15-21 November 2013 #681

The biggest losers

Climate talks underway in Poland must agree on the basics to deal with extreme weather events
Bhrikuti Rai in WARSAW

Even as typhoon-ravaged Philippines grapples with the aftermath of the disaster, the debate on climate change rages on at the UN climate talks in Warsaw, Poland where thousands of delegates from all over the world are literally going round in circles in the football stadium turned venue for the 19th Conference of Parties (COP 19).

The talks this year began on an emotional appeal with Yeb Sano, chief of the Philippines delegation, who commenced voluntary fasting until the conference comes up with meaningful solutions. Said Sano: “In solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food and with my brother who has not had food for the last three days, I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate.”

The findings from the fifth assessment report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in September along with World Meteorological Organisation’s recent studies confirm that rapid industrialisation has warmed the earth to record breaking levels. Yet the planet's future remains uncertain as countries continue to bicker about who should cut carbon emissions and by how much and where will the money for adaptation come from.

The devastation caused by Haiyan in the Philippines, which has suffered from 22 typhoon this year, has brought greater attention to the new program ‘loss and damage’ that helps developing countries deal with the affects of climate change like typhoons and severe flooding. It remains to be seen if the negotiations this year will come up with any institutional mechanism to address such loss.

Pakistan, ranked third on the global climate risk index launched on Tuesday at the UN Climate Summit, is among the three countries most affected by extreme weather events for three consecutive years. “We have lost almost $15 billion to floods and droughts in the last three years and we need billions more to adapt to the changing climate,” said Muhammad Irfan Tariq, director general of Pakistan’s climate change division. “Can anybody imagine how a country can possibly rebuild itself from such huge catastrophes like Typhoon Haiyan or the 2010 Pakistan flood?” he asked the audience gathered in the stadium.

The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide crossed 400 parts per million this year and scientists and climate activists hope it will strengthen the case for world leaders to set limits to future emissions.

“We need urgent and drastic reduction in emission to limit the temperature gain to 1.5 degrees,” says Prakash Mathema, the Joint Secretary at Nepal’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, who chairs the Least Developed Countries (LDC) at the COP 19. LDC is a group of 49 countries with negligible contribution to green house gas emissions and the lowest capability to combat climate change impact. “Unless emissions are cut down, the cost of adaptation will continue to increase and that will only be an extra burden for countries like ours,” explains Mathema.

Nepal’s core negotiating team believes that the country, ranked 28th on the global climate risk index, has a strategic advantage as the chair of the LDC group to be more vocal about melting glaciers and receding snowlines that are the most dramatic visible proof of global warming. Nearly one billion people downstream in China, southeast Asia, India, and Pakistan depend on the Himalaya and the Tibetan plateau for water. Given the low per capita carbon footprint of Nepalis (less than one ton of carbon dioxide per person per year, compared to 17 tons in United States and 55 tons per capita in Qatar) the issue of climate equity along with finance is a major issue for developing nations.

The Doha Climate Gateway adopted in 2012 agreed to amend the Kyoto Protocol by establishing the second commitment period from 2013-2020 and exploring new ways to increase the cuts in emission. Warsaw is the first stop for the countries to settle on the basic formula for a new agreement before they head to Paris in 2015 to sign a comprehensive treaty to reduce emissions. The remaining days of the conference in Poland will therefore be crucial in how future negotiations on a treaty to stop catastrophic warming of the planet will shape up.

See video:

UNFCCC opening press briefing at COP 19/CMP 9

UNFCCC Newsletter November 2013 - Focus on Warsaw

Read also:

Committing to the future, RAJU PANDIT CHHETRI

Copenhagen climate countdown, KUNDA DIXIT

Climbing in climate change, BHRIKUTI RAI

Back to black, BHRIKUTI RAI

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