Philippines climate change commissioner Naderev “Yeb” Saño, who warned United Nations officials about the dangers of inaction on climate change a year ago, made a powerful appeal for more concrete action in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, going so far as to declare a fast in support of his cause.
Democracy Now reported on Tuesday that Saño reiterated his call for a “meaningful outcome” during the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Warsaw, Poland, telling the assembly that Haiyan did not just devastate his country, but his hometown of Tacloban. The storm’s initial death toll was estimated at around 10,000 people, but the country’s president, President Benigno Aquino III, told CNN on Tuesday that it is likely to be closer to between 2,000 and 2,500 victims.
“I struggle to find words even for the images that we see on the news coverage,” Saño said, as he visibly struggled to keep his composure. “And I struggle to find words to describe how I feel about the losses. Up to this hour, I agonize, waiting for word to the fate of my very own relatives. What gives me renewed strength and great relief is that my own brother has communicated to us, and he had survived the onslaught. In the last two days, he has been gathering bodies of the dead with his own two hands. He is very hungry and weary, as food supplies find it difficult to arrive in that hardest-hit area.”
To that end, he said, he would refrain from eating for the duration of the conference.
“This process under the UNFCCC has been called many, many names,” Saño said. “It has been called a farce. It has been called an annual carbon-intensive gathering of useless frequent flyers. It has been called many names. And this hurts. But we can prove them wrong. The UNFCCC can also be called the project to save the planet. It has also been called ‘saving tomorrow today’ a couple of years ago. And today, we say, ‘I care.’”
Saño made a similar appeal during last year’s UNFCCC, in Doha, Qatar, calling for “no more excuses” from both the UNFCCC and lawmakers.
Democracy Now reported that following the conclusion of Saño’s remarks this year, three activists were kicked out of the session after displaying a banner expressing solidarity with his country.
Watch Democracy Now’s report, as aired on Tuesday, below.