Youth Activists stand in solidarity with the Philippines and are being thrown out of UN climate talks

Yeb Sano following his pledge to fast until a meaningful action were reached. Photo credit 350 via flickr.
By Anders Lorenzen

The COP 19 conference had hardly started before Filipino negotiator Yeb Sano made a statement that would make world headlines, and very well could be remembered as the headline of the two-week-long climate summit. Sano was delivering an emotional plea in the wake of the very recent catastrophical typhoon Haiyan, which so far is estimated to have killed 10,000 in the Philippines and is the worst tropical storm that the Pacific country has ever witnessed.

In the speech he paid respect to climate activists who put themselves on the line in protesting for climate justice and was desperate for the COP 19 summit, which is held in Warsaw, Poland, to be the summit where the world took the climate threat seriously:

“Mr. President, It was barely 11 months ago in Doha when my delegation appealed to the world… to open our eyes to the stark reality that we face… as then we confronted a catastrophic storm that resulted in the costliest disaster in Philippine history. Less than a year hence, we cannot imagine that a disaster much bigger would come. With an apparent cruel twist of fate, my country is being tested by this hellstorm called Super Typhoon Haiyan. It was so strong that if there was a Category 6, it would have fallen squarely in that box. Up to this hour, we remain uncertain as to the full extent of the devastation, as information trickles in in an agonizingly slow manner because electricity lines and communication lines have been cut off and may take a while before these are restored. The initial assessment show that Haiyan left a wake of massive devastation that is unprecedented, unthinkable and horrific. According to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, Haiyan was estimated to have attained (one-minute) sustained winds of 315 km/h (195 mph) and gusts up to 378 km/h (235 mph) making it the strongest typhoon in modern recorded history.’’

A coalition of youth climate activists called YOUNGO quickly declared sympathy with Sano, and said they stood with him and the Philippines. Though according the coalition, three climate activists have been thrown out of the conference centres that hosts the talks for allegedly holding up banners showing support for Sano. YOUNGO, in a statement, said:

“In an arrangement with the Philippines delegation to demonstrate their solidarity with those impacted by this climate disaster, civil society were to accompany Mr. Sano from the plenary hall to a side-event. UN-security were informed of the gesture some minutes prior to the action and a green light was given. Despite authorisation, the three young people accompanying Mr. Sano, who unfolded a sign with the names of some of the devastated Filipino towns in a gesture of solidarity, were reprimanded by security and ejected from the UN halls’’.

Further to this,  the coalition said that the activists were thrown out on the orders from Christiana Figueres, the UN climate chief and that they were being banned indefinitely from the negotiations.

Following the dismissal from the climate talks, Maruska Mileta from Young Friends of the Earth Europe said: “We find the decision from the UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres, unprecedented and exaggerated. This is a decision that needs to be undone’’.

In relation, news prior to the start of COP 19 YOUNGO had been critical of Figueres decision to attend a coal summit in the same week as the last week of the talks. They presented her with an ultimatum in either: she supports the coal industry, or she supports the young people who are fighting for an alternative future: “We are calling on Ms. Figueres to pick and stick. Pick the future over the past. Pick clean energy over dirty fossil fuels. Pick and stick with young people all over the world who are fighting for a better future,” said Lucy Patterson, a coordinator for campaigning network Push Europe.

Back in the conference hall and to Sano’s speech where he had a dig at anyone who refuse to accept that manmade climate change is a present reality:

“To anyone outside who continues to deny and ignore the reality that is climate change, I dare them to get off their ivory towers and away from the comfort of their armchairs. I dare them to go to the islands of the Pacific, the islands of the Caribbean and the islands of the Indian ocean and see the of rising sea levels; to the mountainous regions of the Himalayas and the Andes to see communities confronting glacial floods, to the Arctic where communities grapple with the fast dwindling sea ice sheets, to the large deltas of the Mekong, the Ganges, the Amazon, and the Nile where lives and livelihoods are drowned, to the hills of Central America that confronts similar
monstrous hurricanes, to the vast savannas of Africa where climate change has likewise become a matter of life and death as food and water becomes scarce. Not to forget the monster storms in the gulf of mexico and the eastern seaboard of North America, as well as the fires that razed down under. And if that is not enough, they may want to see what has happened to Philippines now.’’

And in surprising developments he turned personal and said he would start a voluntary fast and not eat until a meaningful outcome has been reached.

Sub edited by Charlotte Paton

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