COP has five days to deliver, says ACT Alliance

Monday, December 05, 2011

A woman collects firewood in the parched Borena district of south Ethiopia. Photo: ACT Alliance/DCA/Binyan Mengesha

A week has already passed in one of the world’s biggest talking-shops. Yet the United Nations climate negotiations in Durban have yet to reach decisions on key issues affecting millions of the world’s poorest people.  The governments holding up the process need to become far more ambitious in the remaining five days, says ACT Alliance, one of the world’s largest faith-based development networks. Ministers with power must be accountable to their people by achieving now what their technocrats did not last week.

Goverments have failed to deliver in three key areas: emissions cuts, financing and a binding, legal agreement on reducing greenhouse gases. Government failure to take responsibility now will only exacerbate the problems later, as the costs of mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change are growing; greenhouse gas emissions are mushrooming; and time is running out for leaders to commit to a new agreement before the current Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of 2012.

“This is a question of justice,” says ACT General Secretary John Nduna. “The poorest people in the world suffer most from the effects of climate change. They are the least to blame for causing it and do not have the means to cope with it. Many are forced to live on land that has become barren – on flood plains or in drought-stricken areas – and have no chance of moving.”

The Climate Vulnerability Forum says 350,000 people die from climate change every year. That figure will increase to 1 million a year by 2050 unless delegates reach firm agreements now.

“Governments have had plenty of time to drag their feet and there is no excuse for further delay. People are dying, right now. All countries must dramatically raise their game and reach clear and progressive decisions this week. History has shown again and again how much can be achieved in five days. Now is their chance to show their moral leadership on behalf of millions of the world’s poorest people,” Nduna said.

ACT Alliance wants COP17 to deliver four clear results. It must:

  • put into effect the Green Climate Fund, the financial structure agreed to in Cancun last year that still remains an empty shell lacking money and staff. It would require rapid work this week to set it up and finance a secretariat that can begin to capitalise it.
  • agree on a roadmap clarifying the move from fast-start climate finance (which ends next year) to the long-term finance that will be needed up to 2020. Any roadmap must include safeguards relating to different sources of funding, and realistic milestones.
  • ensure the Kyoto Protocol does not expire and that all countries agree to a fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement as soon as possible.
  • recognise and advance work in adaptation, an issue of huge importance to the most vulnerable people, which must be addressed as an issue of equal importance to mitigation.

Rosalia Soley, of ACT’s forum in El Salvador, which is in the heart of the region recently hit by floods triggered by climate change, says Durban cannot be allowed to fail. “Now is the time for the community of states to show their solidarity with the poorest people in the world, who suffer most of the impacts of climate change. There are five days to act: the world’s most powerful must now deliver.”