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Photo: FoE Europe

It’s been brewing since Copenhagen 2009, and today it finally happened. An estimated 800+ civil society observers – led by groups from the global south – walked out of the Warsaw climate talks in what was both an act of solidarity and an expression of disgust at the failure of leaders of the developed world to act on what the science is irrefutably telling us. As the Philippines’ Environment Minister put it: “I am beginning to feel as though we are negotiating on who is going to live and who is going to die.” Two decades of negotiating, two more decades of polluting our planet. Enough is enough.

Our t-shirts said: ‘Polluters talk, we walk’ … ’Volveremos’.

But if the villains of the piece (too many to name, but we could start with the hosts, Poland, plus Australia, Japan, Canada and corporate sponsors Shell, Emirates, Lotos et al) are rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of civil society-free negotiations, then they haven’t understood our message.

Volveremos: we will be back, stronger than ever. We walked out of the talks today, out of this meeting, not the ongoing process. Flawed as it may be, the UN climate talks, where in theory each country has an equal voice, is the best, most democratic place to decide on a course of action to tackle the most serious threat faced by humanity. South American groups know what it means for next year’s peoples’ pre-COP in Venezuela and COP-20 in Peru.

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Photo: FoE Europe

When we walked out we re-grouped in Nowy Zielony Świat (New Green World) a well known cultural centre and symbol of creative thinking, recently disused, but revived by the Polish Youth Climate Network to provide a space for civil society outside the talks, since the Polish Government didn’t see fit to.

We sat together in that space (having overloaded the makeshift internet hub with #COP19 #fail #volveremos) and what we saw was, not exactly the beginning, but a new beginning for a global movement to demand climate justice. The campaign is more united than it has ever been, with the so-called big logos on the same page as social movements representing millions of people from around the world.

But we all know that there is a huge task ahead of us. Corporations and the Governments in their grip are not about to do a volte-face and suddenly come up with a fair and equitable deal on climate change just because 800 people walked out of a conference today. We need to go back to our communities, to our colleagues and networks and build on the momentum that even a few days ago perhaps few dared to believe could be got from these dismal negotiations to create the kind of movement that makes Governments remember who they are responsible to. So that’s what we will do.