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Finally some good news on climate change—especially for the world’s poorest people

By Oxfam
Luz Sinarahua is president of a women’s group that maintains a traditional garden in Chirikyacu, Peru. Because they grow multiple crops, rather than a single crop that is vulnerable to drought, the gardens help people adapt to changes in the climate. Photo: Percy Ramírez / Oxfam America

New commitments from US and world leaders could be a step toward global solutions.

What happened?

Two big announcements last week showed progress from US and world governments on addressing climate change. First, on November 11, the US and China agreed to a groundbreaking plan to address harmful greenhouse gas emissions from both countries. According to The New York Times, “The landmark agreement … includes new targets for carbon emissions reductions by the United States and a first-ever commitment by China to stop its emissions from growing by 2030.”

Then, on November 14, President Obama announced that the US would contribute $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund—an international fund created to help the world’s poorest countries deal with the effects of climate change, which include droughts, floods, storms, and other extreme weather.

Why is it important?

Just a few weeks after hundreds of thousands of people marched in the streets of New York City to demand climate action, President Obama has taken unprecedented steps to address the issue, showing that he plans to make tackling climate change part of legacy.

Heather Coleman, Oxfam senior policy advisor on climate change, explained in a recent blog post why these commitments have global significance. “The Green Climate Fund pledge … is a bigger deal than it seems,” wrote Coleman. “The fund is key to unlocking political gridlock toward reaching a robust climate deal. [It] will put pressure on other large emitters, like Japan [and] the UK … to step up.”

How will this potentially change people’s lives?

The new agreement with China might be “Obama’s greatest contribution to the fight against global poverty,” wrote Zack Beauchamp in Vox. “Climate change is bad for everyone. But it’s particularly bad for the world’s poorest people.” The carbon footprint of the world’s one billion poorest people represents just 3 percent of the global total. Yet as climate change advances, poor communities are hardest hit.

Oxfam has been working with vulnerable communities around the globe to help people adapt to a shifting climate and become more resilient in the face of disasters. But as the effects of climate change become more severe, communities will need more resources if they’re going to fight back, which is why initiatives like the Green Climate Fund are so significant.

“We have already seen billions of dollars in damages, and thousands of lives lost to increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather from New Jersey to the Philippines,” said Coleman. “A $3 billion dollar US pledge to the Green Climate Fund would be an important show of American leadership to help the most vulnerable people in the world protect themselves.”

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