Urgent global climate action needed in Poland

By mborum

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POZNAN, POLAND ? Climate change will increase global poverty and halt—eventually reverse—human development if governments fail to take major steps now toward a fair and adequate new climate change deal, warns international agency Oxfam. Negotiators must ensure that Poznan marks a turning point in the climate talks by agreeing key elements of a future agreement.

In a new report today, ?Climate, Poverty, and Justice,? Oxfam said there was wide-spread awareness now that climate change is already a grim and worsening reality for poor people. Oxfam said that Poznan must focus on the most vital areas now in order to set up a deal—to be signed within a year—to keep global warming below 2ï¾°C and help the poorest people to cope. This includes:

  • Agreement that global carbon emissions must start falling by 2015 and be cut by at least 80% by 2050, from 1990 levels;
  • Agreement that countries must reduce their emissions in line with their respective historic responsibility for causing climate change and their capacity to tackle it (this means rich countries must cut first and furthest, and that developing countries must not be unfairly burdened);
  • Agreement to set up a framework of funding from rich countries to help developing countries to adapt to climate impacts of at least $50 billion a year.

Bert Maerten, who is leading Oxfam?s campaign at Poznan, said ?We have the knowledge, resources and technology to tackle climate change and avert worst-case scenarios—if we choose to do so. What we lack is the political will, and progress so far has been wholly inadequate.?

?However, if all developed countries show bold leadership now in Poznan, it could set the stage for an adequate deal in Copenhagen next year,? he said.

Climate change is already impacting on millions of the world?s poorest and most vulnerable people who have also been severely hit recently by food and oil price hikes, and are set to pay further from the collapse of financial markets. The post-2012 agreement must massively scale up adaptation implementation in developing countries and limit global warming to levels where human development and mass poverty reduction can remain a viable goal. ?Poor and vulnerable people are in no shape to absorb more set-backs,? Maerten said.

Global emissions have been rising faster in recent years than even worst-case scenario climate modelling has tracked. The world must agree to cut emissions by at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 in order to try to stay below 2ï¾°C warming. There would be catastrophic impacts above that, with almost two billion people likely to be affected by water shortages, global agriculture undermined, and hunger likely to kill up to three million more people every year. If global temperatures are allowed to climb above 3ï¾°C, billions of people would be affected by severe water stress, crop yields would fall drastically around the world and entire regions would become non-viable for agriculture.

?This ?big picture? will happen gradually over time, which is why we must move now to tackle the problem. We?re already seeing seasonal weather patterns becoming more unreliable, causing flooding, erosion and drought. People have an amazing capacity to cope with what nature throws at them but the most vulnerable people only have to fail once to fall into poverty with no way out,? Maerten said.

?Governments must not forget they are negotiating over the lives and livelihoods of millions of people,? said Maerten. ?Any level of global warming that would inevitably make large land areas uninhabitable, destroy the livelihoods of whole societies, lead to the loss of island nations and leave populations no other option but to migrate, is not acceptable.?

The costs of tackling climate change are not prohibitive, Oxfam says—around 1% of global GDP per year, compared to the costs of doing nothing around 20 times higher—according to estimates. Rich countries must commit to cutting their emissions first and furthest because they are historically responsible for creating the problem, and they have the means to pay to help developing countries to mitigate and adapt.

However, Oxfam is very concerned that among the key negotiating states, there are wildly diverging positions on key topics, such as emissions targets, adaptation financing and effort sharing.

?We need to see the same political urgency and leadership now to push for a good climate change deal as we did in the face of the global financial crisis,? Maerten said.

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