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Special Features | World | National

PH, island nations make last-ditch plea for survival as troubled Doha talks wrap up

A man dressed as a groom representing the COP18, the 18th Conference of the Parties that represents all nations taking part in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Doha, and a woman dressed as a bride representing science,' perform a mock wedding ceremony on the sidelines of the UN climate conference. (AFP/Al-Watan Doha/Karim Jaafar)

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

DOHA, Qatar -- The Philippines joined other low-lying countries and small island-states in issuing a desperate plea for survival as the troubled climate change here entered the final stage with two major issues unresolved: extending the greenhouse gas-curbing Kyoto Protocol and funding for poor countries.

The supplicant-nations are all threatened by rising seas, fiercer typhoons, more intense flooding, water shortages and drought as a result of climate change. They also face the added curse of being poor and unable to adapt quickly.

As the Doha talks entered their final day Friday, delegates prepared for a long day and night of final haggling to find consensus on interim ways to rein in climate change and smooth the way to a new deal that must enter into force in 2020.

This includes how to mobilize around US$100 billion a year by 2020 to support mitigation and adaptation measures in poorer countries.

Developing countries say they need at least another $60 billion between now and 2015.

But the United States and European Union have refused to put concrete figures on the table in Doha for 2013-2020 funding, citing tough financial times.

Another point of contention was "hot air," the name given to Earth-warming greenhouse gas emission quotas that countries were given under the first leg of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and did not use -- some 13 billion tons in total.

The credits can be sold to nations battling to meet their own quotas, meaning greenhouse gas levels decrease on paper but not in the atmosphere.

Poland and Russia emitted much less than their lenient limits, and insisted in Doha on being allowed to bank the difference beyond 2012 -- a move vehemently opposed by most other parties.

Developed countries were pressed to show how they intend to keep a promise to raise climate funding for poor countries to $100 billion (76 billion euros) per year by 2020 -- up from a total of $30 billion in 2010-2012.

Developing countries say they need at least another $60 billion between now and 2015.

But the United States and European Union have refused to put concrete figures on the table in Doha for 2013-2020 funding, citing tough financial times.

Another point of contention was "hot air," the name given to Earth-warming greenhouse gas emission quotas that countries were given under the first leg of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and did not use -- some 13 billion tonnes in total.

The credits can be sold to nations battling to meet their own quotas, meaning greenhouse gas levels decrease on paper but not in the atmosphere.

Poland and Russia emitted much less than their lenient limits, and insisted in Doha on being allowed to bank the difference beyond 2012 -- a move vehemently opposed by most other parties.

Among the most powerful and emotional appeals was that of Philippine Climate Change Commission vice chair Lucille Sering, who silenced the talks Thursday when she fought back tears as she said climate change poses an imminent threat to her countrymen’s livelihood and existence.

“Climate change is not something that we should be flirting with. For us and for other poorer countries, this is real,” Sering said as she noted the Philippines has yet to cope with the aftermath of typhoon “Pablo,” which has left more than 400 dead with hundreds still missing and hundreds of thousands homeless.

Sering said the fate of vulnerable countries depends on the world’s ability to commit to “higher level of ambition in greenhouse gas emission” and turn financial commitments to reality.

In past climate talks, countries agreed that deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions were needed to hold temperature rises below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.

Noting that the Philippines is visited by an average of 20 typhoons a year, Sering said substantial chunks of the national budget intended for education and health are often diverted to typhoon recovery and rehabilitation.

In 2009 alone, she said the damage wrought by only two typhoons was equivalent to two to three percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Over the past four years, the Philippines has domestically strengthened its climate change programs by increasing the budget and creating a Cabinet cluster to address the impacts of the changing weather.

A law was also passed this year creating the People’s Survival Fund to directly support the adaptation action plans of local government units and communities.

