No #YebInLima?

Hamish M | November 30, 2014.

The 11th hour sacking of climate superstar Yeb Saño casts a pall over Lima as the UN climate negotiations kick off.

The Philippine Climate Change Commissioner, and world famous icon of the climate movement Yeb Saño, has reportedly been banned from attending COP20 by his own government as an official government representative.

As the global community gathers in Lima for the commencement of the United Nations negotiations on a new treaty to tackle climate change, the darling of the movement has, at the eleventh hour, been removed from the official Philippine delegation.

Saño rose to prominence at last year’s negotiations in Warsaw, when, in the wake of typhoon Haiyan, he gave a heartfelt plea to end the ‘madness’ of inaction on climate change, pledging to fast until meaningful action was taken. After seven days of fasting, he shot to international stardom attracting 600,000 signatures on an online petition. The unlikely and reluctant superstar of the global climate negotiations continued his rise to stardom just last month by completing a 40-day climate walk from Manila to Tacloban City to commemorate one year since Haiyan caused devastation across the Philippines.

It seems his new-found global stature, however, has come at a price. Sources close to The Verb suggest that Saño’s militant determination to enshrine emissions reductions in a legally binding global treaty was seen as too politically explosive. Our sources indicate that Saño will be attending the talks as a civil society observer, rather than as a member of the formal delegation.

The demotion comes as a major blow both to the 50-strong Phillipines delegation (according to last year’s delegation headcount), which had under Saño’s direction become a significant player in the UNFCCC, and to the negotiations themselves. As Lima woke to the news this morning, anger was mounting at the sudden move, with many taking to twitter to express their frustration using the hashtag #YebinLima.

The Phillipines is internationally lauded for its proactive climate policies. Anchored by two major acts of Parliament passed in 2009 and 2010, the Philippines has committed to reducing emissions by 80% by 2050 on 1990 levels, and has outlined 5-yearly carbon budgets to achieve the legislated reductions targets. In 2012 a UN special envoy declared the suite of laws were the ‘best in the world’ for tackling climate change. The sudden loss of Saño throws into doubt the commitment of the Phillippine government at a crucial juncture in the negotiations.

Both Saño and the official Philippine delegation have yet to comment. The scale of the fallout is still unclear, and we will be providing live updates as they unfold from the floor of the conference. Read more in the Business StandardThe Verb interviewed Yeb Saño in Warsaw, Poland.

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