With Typhoon Haiyan killing an estimated 10,000 people in the Philippines, Yeb Sano, head of the country’s delegation at the UN climate talks, broke down on Monday and announced a fast until a “meaningful outcome" to fight climate change was in sight.
“I now commence a voluntary fast for the climate. We cannot afford the next Conference of Parties (COP) with empty Green Climate Fund… until the promise of operational decision for loss and damage is taken, until real decisions are arrived at," he said at the 19th COP held under the aegis of the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change in Warsaw.
“As I reached here, I got a message from my brother, who has survived the typhoon. But they are digging out bodies. They are working on finding out the survivors,” Sano added, tears rolling down his face.
Even UN climate chief Christiana Figureres also made a reference to the “devastating impact” of the typhoon in her opening speech.
Scientists say single weather events cannot conclusively be linked to global warming. Nevertheless, extreme weather such as hurricanes often prompt calls for urgency at the UN talks.
Sano's emotional appeal was met with a standing ovation at the start of two-week talks in Warsaw, where more than 190 countries will try to lay the groundwork for a new pact to fight global warming.
Though no major decisions are expected at the conference in Warsaw's National Stadium, the level of progress could be an indicator of the world's chances of reaching a deal in 2015. That’s the new watershed year in the UN-led process after a 2009 summit in Copenhagen ended in discord.
(With Agency inputs)