Philippines Solidarity Banner Prompts De-Badging of Three Youth Activists at UN Climate Talks

NGO News Desk :: Three young climate activists have been thrown out of the UNFCCC negotiations due to a spontaneous banner expressing solidarity with the people of the Philippines. The action took place this afternoon outside the main plenary hall of the
Conference of the Parties in Warsaw, following an emotional speech by head of the Philippines delegation, Yeb Sano, during the opening plenary. Youth activists had designed one banner listing the death toll of typhoons Bopha (which hit the Philippines during last year’s COP) and Haiyan, and another asking ‘How Many More?’. The activists holding the second banner
were reprimanded by UN security and their badges removed. Those ejected from the venue, Maria Escalante and Graham Hallett of Earth in Brackets and Clémence Hutin of Push Europe, were just three of around sixty members of civil society supporting Sano as he made his way from the plenary hall to a side event coordinated by the Third World Network. “In the wake of this tragic disaster, it is surprising that the UNFCCC would attempt to silence voices of solidarity,” said Hutin. “Corporate logos are all over the place here… and yet a simple sign in solidarity with those affected by climate impacts is against the rules?”

“It is revolting to be suppressed from being able to express our condolences to the 10,000 deceased due to super typhoon Haiyan,” said Shenna Sanchez from the Federation of Young European Greens. “As a mourning Filipina who remains anxious to know if all her family and friends back home are safe, I deeply feel the wrath of my fellowmen from the injustice of not being able to adapt to climate-induced disasters. “In these negotiations, the survival of the global South is at stake,” Sanchez continued. “This COP19 should deliver justice – particularly through higher ambition of developed countries and sufficient pledges to
climate finance.”

In a bold move, Sano’s speech included a pledge to commence a voluntary fast “until a meaningful outcome is in sight.” The death toll of Typhoon Haiyan is expected to reach into the tens of thousands. “After such a devastating climate catastrophe in the Philippines it’s absurd that this climate summit is the most corporate influenced COP in history,” said Nathan Thanki of Earth in Brackets. “Many of the COP’s corporate sponsors are determined to ensure that we will never reach an agreement to prevent the worst of these catastrophes happening in the future.”

COP19 is becoming widely known as the most ‘corporate-captured’ COP in history – indeed, these are the first UN climate negotiations to accept corporate sponsorship. The sponsors include major fossil fuel companies whose corporate interests are at stake during these talks. “The plenary hall is stamped by Arcelor Mittal, one of the biggest, dirtiest companies in the world, actively lobbying against ambitions action on climate change,” said Hutin. “Corporations have dominated the space inside these halls, yet with our small gesture of solidarity we have been silenced and excluded from what should be a democratic process.”

This year’s COP has been nicknamed the ‘Coal COP,’ due partly to the host country’s reliance on coal power, and the World Coal Association’s international summit, due to take place in Warsaw during week two of the negotiations.

A communique, recently published by the WCA and due to be delivered to the UNFCCC in the hope of influencing the text, aims “to outline practical steps that can be taken to tackle climate change and allow coal to continue to play its role as an affordable, abundant, easily accessible source of energy.”

“There is no place for coal in these halls,” said Thanki. “You wouldn’t invite the tobacco industry to influence a health conference. This is the same thing. The dirty industry takeover of this COP threatens to turn it into a farce – adding insult to the suffering of those in the Philippines.”

Yeb Sano’s speech received a standing ovation, and civil society responded by chanting, ‘we stand with you’ from the back of the hall. The climate negotiations will continue until the 22 November.

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