Human Misery, if Business as Usual at Panama Climate Talks

7 October 2011

Isaac Kabongo speaks about adaptation in Africa

Isaac Kabongo
Executive Director
Ecological Christian Organisation (ECO)

The United Nations declared that 11.5m people currently need humanitarian assistance across East Africa and many more could join them. The BBC reported that millions in Somalia and across the Horn of Africa face dire food shortages due to the worst regional drought for decades. On Tell Me More today, Al-Jazeera English correspondent, Azad Essa, told host Michel Martin that "in a word, the situation is quite horrific." The Horn of Africa region is now full of environmental refugees who do not have real hope in this real world. Their hope could be in the climate talks in Panama City that represent the best and last chance to get climate change negotiations back on track and prepare for a legally binding agreement at COP17 in Durban, South Africa.

In Uganda, the impacts of climate change are continuing without serious interventions to help vulnerable communities to cope. The recent emergence of landslides in areas without such history is leaving communities isolated, their survival networks and social structures weakened. On March 2 2010 over 358 people were killed by landslides at Nametsi Village, Bududa district, in Eastern Uganda. Landslides killed more 50 people in Bulambuli district, towards the end of August 2011 in Eastern Uganda.  This is a region hit by drought, with many requiring food aid following the lack of April-May rain, these torrential rains, flooding and landslides are crippling the ability of communities to overcome poverty. Climate change impacts are making it even worse for communities to meet their needs and the government of Uganda to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), reduce poverty, and enhance human development. For us in Uganda, the parties attending the climate change talks in Panama City should come up with a text on long-term finance, which should be easily accessed by vulnerable Countries like Uganda.

Environmental protection is necessary to prevent climate change disasters in many countries from getting worse. In Panama City, measures must be taken to accommodate the needs of environmental refugees through expanding finance, technology, and capacity building commitments to developing countries. There is also need by parties to strengthen counting rules and methodologies to eliminate loopholes and explore innovative approaches to close the mitigation gap. Developed countries, therefore, should increase the ambition of their mitigation commitments unconditionally because of their historical responsibility.  The Kyoto Protocol should be extended to the second commit period and attempts should be made to desist from failing to reach a legally binding climate change regime in Durban, South Africa, in December at the final UN Climate Talks of 2011. It is also important to note that the cost of inaction in clear and the future of the next generation is at a crossroad.

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