Every time one of my daughters climbed onto my lap I could not help but think about the children of the Arctic 30. About how they must be missing their parents and how my colleagues must be missing them. About the fear some feel that their small children may not remember who they are, should they really be sentenced to several years in jail. It's a cruel irony, indeed, that the Arctic 30 are not able to see their children - only because they had the guts to stand up for their future. To protest Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya oil platform because it stands for the madness of seeing the melting Arctic ice as an opportunity to drill for yet more oil.
Every time my daughters jumped onto my lap I felt a little shiver, a little pain. And at the same time a renewed determination to help #FreeTheArctic30 and to intensify our opposition to fossil fuels. Because it is fossil fuels that will, if unchecked, turn our children's future unpleasant, dangerous and chaotic. So, I find myself in Warsaw, Poland, following the absurd, frustrating (but not irrelevant) global climate negotiations. Thinking of the Arctic 30, it´s a privilege to be able to choose to forgo kuddles and laughs with my family in order to try to end the stranglehold the fossil fuel industries have on global politics.
We couldn't be at a better place for this struggle. If the Prirazlomnaya platform is the symbol for the absurd quest of oil at all cost, Poland is the perfect place to draw attention to the other fundamental threat to our climate: coal. Poland is one of the most coal dependent countries in the world. 90.4% of Poland's electricity comes from coal. Every time I switch a light on I picture a coal plant in my mind. A particularly dirty one -- as Poland runs the dirtiest power plant fleet in the EU, causing an estimated 5,400 premature deaths from air pollution in 2010. Yesterday we exposed six of Poland's power plants as the places which cause climate change. We projected slogans such as "Arctic melt starts here!", "Air pollution starts here!", "Storms start here" onto these fossil fuel monsters, including the Bełchatów lignite power plant, the 4th biggest coal plant in the world -- the largest in Europe.
Part of Greenpeace's projections onto six Polish coal power stations before the start of the Warsaw Climate Change Conference COP19/CMP9. © Dawid Sypniewski / Greenpeace
As we were projecting "Storms start here!" we, of course, were thinking of the Philippines being ravaged by what may be the strongest typhoon ever and hoping for our colleagues there to be safe. While we can't yet say how much climate change influenced this monster typhoon, we do know that extreme weather events are becoming more extreme and frequent because of climate change. I am sure everybody following the climate negotiations today was reminded of the Philippines´ emotional intervention at last years climate summit. Then, too, a typhoon ravaged the Philippines. Please take a moment to listen here.
Faced with such devastation (and emotions), it's infuriating that the Polish government continues to block the EU from taking ambitious climate action – one factor stalling the global negotiations. Sadly, Poland also fails to grasp the great opportunities that an energy revolution based on renewables and energy efficiency could bring to Poland. The fact is: Already by 2030 Poland could halve its coal demand, quadruple its renewable energy use and create 100,000 new jobs in the energy sector, if the right incentives are put in place.
Instead of going for the energy revolution needed, the Polish government has given the fossil fuel industry unprecedented access to this climate summit. The wolves are running the hen house here in Warsaw and coal, the most climate damaging of all energy forms, is portrayed as part of the solution to climate change. Seriously. Poland is, for example, co-hosting a "Coal and Climate Summit" - an oxymoron if there ever was one.
So we have the work cut out for us for the next two weeks; especially when many other governments are also in cahoots with the fossil fuel industry. I would be able to tell my children that governments made progress if Warsaw agreed to commit to additional climate action and finance renewable energy in the developing world before 2020. If governments decided not to drag their feet, but say by next year by how much they will be willing to cut emissions after 2020; and spend 2015 looking at whether the numbers on the table are actually good enough to prevent dangerous climate change and are fair.
Governments plan to sign a climate agreement in Paris in 2015. That deal will only be worth spending any days of my life -- away from my daughters -- if it puts the world on the road to end fossil fuel use by 2050. Which brings me back to the Arctic 30. They risked their freedom, because they knew we need to keep the vast majority of the fossil fuels in the ground, if our children are not to live in climate hell. For us, here in Warsaw, thinking of their children (and ours´) will spur us to push as hard as we can for this climate summit to be a step forward. To keeping it from being the coal-fueled farce the Polish government seems to have in mind.
Wish us luck. Support the Arctic 30 here so that they can be back with their families soon. Join the many ordinary people doing extraordinary things in defense of our planet. Help us, in whatever you can, to take the struggle for our children's future to the fossil fuel industry. It's either them, or our children, who will live well.
P.S. You can follow regular updates from the Greenpeace team in Warsaw here.