Philippines storm spurs passion for poor at climate talks

Philippines storm spurs passion for poor at climate talks

WARSAW - Negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) rarely show on the public's radar, except perhaps in the scenes of bickering over who's to blame for global warming and who will foot the bill for it.

The talks are as complex as they are important, involving technical issues that lack colour and emotion - and for many ordinary people, bewildering or mightily tedious.

But this year's round in Warsaw has been jolted into life by the catastrophe that has struck the Philippines, providing a passionate reminder of the life-and-death issues that underpin the grinding UN process.

The spark has come from the Philippines' negotiator, Naderev Sano, whose father's home town is Tacloban, flattened by Super Typhoon Haiyan.

As the COP19 conference heads towards its climax, Sano told AFP Monday some of his relatives had "perished" and that he was still waiting to hear whether others are dead or alive.

At the start of the 11-day talks, Sano won a standing ovation for a desperate appeal for countries to strike a deal to avert mass tragedies of this kind.

Sano put his convictions on the line by going on "a water-only fast" for the duration of the meeting in solidarity with suffering Filipinos and to ramp up pressure on fellow negotiators.

"I may perish and be forgotten. But the fight for justice should forever by etched in people's hearts," he wrote several days into the fast on his Twitter feed.

A specialist in climate-related disasters for 16 years, becoming the Philippines' climate commissioner in 2010 after working in green groups, Sano describes himself as an "old soul; environmentalist; philosopher; father; nature lover; peace activist; revolutionary". An avid scuba diver, he also has a propensity for tweeting quotes by Gandhi, Mandela, Steve Jobs and Filipino revolutionary hero Jose Rizal.

His homeland has been described as the world's second most vulnerable country to extreme weather, being hit by an average 22 typhoons per year.

Economic losses from last year's category five Typhoon Bopha are pegged by Filipinos at a whopping 828 million dollars (615 million euros; S$1.03 billion).

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