Bonn — As Bonn climate talks start, expert warn, "We can't leave and say to people affected by disasters: 'Sorry guys, you're on your own'"
As climate change impacts strengthen, poor people and countries vulnerable to rising sea level, droughts, hurricanes and floods need to be the focus of this year's U.N. climate talks - and governments need to act faster to protect them, campaigners said on Monday.
For the first time, the talks, which opened in Bonn Monday, are being presided over by a small island state - Fiji, which is already facing problems from rising seas that forced one coastal village to move in 2014.
As millions worldwide are affected by increasingly frequent climate shocks, developing countries lack the resources to cope with the next disaster, said Harjeet Singh, ActionAid International's global lead on climate change.
The talks need "to represent the interests of all vulnerable countries and people", he said on the sidelines of the negotiations.
Vital to that is making progress in raising money to help countries recover from disasters, and adapt their lives and economies to the changing climate, he said.
Richer countries have promised to raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poorer nations make that transition - though many experts say the figure is well below what is needed.
"The Fijian presidency has a moral responsibility to make sure we make huge progress around (climate finance)," Singh said.
"We need to have tangible outcomes from (these talks). We can't leave (here) and say to people affected by disasters: 'Sorry guys, you're on your own.'"
A group representing 12 Pacific island nations on Monday urged the government leaders to act quickly. More than two decades of climate negotiations have not yet delivered enough action to protect homes and jobs from dangerous climate change, said members of the Pacific Climate Warriors group.
"In the Pacific, the impacts of climate change are not a debate, it is our reality. We no longer have time to talk. Now is the time to act," said the young islanders, part of a network of Pacifid youth fighting climate change.
U.N. climate leaders on Monday agreed that countries need to act quickly and with ambition to cut planet-warming emissions and to help the millions of people whose lives have been devastated by natural disasters.
"Never before have we met with a greater sense of urgency," said Patricia Espinosa, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat.
"Millions of people have suffered and continue to suffer from extreme weather events.... (and) the fact is that this may only be the start, a preview of what is to come," she said.
"We no longer have the luxury of time. We must act now."
Limiting global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels - less than half a degree higher than today - "is a matter of survival for many vulnerable nations around the world", said Genevieve Jiva, a Fijian and project officer at the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network.
To achieve the goal, countries must work swiftly and immediately to phase out coal and other fossil fuels, she said. "Developed countries and major polluters need to understand that their fossil fuels is the Pacifics' loss and damage," she said.
Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama urged governments at the opening ceremony to keep global warming in control, or face more people being exposed to destruction and suffering.
"We are all in the same canoe," he said. (Reporting by Alex Whiting @Alexwhi, Editing by Laurie Goering.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women's rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)