WASHINGTON, DC — As the representatives of major carbon-emitting countries meet in Washington to discuss combating global warming, international organization Oxfam America called on the United States and other meeting participants to cut their emissions and start helping poor countries cope with the high costs of adaptation.
Human-induced climate change is already causing harm to the world’s poorest people who are the least responsible for emissions and least able to adapt to climatic shocks. Oxfam called on major emitters to urgently take action to keep global warming below 2°C/3.6°F and help the poorest people to cope with the impacts.
“In contrast with this week’s high level UN meeting that aimed to build momentum for a new international climate agreement, many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable nations were not invited to participate, or even to observe, this week in Washington,” said Jim Lyons, Oxfam America’s vice president for policy and communications. “This week’s efforts should not distract from the central task of achieving a post-2012 binding UN climate change agreement and addressing the adaptation needs of poor nations.”
As one of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters, the United States has a responsibility to address these increasingly severe impacts – both by leading the effort to reduce global warming emissions through mandatory international targets and by financing assistance to the most vulnerable communities to adapt to climate impacts, according to Oxfam.
“The world’s poorest people are already among the hardest hit by the impacts of global warming, and climate change will increasingly pose one of the greatest challenges to global poverty reduction efforts in the 21st century,” said Lyons. “From the droughts in Kenya and Tajikistan, to the floods in the deltas of Bangladesh, we are already seeing climatic stresses impacting people’s livelihoods and their ability to manage natural resources. But poor countries should not have to pay for damage caused by the emissions of rich countries.”
Ninety-seven percent of all natural disaster-related deaths already take place in developing countries, according to Oxfam, and the estimates of climate change’s contribution to worsening conditions are disturbing. Adaptation projects, ranging from planting drought resistant crops to building homes and schools on raised foundations, are essential for the poor to survive this global challenge. But current pledges to fund adaptation are less than one percent of the investment needed, estimated by Oxfam to be at least $50 billion annually and far more unless urgent action is taken to cut emissions.
“Should President Bush decide, upon entering his last year in office, to leave a legacy of leadership and hope, then there is some hope for developing countries," said Lyons. “However, should he choose to leave a legacy of neglect, the rest of the world will suffer the consequences.”