-year-old Swedish schoolgirl and climate activist, Greta Thunberg, told delegates in a viral speech on Thursday that “the sufferings of the many pay for the luxuries of the few,” and the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice led hundreds of activists in a sit-in occupation of the main area of the COP venue on Friday afternoon.

Negotiators then faced a gruelling late night as they attempted to find possible agreements, not reaching conclusions until Saturday evening.

Civil society representatives have been commenting on the final outcomes of the two weeks of talks.

Antonio Zambrano Allende, Clean Energy Coordinator of the Citizen Movement Against Climate Change (MOCICC), said: “The IPCC is crystal clear: to stay below 1.5 C warming we must act immediately to transform our economies. The cost of such action and the cost of adapting to and coping with even 1.5 C would undoubtedly be high, but the IPCC is also clear that the human and economic cost of any further warming would be enormous.

“In Katowice, the interests of rich people in rich countries dictated that, whatever the cost, it will be borne by the world’s poor, rather than those responsible – the world’s rich and rich countries – who have abandoned their moral and legal obligations yet again.”

Lidy Nacpil, Coordinator of the Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development: “Developed countries have kicked out anything meaningful about finance from the decision. They have refused to immediately begin work to set a new long-term finance goal and have failed to restock the Green Climate Fund.

“Money makes the world go round – it also makes the difference in terms of whether or not we can meet the Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5 C.

“Without a clear sense of what new grant finance is on the table, our governments are in an impossible position where they are forced to choose between the urgent needs of our people and picking up the slack for rich country laziness.

“Worse still, rich countries are even trying to turn developing countries into donors, completely shifting the responsibility to those who have contributed the least to the climate crisis. It’s as if they came into my home, burnt it down, and are now asking me to pay.”

Aaron Pedrosa, Executive Director of Bulig Pilipinas: “Climate change shocks are already hitting us in the South. As the storms, droughts, and floods increase so do the human and economic costs of the resulting loss and damage. We needed the Katowice COP to come up with a strong decision on ‘loss and damage’ to protect our communities at the frontlines.

“Instead, developed countries have spent two weeks blocking any link between loss and damage and finance right across the guidelines, to the extent of even relegating loss and damage to a mere footnote in the global stocktake text at one point.

“This outcome keeps the issue on the table but the fight we had to have to get it, and what was sacrificed in other areas, shows how determined developed countries are to shirk their responsibility. How many lives have to be lost in the South before they act?”

Meena Raman, legal expert at Third World Network: “One country in particular drew heat from media, activists, and even other Parties. Although Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Russia also objected to the COP ‘welcoming’ the IPCC Special Report, it was the United States that stood alone in openly rejecting the actual findings of the report. Its influence was not limited to this, however, as observers noted.

“The United States’ fingerprints are all over this outcome. Even though they are withdrawing from the Paris Agreement and will not be bound by these rules, still they want to ensure developing countries have onerous reporting obligations without support.

“So, what we have is the biggest polluter in history and the world’s current largest oil producer telling developing countries ‘you have the same responsibilities as we do’ while at the same time blocking progress on the necessary technology transfer and finance support.

“They have always said their way of life is not up for negotiation. They would rather trade away the right of the rest of the world to live.”

Asad Rehman, Director of War on Want: “The United States may be the official voice of Big Polluters at the climate talks but junior partners like Australia, Japan, and the EU have all been working hard to write a set of rules that do nothing to narrow their profit margins and everything to shift the burden to poor and vulnerable communities everywhere. The result is millions will he condemned to losing their homes, livelihoods, and even their lives. This is not only moral and political cowardice but a crime against people.

“The rulebook is the tail and the Paris Agreement is the dog. One should control the other. But in Katowice we have seen a cynical and coordinated attempt by developed countries, led by the United States, to have the tail wag the dog by using the rulebook to do what they couldn’t do in Paris – completely remove any recognition of their greater responsibilities.”

Sara Shaw, Co-Coordinator of Friends of the Earth International: “We always knew this was going to be a tough conference, taking place deep in the heartlands of the Polish coal industry, with companies like Shell, Exxon and BP inside the negotiations promoting the myth that we can stop climate change without dismantling the fossil fuel industry.

“We stand on the brink of catastrophe because corporate interests and fossil fuel money have infiltrated the climate talks to perpetuate the dirty energy system regardless of the cost for people and planet. The fact that Shell boasted this week of how it helped to write the Paris Agreement is only more evidence of this reality.

“We urgently need to fund real solutions, not waste time with dangerous distractions. But here we saw Brazil hold up the talks to allow speculators to profit off its forests through carbon credits. Carbon trading is a failed policy and that Brazil is trying to manipulate it here is just another example of why. That Brazil is prepared to copy the Trump playbook and push ideas that are obviously contrary to real climate action at these talks bodes badly for future progress.”

Sriram Madhusoodanan, Deputy Campaigns Director of Corporate Accountability: “Although civil society welcomed the call by some developing countries for countries to come to the 2019 Climate Summit in New York with improved pledges of both mitigation and, for developed countries, scaled-up finance, they expressed faith not in the process to deliver transformative change, but in people in the real world.

“While outside of the negotiations, the world is waking up to the stark reality of climate change and the short window we have for action, inside COP Global North government have used COP24 to bury their heads further in the sand and force corporate false solutions like carbon markets to the center of the global response.

“But, despite Global North obstruction, we’ve never seen a more united, organised and energised movement to demand climate justice. Governments are demanding it. People are demanding it. And we will get it.”

Mohamed Adow, International Climate Lead, Christian Aid: “To be honest, the most hopeful stories about climate change over the past two weeks have been from outside the walls of the summit. School children striking for their future, grass roots movements mobilising and even the world’s biggest shipping firm, Maersk, announcing it will go net zero emissions by 2050. The global transition is under way and cannot be stopped. The question is will governments help it go fast enough to help the world’s poorest on the front lines of climate change.”

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