Delegation accused of wearing t-shirts and “gorging on snacks” during critical UN talks
By Sophie Yeo in Warsaw
Australia’s team at UN talks in Warsaw have been accused of lacking respect after delegates turned up to critical discussions wearing shorts and teeshirts.
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 a spokesperson for CAN International.
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.
The G77 alliance, which includes India, Africa and the small island states, staged a walk out of the negotiation when Australia refused to agree to a functioning text.
“The negotiations were actually going on reasonably well. They were doing it in earnest,” said Saleemul Huq, an expert on loss and damage at the International Institute for Environment and Development.
“It went on into the night, well into the early morning, discussing things in what I think was a spirit of cooperation. But then at the end, the Australian delegation just put brackets around everything. All that negotiation went to waste.”
Since Tony Abbott was elected prime minister in September, Australia has faced heavy criticism for its climate change policy.
The country has made few friends at the current UN negotiations. While the rest of the world works towards a deal to cut global carbon emissions, Australia has been working on repealing its carbon price. The government has not sent any ministers to the conference.
It has so far won half of the illustrious “Fossil of the Day” awards, handed out on each day of negotiations by the Climate Action Network to the country who has done most to block progress at the UN climate negotiations.
Loss and damage
The issue of loss and damage is threatening to overshadow the remaining days of the negotiations, with developed nations refusing to budge on the issue.
Huq indicated that this could provide a tough negotiating point in the final ministerial discussions, and that if developing states “don’t get what they need then they are prepared to go back from Warsaw with nothing.”
Developing countries want to create a new mechanism to deal with ‘climate compensation’, while richer nations such as the US and the EU want to weaken these proposals.
“We don’t accept the argument on compensation. We never have and we’re not intending to start now,” said Ed Davey, the UK’s lead negotiator in Warsaw.