The Blog

Enough Is Enough: Why WWF Quit the Warsaw Climate Talks

On Thursday, an unprecedented and broad group of civil society organizations walked out of the UN climate change talks in Warsaw to protest the shocking lack of progress in the negotiations...

On Thursday, an unprecedented and broad group of civil society organizations walked out of the UN climate change talks in Warsaw to protest the shocking lack of progress in the negotiations.

It was a drastic step for us and one that did not come lightly. However, the Warsaw conference is on track to deliver virtually nothing, when instead it should have been a big and critical step towards global, just action on climate change.

WWF, with other groups including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, the International Trade Union Confederation, ActionAid, youth and gender organizations, and social movements from Latin America, Africa, the Philippines and many other places walked out. We took the decision to act in solidarity with the millions of people impacted by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and elsewhere, and with all climate impacted people.

Because we need to remember that climate change is real and it's killing people right now. Last week we heard directly from our colleagues in the Philippines heartrending stories about the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan, about families losing fathers, the many young children killed. They're sure that Haiyan is a vision of a future world of more intense storms.

To go from hearing that to listening to delegates at the climate talks show up empty-handed and unprepared to negotiate in good faith, particularly on issues affecting the most vulnerable people; to see countries like Japan backtracking on their previous commitments to cut emissions; to see Australia moving to water down domestic climate legislation and being cheered on by Canada, is sickening.

But the one of the worst things is that the Warsaw talks have put the interests of dirty energy industries over those of global citizens. The Polish government has supported a ludicrous 'coal and climate summit' in conjunction with the climate talks - akin to supporting a 'tobacco and health' summit at a conference on lung cancer.

Corporate sponsorship from big polluters has been plastered all over the conference venue, and the Polish Prime Minister has even sacked his environment minister and host of the talks Marcin Korolec in the middle of the conference, replacing him with a minister charged with aggressively promoting shale gas in Poland.

In short, these climate talks have stalled because of fossil fuel interests, governments backtracking on their commitments, and a total lack of urgency from negotiators. We as civil society are ready to engage with ministers and delegations that actually come to negotiate in good faith. But there's not much evidence of those in Warsaw.

We had no choice but to say enough is enough, and leave. Coming out of the Warsaw conference, it's evident that without such pressure, our governments cannot be trusted to do what the world needs to address climate change.

We should also emphasise that we're not walking away from the UNFCCC process. Global citizens need a global agreement on climate change. We will return to the UN climate talks but not to this meeting.

But by the time we get to next year's meeting in Lima, we urgently need to have political will, real commitments, and a clear path to a comprehensive and fair agreement in Paris 2015, where a new global agreement on climate change has to be signed.

Because one thing is crystal clear: The contrast between the slow pace of the climate negotiations and the speed needed to combat global warming has never been greater - we are running out of time.

As Achim Steiner of the UN's environment programme (UNEP) said this week, it will not be long before the pace of emissions reductions needed to stay below 2°C of global warming (the so-called maximum 'safe' level that UN members have agreed to try to keep warming below) may well be impossible.

Meanwhile, the impact of climate change is already being felt around the world. We will be back.