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Climate change threatens vulnerable communities

Climate change threatens those who can't protect themselves warns Oxfam

In the build up to Climate Action Day and the UN conference on the Kyoto Protocol, Oxfam reveals who the victims are likely to be. It is the vulnerable communities in Africa, Asia and the Pacific that will pay for the pollution by rich nations.

A recent report by Oxfam and coalition partners warns of the devastating impact on the poorest people in Africa. It comes after strong calls from Pacific leaders for urgent action to avoid their countries being submerged.

Climate change is already having serious impacts on peoples' lives across Africa, and is set to get much worse unless urgent action is taken according to a new report from a coalition of UK development and environment agencies. The report is released in the run up to the next week's UN Conference on Climate Change in Nairobi.

The report, "Africa - Up in Smoke 2", is based on the latest available scientific research and evidence from those living on the front line of global warming. It shows that climate change is already having serious impacts on peoples' lives across Africa - and is set to get much worse unless urgent action is taken.

Africa is already warmer by 0.5C than it was 100 years ago, putting extra strain on water resources. According to the UK's Hadley Centre, temperature increases over many areas of Africa will be double the global average increase, and drought patterns stand to worsen catastrophically.

The coalition calls for rich countries to make good their promises to reduce greenhouse gases made at Kyoto and go beyond them. It also calls for an overhaul of humanitarian relief and development, for donors to fund urgent measures to help communities adapt to a new and more erratic climate, and for donors and African governments to tackle poverty and invest in agricultural development.

Speaking at the Pacific Islands Forum earlier this month, Mr. Anote Tong, President of Kiribati said that rising sea levels would create countless environmental refugees. Kiribati is an archipelago of coral atolls that rise barely two meters above sea level, and together with Tuvalu, is one of the Pacific countries most at risk. Elsewhere in the Pacific, the impacts of climate change are already being felt. On the main island, Tarawa, the population is being squeezed onto an ever narrower strip of land between the lagoon and the sea.

Oxfam New Zealand's Executive Director Barry Coates says, "Climate change is no longer a theory. It is already having an impact, especially in low lying areas of the developing world. The Pacific is already suffering from problems of fresh water salination, increased frequency and severity of cyclones and sea level rise. It has the potential to have a devastating impact on the Pacific. The victims will be those vulnerable communities who have no way to protect themselves, no resources or social security to fall back on and nowhere else to go."

Commenting on this week's publication of the Stern review on the economics of climate change, Coates adds, "The desperate sense of urgency that runs through this report must be matched by immediate government action. The international community's blinkers have to come off--not only will immediate action on climate change save money in the future, but it will also save lives in the world's poorest countries today. The New Zealand government needs to take a strong stand at next week's conference in Nairobi, not only to make New Zealand a sustainable society, but to use our influence on the international stage to avoid devastating impacts on the lives of our Pacific neighbours and millions of vulnerable people in the poorest communities of the world."

Saturday November 4 is the International Day of Action on Climate Change, with public events planned around the country. In Auckland a range of environmental and social justice groups are hosting a carnival at Aotea Square starting at 1pm. Wellington will have a full day of climate change films, workshops and activities at the Paramount Theatre starting at 11am.


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