NGOs highlight hypocrisy of Polish government outside UN climate negotiations

Posted on 18 November 2013  | 
Warsaw: International NGOs Friends of the Earth (Europe), Oxfam, ActionAid, WWF, Greenpeace and Christian Aid, have today staged a provocative stunt highlighting the hypocrisy of the Polish government promoting coal as a desired energy source while at the same time hosting world negotiators addressing the climate crisis.

“The Warsaw negotiations take place against a wave of scientific evidence for the central role that fossil fuels now have as the main source of climate pollution. This is in particular true for coal,” said the organisations in a joint statement.

The NGOs staged a dramatic stunt at the entrance of the COP conference today, highlighting the special treatment given the coal industry by the Polish government during the global climate negotiations. Delegates arriving in the morning were asked to walk on a green carpet (representing clean energy), while on an adjoining red carpet, activists, representing the Polish government, welcome the coal industry represented by well-dressed activists wearing masks in the shape of coal power plants.

"Here in Warsaw, the talks are being held back by fossil fuel interests and the governments that are in their pockets. This is an outrageous political situation when we know that burning fossil fuels is the single biggest source of climate pollution – the stuff that is causing heat waves, sea level rise and record-breaking storms," said Samantha Smith, Leader of WWF's Global Climate and Energy Initiative.

"The people of Poland and people everywhere wan t clean, renewable energy – and world leaders need to heed that call," said Smith.

Last month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a new report on climate change presenting the findings of the science community that warns of the urgent need to take action to avoid the catastrophic consequences of climate change.

The IPCC report warns of an alarming escalation of climate impacts, but also shows that preventing climate chaos is still possible.

Scientists are clear that we will need to keep at least two-thirds, and more likely over 80%, of known fossil fuels in the ground if we are to keep global warming rise below the agreed goal of 2°C. Even 2°C is not deemed safe by many of the world’s scientists, global civil society and over 100 countries in the negotiations, who instead call for a temperature limit of 1.5°C, and therefore even further restrictions on the fossil fuel industry.

“Against this backdrop, it is deeply problematic that the pre-COP process and current negotiations have given prominence and privilege to large corporations which have been investing huge resources in fossil fuel projects: drilling for oil in the Arctic, exploiting tar sands or expanding the use of coal, rather than companies who are transitioning to cleaner energy sources.

"Of particular concern is the way the Polish government has allowed commercial sponsorship for COP19 and increased access for large fossil fuel and industrial interests to wide aspects of the COP. This is an unprecedented and highly worrying change to the mode of operation for the UNFCCC climate process,” they said.

It is abundantly clear that to prevent the breaching of critical climate tipping points and potential catastrophic climate change, we must stop the extraction and use of all new fossil fuels sources, particularly coal, the most abundant and dirtiest fossil fuel in use today.

The shift away from fossil fuels towards renewable and clean energy systems, especially for developing countries and poor communities, must be a just transition supported by public financing and technology transfer. “It is outrageous that the Coal and Climate Summit takes place today and tomorrow at the invitation of the deputy Prime Minister of Poland and legitimised by the UNFCCC’s Christiana Figueres,” the NGOs said. 
The stunt at the entrance of the COP conference today, highlighting the special treatment given the coal industry by the Polish government during the global climate negotiations
© George Smeeton / WWF-UK Enlarge
WWF Global Climate and Energy Initiative leader, Samantha Smith and CEO of WWF-UK walk the green carpet at the entrance to COP19.
© George Smeeton / WWF-UK Enlarge

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