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  • Weathering the storm
    Saturday, December 8, 2007
    The Bali summit: The world's poor are already feeling the effects of a crisis that is not of their causing. Rich nations must help them adapt
    The stories keep on coming, from every corner of the world.

    There's Tahmina in inundated Bangladesh who spent a night in November clinging to a palm tree while Cyclone Sidr battered her village and took the lives of her two sons.

    There's Ursula Rakova from the Carteret Islands in Papua New Guinea, campaigning in Bali on behalf of her compatriots who can only watch as salt water bubbles up through their shrinking lands.

    And there's Thandi Masuku in parched KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, asking (pdf) for help to cope with the deepening drought that is compounding the already deadly impact of HIV/Aids in her community.

    The world's poorest people - the people Oxfam works with in more than 80 countries - rely on the land and the sea for their survival. While they may not all be following events at the UN conference in Bali, climate change is already a stark reality for them.

    Far from being passive victims, people are already adapting in order to survive. In Vietnam, for example, they are planting mangroves to keep back the rising seas; in South Africa they are using fast maturing crops to cope with erratic rainfall. But all of this costs money, money poor countries don't have.

    Oxfam estimates that developing countries need around $50bn a year, starting now, to have any chance of adapting to climate change. And the very poorest, the least developed countries (LDCs), need an immediate pay out of $1-2bn just for their most urgent adaptation projects.

    What have rich countries pledged so far to the UN fund for the LDCs? Just $163m - less than half the amount the UK is investing in cooling the London Underground. What's worse, only $67m of that has actually been delivered, less than what Americans spend on suntan lotion in a month.

    These amounts are frankly an insult; the efforts to tackle this problem need to be stepped up right now by the delegates in Bali. The immediate needs of people in developing countries should be placed centre stage. And the guiding principle should be "the polluter pays" - rich industrialised nations should be providing compensatory finance to help the poorest adapt to a crisis that is not of their causing.

    Of course the Bali conference must take tackle head on the thorny issue of how to cut carbon emissions sufficiently to keep global temperature rises to a "safe" level. But Bali needs to address both cause and effect equally. Even if the world stopped polluting today, the worsening impacts of climate change would be with us for 30 years or more. That's why it is so vital that rich countries help the poorest to cope now.

    Oxfam wants to see negotiators in Bali set out a plan for identifying new ways of raising finance for adaptation. Rich countries should seek to secure resources from the private sector, particularly from economic sectors that are largely responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon taxes; air travel levies; levies on carbon trading and carbon auction revenues; redirecting fossil fuel subsidies - all these and more should be explored.

    New sources of funding must be found because adaptation cannot be paid for out of aid budgets. This is not about aid - it is about the world's biggest and richest polluters covering the costs they have forced upon those who are most vulnerable.

    In addition to identifying new funding sources for the Adaptation Fund - the largest potential source of funds for climate adaptation in poor countries - Oxfam is calling for a decision on management of the fund that puts poor countries first. This must be coupled with a post-2012 negotiation process that puts adaptation on an equal footing with the urgent agenda of cutting global carbon emissions.

    We know that scientists aren't yet able to attribute specific weather events directly to global warming. But we also know they are extremely confident about the pattern that is emerging, a pattern of more and more unpredictable and severe weather. For the people on the front lines, things are set to get a lot worse, and quickly.

    guardian
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Londen time 11:02 PM  
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