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Climate Change Talks Must Deliver After Record Weather Year

Climate Change Talks Must Deliver Following Record Year of Extreme Weather

Negotiators must begin UN climate talks with far more urgency and resolve following a year of weather-related disasters, record temperatures, flooding and rising sea levels, international agency Oxfam said today. Weather-related disasters have devastated the lives of poor people during 2010. The UN climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, run from November 29 to December 10.

A new Oxfam report “Now More Than Ever: Climate talks that work for those who need them most”, says that 21,000 people died due to weather-related disasters in the first nine months of 2010 – more than twice the number for the whole of 2009. This year is on course to experience more extreme-weather events than the last ten-year average. Several countries have also broken heat records, with Pakistan logging 53.7°C – the highest ever in Asia.

Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand, said, “This year has seen massive suffering and loss due to extreme weather disasters. This is likely to get worse as climate change tightens its grip. The human impacts of climate change in 2010 send a powerful reminder why progress in Cancun is more urgent than ever.”

While climate change cannot be held responsible for any specific weather-related disaster, climate models predict that extreme weather events, such as those over the past year, are likely to get worse due to a lack of global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This means people who are already suffering are likely to be at even greater risk.

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The Pacific region is one of the most vulnerable in the world to the impacts of climate change. Saltwater is seeping into drinking water supplies and poisoning food crops. King tides and storm surges are washing away coastlines, and in some cases people are already migrating. Yet Pacific people have done almost nothing to cause the problem. Nor do they have the resources to tackle the impacts. This is deeply unjust.

In Cancun, Oxfam is calling on New Zealand and other countries to establish a fair climate fund so that money can get to those who need it most and can use it best. This fund should prioritise support for vulnerable countries, and especially women because of their vital role in helping communities to adapt successfully to climate impacts.

An international advisory group has spelled out some of the ways to raise the billions of dollars needed, such as putting levies on unregulated international aviation and shipping emissions, and agreeing a Financial Transactions Tax on international financial flows. The sooner the money is delivered, the cheaper it will be to tackle climate change. Estimates suggest that every dollar spent on adaptation could save US$60 in damages.

It is crucial that New Zealand and other countries translate informal emissions pledges into the formal negotiations. The emissions reductions also need to be increased significantly. The current emissions path is heading for a global temperature rise of over 3°C, which would create massive damage and suffering, especially in developing countries. Parties should agree to increase their pledges enough so that global warming is kept below 1.5°C. They must use the Cancun talks to clear the path toward a comprehensive, fair and legally binding global deal.

Coates said: “Now is not the time to walk away from the UN. It is the only forum where the world can decide on an effective global response to an unfolding global crisis. The UN process has helped to generate international pressure in the past few years – pushing countries to initiate domestic policy and to set targets they otherwise would not have done.

“Cancun will not deliver a global deal. This will only be possible once further progress is made in negotiations. But we must make progress now on getting climate finance to the people who need it most, especially women.

“This is not aid. This is about vulnerable communities protecting themselves from a problem that they did not cause. One of the most important achievements would be a fair climate fund. This would help to rebuild trust and put the talks back on track.”


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