September 8, 2018

DW: Global climate change protests kick off as UN talks in Bangkok stall

By David Martin for DW.

Hundreds of people took to the streets in Thailand and the Philippines — two countries projected to be among the hardest hit by climate change — to demand their government end their reliance on fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy.

Some 200 demonstrators assembled outside the UN’s regional headquarters in the Thai capital of Bangkok, where delegates were scrambling to breathe life into the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Dozens of laborers and fishermen from the Gulf of Thailand, whose livelihoods are threatened by rising sea levels, joined Saturday’s protest holding examples of their produce and banners demanding climate action.

“I came here today to ask the government to put coastal erosion on the national agenda,” fisherwoman Aree Kongklad told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

The protests, organized by the 350 environmental advocacy group, kicked off Saturday morning in Australia, as a tall ship sailed through Sydney Harbor sporting a banner reading “Rise for Climate; Action with 350.”

Blair Palese, the CEO of 350 Australia, warned that Australia had long suffered from the effects of climate change due to its heavy economic reliance on coal mining. “We are fighting bushfires in winter, suffering a crippling drought, and scientists fear back-to-back of bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef this summer,” said Palese.

Meanwhile, in the Filipino capital of Manila, over 800 people marched through the streets to demonstrate against the country’s heavy reliance on coal. The country has suffered from devastating weather phenomena such as Typhoon Haiyan, which is estimated to have killed some 7,350 people in 2013.

“We are among the most vulnerable and we are among those still stuck in an energy system that is backwards,” campaigner Chuck Baclavon told AFP.

US stonewalls Bangkok talks

Back in Bangkok, UN delegates accused the United States, despite withdrawing from the Paris deal, of blocking new funding options for poorer nations fighting global warming.

The 2015 Paris deal promised an annual fund of $100 billion (€86 billion) from 2020 to help poor nations deal with flooding, heatwaves and rising sea levels.

However, the deal did not specify where richer donor nations should source their contributions. The US, along with Japan and Australia, wants to remove rules forcing developed nations to account for their climate action funding.  That would ensure that these nations can continue to include commercial loans and pre-existing state funding as part of their contributions.

Representatives from developing nations, meanwhile, have insisted they need a transparent and predictable flow of finance to invest effectively in new technologies and carbon reduction.

Delegates revealed later that they assumed the US would take a backseat role during the Bangkok talks since the Trump administration had withdrawn the country from the Paris pact. However, “in leading the charge to block practically every discussion on finance for the Paris guidelines, the US administration is threatening the future of the agreement and multilateralism itself,” said Jesse Bragg from the Corporate Accountability watchdog.

Although Washington formally withdrew from the climate accord last year, it says it is still committed to the deal roadmap, giving it leverage over future conferences and negotiations.

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