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Support soars for petition, fast by Philippines climate negotiator

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 19 Nov 2013 17:07 GMT
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Naderev Sano, the Philippines' climate commissioner, talks with media during the 19th conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP19) at the National Stadium in Warsaw on November 19, 2013. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
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WARSAW (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - More than 600,000 people have signed an online petition started last week by Philippines' climate change commissioner Naderev "Yeb" Saño, aimed at pushing governments at the U.N climate talks in Warsaw to ratchet up pollution controls and help poorer communities with funding to cope with climate impacts, the negotiator told journalists on Tuesday. 

The number of people who have signed the online petition is rising by the minute, and was approaching 655,000 by late afternoon.

The Philippines' lead negotiator has been fasting for the past nine days in solidarity with millions of Filippinos struggling to find food and other essentials in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan, which struck Saño's home town of Tacloban on Nov. 8.

"The science is becoming very clear. Climate change will be about more extreme events, including more intense typhoons. And progress at these talks that moves towards stabilisation of greenhouse gases would go a long way towards addressing all of these impacts," Saño said.

More than 100 government negotiators and climate activists at the talks have joined his fast in an effort to get results on deepening emissions cuts and setting up a mechanism to help vulnerable countries deal with the losses and damage caused by extreme weather and longer-term climate impacts, such as desertification and sea-level rise.

"It's clear that climate change will bring about a point where adaptation will no longer be adequate, and we will be incurring losses and damages," Saño said, calling for "something very concrete" to address the problem. A new mechanism under the UN climate change convention should allow poorer nations to reduce their climate-related losses, provide access to knowledge, and include a risk transfer mechanism, he said.

Saño - whose brother helped to clear bodies after the typhoon, which killed around 4,000 people according to the latest figures - said he was feeling fine, despite having drunk only water and a little tea since he started his fast on the first day of the talks.

‘A KIND OF SOLIDARITY’

Saño said it was too early to tell whether the fast had made a difference to negotiations in Warsaw, "but the kind of solidarity we feel around us, I think would be enough reason for us to say it may have created some impact".

He also called on richer nations to boost financial assistance to help poorer states adapt to climate change and move their economies to a low-carbon model. "Another important area is the provision of resources and support for developing countries so that we can cope with climate change, so that we will be able to contribute towards mitigation in the pressing time (frame)," Saño said.

Adam Greenberg of SustainUS, a U.S. youth network for sustainable development, said he had also stopped eating in solidarity with the crisis-hit Philippines. "We're fasting with the people of the Philippines and people impacted by climate disasters all over the world," he said. "We're also echoing the demands for clear and ambitious actions here (in Warsaw)."

Hundreds - perhaps thousands - of people are expected to join the voluntary fast for at least a day this week, activists said. And on Thursday, candlelit vigils using the message and twitter hashtag #WeStandWithYou are planned around the world.

At the weekend, Tony La Viña, another climate change negotiator for the Philippines and dean of the Ateneo School of Government in Manila, told Thomson Reuters Foundation that the fasting movement started by Saño, a former pupil of his, could spread.

"I hope we learn from it so that (at climate talks) in Lima (in 2014) and in Paris (in 2015), we can use it again, but in a more strategic way," he said. "We need to have a new dynamic...this process needs moments of surprise."

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