18 December 2012

Africa: COP18 - Breakthrough or Empty Deal? The People's Perspective

Photo: Emmanuel Gbemudu/IRIN
Women with a dug-out canoe in front of their flooded homes in Toru-Orua in Bayelsa state, Nigeria after the worst floods in 35 years.

press release

This month, over 17,000 delegates gathered in the Qatari capital Doha to attend the 18th Conference of Parties (COP18), the annual UN summit on Climate Change. Amongst those hoping to gain some insight and influence over the negotiation process was an expert delegation from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), made up of our Red Cross Red Crescent colleagues from countries including Mali, Cambodia, Ethiopia Bangladesh, Egypt and Nepal.

The delegation was there to voice our collective global concern about the increasingly damaging impact of climate change on the world's most vulnerable people and to advocate for more investment in community preparedness and risk reduction. As we are seeing time and again, climate related disasters, such as drought, erratic rainfall, and a rise in sea levels, are hitting vulnerable countries harder than ever. And yet, despite the advance in early warnings and predictive technology, these communities are constantly caught off guard and unable to cope or adapt to consequences of climate change. This is simply not acceptable and governments need to do more to better prepare people already at risk to both adapt and also withstand the new and worrying realities of climate change.

After extended talks at the Doha COP18 , almost 200 countries agreed in principle that rich countries will take steps to compensate poorer ones for the damage they have done to the climate. The world's top industrialised countries agreed to seriously discuss a mechanism through which developing countries could be compensated for "loss and damage from climate change" which was indeed a significant acknowledgement and step forward. The IFRC believes this to be an encouraging step given that the richer counties have thus far only agreed to financially support less developed countries when it comes to processing clean energy and adapting to the effects of climate change.

We are extremely heartened by the decision taken at the COP18 to establish a mechanism to address loss and damage in developing countries and also extend the Kyoto Protocol ( the only legally-binding plan for combating global warming) until 2020. Indeed, the final text " encourages developed countries to increase efforts to provide financing for the period 2013-2015. As the world's largest humanitarian network, we call upon all Parties to make sure this promise is kept.

Many poor countries are on the front line of the effects of climate change, including a rise in water levels and the threat of submergence. We remain concerned that the agreement reached in Doha does not do enough to help the many thousands of people already displaced by rising waters, particularly small island states who remain at severe risk from climate change. Indeed, alongside preparedness, more needs to be done to assure more substantial financing to help countries cope with the effects of climate change, for example with the construction of barriers to protect against rising sea levels, or conversion to crops capable of surviving high temperatures and drought.

Whilst the steps taken at COP18 were encouraging they were also modest. The IFRC was disappointed that those countries who did commit to reducing their output of greenhouse gas only represent 15% of the today's global emissions. We echo the calls of our humanitarian agency counterparts and urge countries to take further, genuine action to reduce their carbon emissions. If we are going to avoid irreversible climate change and devastating global warming, we all have to work together and strive to find a just compromise. We no longer have the luxury of time and we have a collective responsibility to both protect and better prepare the planet and the 7 billion people who live on it.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world's largest humanitarian organization, with 187 member National Societies. As part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, our work is guided by seven fundamental principles; humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. About this site & copyright

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