Nov 20, 2013

COP 19 Warsaw: appeal by Filipino negotiator Yeb Saño: leaked doc shows U.S. concern about 'blame and liability'

At the UN climate summit in Warsaw (COP 19), Naderev "Yeb" Saño, the lead negotiator for the Philippines, appealed to the world to take urgent action in the face of climate change and the damage it is causing. He announced his decision to undertake a fast in solidarity with those in the Philippines who are struggling in the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan. Saño also delivered a petition signed by some 590,000 people around the world demanding greater efforts to deal with climate change and its fall-out.

Democracy Now notes that: "The talks are occurring as global carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels have reached a record high. According to the Global Carbon Project, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions rose 2.2 percent last year. Since 1990, when the Kyoto Protocol was signed, carbon dioxide emissions have soared 61 percent."

In an interview with Amy Goodman, Saño made a strong case for mechanisms that need to put in place given the increasing havoc and personal losses resulting from climate change:

Yes. Climate change, as we know, is wreaking havoc in many parts of the world, and we see this manifest in many kinds of impacts. Now, we talk about adaptation, which is the means for people, countries and communities to be able to cope or adjust to a changing climate. When people in natural ecosystems no longer are able to adapt adequately, then you incur losses and damages, as what we see when sea levels rise, when storms become more intense, when you have—when you have massive droughts. These are the things that happen, and we can no longer cope. And that’s why we need to establish this mechanism with this, what we can call a third wave of climate change, because we now see losses.

Now, this mechanism, as we discuss it here in the climate negotiations, aims to provide developing countries that are already incurring losses and damages a means to assess these losses. We need a new knowledge to tell us how these losses can be calculated, how they are associated with climate change. We have no mechanism in place for us to assess that. And this is what we’re asking for here. And I would say—and what I would tell our developed country partners is, why not? 

The big polluters, the U.S. and other industrial giants, have a responsibility to offset the impact of climate change - a road the U.S. delegation appears to fear will come with increased obligations. A leaked document - a U.S. briefing memo - makes it clear that the American delegation is concerned that Warsaw will "focus increasingly on blame and liability" and that poorer nations will be "seeking redress for climate damages from sea level rise, droughts, powerful storms and other adverse impacts."

If you're interested in more on this angle, you can also check out Amy Goodman's interview at COP 19 with Nitin Sethi, the Indian journalist who first reported the leaked document - interview here.