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Collapse? Wealthiest Nations Accused of Sabotaging UN Climate Talks

Least-developed and poorest nations stage walkout after wealthiest polluters accused of 'disrespectful' behavior at negotiations

Jon Queally

One hundred and thirty two of the world's poorest and less-developed nations, including the G77 nations and China, walked out of the UN climate talks in Warsaw on Wednesday, accusing the wealthiest nations, such as the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the EU states of sabotaging what little hope for progress there remained at this year's international summit.

Harjeet Singh, a spokesman for ActionAid Internatonal, called the continued willingness of the wealthiest (and most polluting) nations to sacrifice the low-lying islands nations and poor countries that are the least responsible for but most vulnerable to climate change an insult to the spirit of the UN talks.

"The US, EU, Australia and Norway remain blind to the climate reality that's hitting us all, and poor people and countries much harder," Singh said. "They continue to derail negotiations in Warsaw that can create a new system to deal with new types of loss and damage such as sea-level rise, loss of territory, biodiversity and other non-economic losses more systematically."

As Sophie Yeo writes for the RTCC Blog, Australia was the target of specific ire for what was interpreted as disrespectful and unserious behavior during the latest conversations at the summit which focused on the development and mechanisms for an international climate relief fund.

According to Yeo:

The Australian delegation turned up in casual attire and “gorged on snacks” during negotiations on whether developed states should make reparations to vulnerable countries as the impacts of climate change become more severe, according to Saleemul Huq, an expert on loss and damage at the International Institute for Environment and Development.

Their behaviour caused over 130 developing nations to abandon discussions on the controversial issue of climate compensation at 4am last night.

Representatives from developed countries also appear less than impressed. EU negotiator Paul Watkinson tweeted: “It is one thing to be tired in a negotiation meeting, another to turn up in pyjamas – respect matters”.

According to reports, the negotiators blocked any progress on a new ‘loss and damage mechanism’, which many developing countries are pushing as a non-negotiable element of the climate talks which are gathering pace in Warsaw.

The late night talks were developing constructively, sources say, until the Australian delegation blocked progress on the new document currently being thrashed out behind closed doors.

And the Guardian's John Vidal reports:

Developing countries have demanded that a new UN institution be set up to oversee compensation but rich countries have been dismissive, blocking calls for a full debate in the climate talks.

"The EU understands that the issue is incredibly important for developing countries. But they should be careful about … creating a new institution. This is not [what] this process needs," said Connie Hedegaard, EU climate commissioner.

She ruled out their most important demand, insisting: "We cannot have a system where we have automatic compensation when severe events happen around the world. That is not feasible."

The G77 and China group, which is due to give a press conference on Wednesday to explain the walkout, has made progress on loss and damage, which it says is a "red line" issue. It claims to be unified with similar blocs including the Least Developed Countries, Alliance of Small Island States and the Africa Group of negotiators.

Hedegaard poured cold water on last week's related proposal by Brazil, that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change be asked to find a way to quantify each country's historical emissions of greenhouse gases in order to help countries establish the level of future emission cuts.

Debate on the issue has been rejected by rich countries, which fear it could lead to unacceptable costs.

Those countries that walked out, including a coalition of low-lying island countries, African nations, and others were holding a press conference later in the day to explain their frustrations and articulate a possible path forward.

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