The demonstration was peaceful, with about 1,400 individuals taking part, while the numbers of the riot police officers deployed to surround demonstrators was estimated at 1,000, a measure by the authorities to prevent the reoccurrence of the disturbances witnessed on Polish Independence Day on November 11 this year, coinciding with the opening of the 19th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Speaking to Al Akhbar, a Belgian demonstrator said: “Thousands of policemen surrounded us on all sides on the pretext of protecting us from fascists, but the truth is they were trying to stop our message getting to the Polish people.”
Demonstrators carried a model of the planet and signs demanding that a new agreement of climate change be reached as soon as possible. Leftists carried flags depicting Argentinian icon Ernesto Che Guevara with the slogan, “Change the system not the environment!” while a Green Party banner read: “If you want to halt climate change start with yourself!”
Demonstrators of a variety of nationalities gathered in the centre of the old city, before taking to the capital’s main thoroughfare and crossing the Vistula River towards Warsaw Stadium where the UN conference was being held. The Warsaw march was less lively than the marches that were seen at the Copenhagen summit in 2010, due to the fact that most climate campaigners regard this meeting as just one of many rounds of negotiations that will take place before the agreement is due to be signed in two years time.
Since the industrial revolution, global temperatures have risen and are heading towards an aggregate increase of two degrees, the limit set at a former UN climate conference.
On of the major issues being discussed at the Warsaw conference is the possibility of reaching a consensus on the financial aid being demanded by the nations of the Global South to counteract the effects of heat-trapping. These countries have asked for six billion dollars to be paid out in the period up to 2015, transitioning from the thirty billion dollars in emergency funds that were set aside for 2011 to 2012 into a regime whereby one billion dollars would be disbursed annually up to 2020. However the donor countries have refused to bind themselves to a commitment on this scale.
First published in Arabic in Al Akhbar on 16 November 2013. Translated from the Arabic by Robin Moger