By Jessica Shankleman
Philippines climate negotiator, Yeb Sano, calls for real action from Warsaw Summit in wake of devastating super typhoon
The Philippines' Climate Change Commissioner broke down in tears at the start of United Nations climate change talks in Warsaw today, pledging to fast for the duration of the two-week summit unless a meaningful deal is agreed to tackle escalating climate change threats.
Speaking at the opening of the COP 19 summit this morning, Yeb Sano, the lead negotiator for the Philippines, directly linked the Haiyan super typhoon that ripped through his country over the weekend with worsening climate change.
"What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness," he told delegates. "We can stop this madness. Right here in Warsaw."
The Haiyan super typhoon hit central Philippines on Friday night, with winds as high as 235mph, making it the most powerful storm ever recorded. The typhoon is estimated to have killed up to 10,000 people with fears mounting that the devastation caused upon buildings and key infrastructure means the death toll could yet rise further.
Sano called on governments to take "drastic action" at the climate talks in order to stop super typhoons become the norm for the global climate.
In a dramatic pledge, he departed from his prepared notes to declare that he would not eat until a meaningful deal had been reached by the summit.
"We refuse, as a nation, to accept a future where super typhoons like Haiyan become a fact of life," he said. "We refuse to accept that running away from storms, evacuating our families, suffering the devastation and misery, having to count our dead, become a way of life. We simply refuse to."
Specifically, he called on the COP to deliver meaningful progress on a pledge by rich countries to deliver $100bn from 2020 to help developing countries cope with the impacts of climate change. He also called for the establishment of a loss and damage mechanism, and more ambitious steps to ensure greenhouse gas emissions are stabilised.
Sano also challenged climate sceptics to visit the Philippines and other areas that have been impacted by climate change.
"To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change, I dare you to get off your ivory tower and away from the comfort of your armchair," he said.
All of the negotiators at the conference today paid tribute to the bravery shown by people in the Philippines and a three-minute silence was held to mark the tragedy.
Opening the conference, Christiana Figueres, head of the UN's climate change secretariat, said the talks were beginning under the weight of many sobering realities, including the devastating impact of the typhoon and the unprecedented scale of carbon emissions in the atmosphere, which has now passed 400 parts per million.