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“Nature Does Not Negotiate”: Environmentalists Walk Out of U.N. Climate Summit in Warsaw

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As we began our show, hundreds of environmental activists walked out of the U.N. climate change summit in Warsaw, Poland, today over the absence of a binding agreement on curbing global warming. The move comes less than 36 hours after a group of 133 developing nations walked out of a key negotiating meeting amidst a conflict over how countries who have historically emitted the most greenhouse gases should be held financially responsible for some of the damage caused by extreme weather. “Our message to our political leaders is that nature does not negotiate,” says Greenpeace Executive Director Kumi Naidoo. “You can’t change the science — we have to change political will.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Warsaw, Poland, where the climate is cold and the protests are hot. We are at the U.N. climate change summit, known as COP 19. As we go to broadcast, hundreds of activists are walking out of the talks. Groups backing the walkout include Greenpeace, Oxfam, 350.org, the International Trade Union Confederation, ActionAid International, WWF International and Friends of the Earth. The move comes less than 36 hours after a group of 133 developing nations walked out of a key negotiating meeting amidst a conflict over how countries who have historically emitted the most greenhouse gases should be held financially responsible for some of the damage caused by extreme weather.

We turn right now to Kumi Naidoo, who, just moments ago, surrounded by hundreds of people, addressed the protest. He’s head of Greenpeace International.

KUMI NAIDOO: This action is a clear statement that this particular COP is a complete betrayal to the sense of urgency that is needed. In fact, today, as we are here, there are activists around the world who are paying a price for standing up to take action on climate action. Whether it is the Arctic 30 that are in prison in Russia or whether it’s indigenous peoples in different parts of Latin America, they are the ones who actually are saying, “Our livelihoods are at threat. We need to act.” And our political leaders have the temerity to tolerate the fact that we are called hooligans, when in fact the real hooligans are the CEOs and the big bosses of oil, coal and gas companies that have completely captured our governments and have completely captured this negotiating process. It is an insult to us that, in fact, this COP is largely sponsored by the coal industry. It’s been given opportunity to proclaim that there such a thing as clean coal and so on.

And given all of this, this action is about sending a clear statement that our leaders here need to wake up, they need to pull up their sockses, they need to actually act with the urgency that both science and extreme weather events are actually saying that we need to. As my comrades here have already said, we are not disrespecting the United Nations or the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is the individual positions that powerful governments bring here that is holding the process. That is why our commitment here is not simply saying we’re walking out. We are saying we are walking out, and we are committing ourselves to mobilize the largest number of people in every single country in the world to say to every parent, “Your child and your grandchildren’s future is at stake. You need to stand up now and take action,” so that when we get to the next COP in Lima, Peru, next year, we have, hopefully, a better fighting chance to lay the foundations for a fair, ambitious and legally binding treaty when we get to Paris—something, by the way, that we were supposed to have achieved in Copenhagen.

So our message to our political leaders: Understand that nature does not negotiate. You cannot change the science. And we have to change political will. And it’s within their capacity to do that, and they cannot drag their feet any longer, and they need to start doing that now.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace International. We’ll have more on the walkout later in this broadcast, as it’s taking place as we broadcast.

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