Dying for change?

4 November 2009

ECO would like an answer to this question: What would you do if your country, lands and the livelihoods of your people were going to become unliveable or disappear under water or sand or face substantial damages beyond their capacity to adapt?

Adaptation negotiators entering the halls for the next informal session on adaptation ought to keep this concern clearly in mind, for it is the very real question faced by many of the world’s poorest countries.  And the worry is growing.  Recent Hadley Centre research shows that business-as-usual on our globe puts us on a pathway to a 4 to 6o C temperature increase by 2060 – and hotter in many places. Even current emission reductions targets, as analysed by Project Catalyst, point to a world of 3o and above.

Some Parties, mindful of this reality, are suggesting an international mechanism to address the unavoidable loss and damage from the adverse effects of climate change.  They propose using insurance and compensation where adaptation is no longer possible.

But an informal survey of the scene reveals that the big, dirty, polluting, developed countries have very little interest in making progress on the issue. For example, Canada earned a Fossil of the Day with its suggestion to take loss and damage from unavoidable impacts off the list of adaptation objectives.

But deflecting this problem means that millions of extremely vulnerable people, for whom adaptation is less or no longer an option, would be left behind in a Copenhagen deal and face a grim future. ECO finds this unacceptable, dear reader, and so should you.  There is still time for Canada, and for that matter the other developed countries that are currently hesitating to address this key issue, to broaden their view.

The first step is easy, and it would be difficult to find a justifiable reason not to take it: add a preambular paragraph that recognises that the problem exists, and firmly resolve to act on the issue by listing it in para 3, objectives.
The next step is equally clear and logical: agree a work programme to develop elements to assess and address loss and damage from unavoidable impacts.

For the last but most critical step, the foundations already exist in section D of the adaptation non-paper: a mechanism under the Copenhagen agreement to support vulnerable developing countries to build resilience and minimise loss and damage from unavoidable impacts, and to recover and rehabilitate livelihoods lost or damaged.

Some say it’s all too difficult.  But that’s a matter of priorities.  Could you sleep at night if your neighbor’s lands and livelihood became untenable because you did nothing?

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