“We have to be forward looking because our past efforts were proven to be not enough,” Sering said. “Because we all initially respected our common but differentiated responsibility, because we understood national circumstances, we gave allowances for hot air. But these offsets do not respond to what science demands. Our concern is not yesterday, our concern is today, tomorrow and thereafter. Time really is no longer on our side.”

 At another high level plenary session on Thursday, Climate Change Commissioner Naderev Sano stressed the urgency of action by governments on the second commitment period of the only legally binding agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, which is set to expire by end of this month, in addition to finance, adaptation, technology and capacity building.

“An important backdrop for my delegation is the profound impacts of climate change that we are already confronting,” Sano said as he broke into tears. “ As we sit here, every single hour, even as we vacillate and procrastinate here, the death toll (from typhoon Pablo) is rising. There is a massive and widespread devastation.”

Sano added that “heart-breaking tragedies” such as Pablo are also experienced by most developing countries struggling to confront poverty and address social and human development.

“I appeal to the whole world, I appeal to leaders from all over the world to open our eyes to the stark reality that we face,” Sano said. “Please no more delays, no more excuses.”

Struggling to survive

Small island nations such as Tuvalu, which is at risk from rising sea levels and stronger typhoons, called for a heightened sense of urgency in undertaking climate action.

“Open your eyes and ears more wider so that you can see that the most vulnerable, small and tiny island countries such as Tuvalu are now sinking into the dark ocean,” said Apisai Ielemia, Tuvalu’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Ielemia told delegates that the rising sea level is threatening Tuvalu’s very existence.

Should sea levels rise by three to four meters, Tuvalu and other tiny countries “will soon become extinct by the end of the century or much earlier.”

Albert Abel Williams, director of the Environmental Protection and Conservation Department of Vanuatu, ranked this year by a United Nations report as the country most at risk from natural disasters, quipped: “Being number one is a tragedy. We are losing our livelihoods, our homes, our culture and our identity.”

“From increasing food security to dwindling and increasing salinated groundwater resources to human fatalities with ever-intensifying tropical cyclones, Vanuatu is losing a battle that it does not alone have the capacity to win,” he said.

“In every corner of the globe, the evidence of a changing climate is right before us. In all our countries, we are experiencing more intense, costlier and deadlier climate-related extreme weather events,” said Senator Maxine Mclean of Barbados. “No country is immune and no community will be left untouched by the ravages of climate change.”

On the brink of disaster

But groups such as Greenpeace, ActionAid, Christian Aid, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam and WWF said they were feeling hopeless about the lack of urgency and progress of the climate talks.

“People are dying because of climate change. People are losing their homes, their livelihoods, their source of food. It is saddening to see rich country negotiators actively blocking progress in order to maintain the profits of their coal, oil and forestry industries,” said Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International.

"Political negotiators need to realise urgently that the climate does not negotiate," Naidoo told AFP separately in the final hours of the talks. "Negotiations are out of touch with scientific reality. This is about human survival."

Harjeet Singh of ActionAid International said in a statement that “developed countries are pretending that loss and damage is not a real problem, and that we don’t need an international mechanism to address it. Tell that to the Philippines in the wake of typhoon Bopha (Pablo’s international codename), and to the people who had no role in creating the climate crisis but are suffering the most from its effects.”

With the slow pace of the climate talks, Asad Rehman of Friends of the Earth International said that failure is locking in inaction for the next decade.

Celine Charveriat, director of advocacy and campaigns for Oxfam International, said rich countries need to make a collective commitment to increase public climate finance from next year to at least US$60 billion by 2015 in order for developing countries to adapt.

“The gap between the realities of climate-related disasters and the political commitment to address climate change is just too large. This is being reflected in the shamefully weak deal being negotiated in Doha,” said Samantha Smith of WWF.

Mohamed Adow, senior climate change adviser of Christian Aid said: “Until leaders respond to the clear alarm bells that are ringing with greater volume of urgency than ever, we will not have a planet safe for us or for future generations.”

 

 

 

 

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