WARSAW (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Increasingly severe climate impacts, including an estimated 10,000 deaths in the Philippines from a record typhoon this week, should push forward efforts to create a “loss and damage” mechanism at the latest round of U.N. climate talks, which opened Monday in Warsaw, negotiators said.
Such a mechanism, promised at the last major round of negotiations in Doha last year, would assist poorer countries that emit low levels of greenhouse gases with the costs of climate-related damages that occur despite their efforts to adapt to shifting climate and weather patterns.
“This loss and damage mechanism that is supposed to be delivered at Warsaw should become a reality,” Alicia Ilaga, a negotiator from the Philippines, told journalists.
“We’re doing our work on adaptation; we’re making resiliency part of our development planning. But the impacts of climate change are beyond our capacity already. That’s why we need the world not just to feel our pain, our irretrievable loss, but to do something,” she said.
In a heartfelt speech to gathered negotiators, Naderev Saño, the Philippines lead negotiator and the country’s climate change commissioner, said he was embarking on a fast for the duration of the two-week negotiations, until “meaningful” pledges were made on climate finance, a loss and damage mechanism and other action.
His decision, he said, was in solidarity with his brother in the Philippines, who had survived the typhoon but had been without food for three days and was moving bodies of victims. Other members of his family had not yet been heard from after the storm, which cut communications on some islands, he added.
“We refuse to accept a future where super typhoons like Haiyan become a way of life… where counting our dead becomes a way of life,” Saño said, raising a red handkerchief to his eyes as negotiators gave him a standing ovation.
‘FASTER, HIGHER, STRONGER’
The Warsaw talks open without particularly high hopes for the kind of ambitious progress needed to address accelerating climate change and worsening climate impacts, including floods, droughts and more severe storms.
Countries have committed to putting in place by 2015 a new global deal to curb climate changing emissions and to provide finance to help poorer countries adopt cleaner growth paths and adapt to climate change. But progress toward an agreement has been far slower than the pace of climate change itself, and a 2015 deal, if agreed, would take effect only in 2020.
Many scientists believe efforts to hold global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius, the level considered relatively safe, are failing and the world is more likely headed for an increase of at least 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Yet increasingly strong scientific evidence of the problems climate change is bringing has not translated into political will to address the problem.
The Warsaw talks need “to move faster, higher, stronger,” said Christiana Figueres, secretary general of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which organises the talks. The world is “only beginning to experience” the extent and scope of climate impacts, including severe weather, she said in an opening statement.
In particular, “climate change has created an unlevel playing field for future generations,” she said. “Previous generations unknowingly had an advantage. Future generations face a monumental uphill struggle.”
Marcin Korolec, Poland’s environment minister and president of the Warsaw negotiations, called the Philippines disaster a “painful awakening” and “another proof we are losing this unequal struggle of men and nature”. He urged countries at the negotiations to “close ranks and strike back”.
Poland, however, has been criticised in the lead-up to the negotiations for its focus on ensuring the talks achieve “inclusive” action, rather than asking for greater ambition.
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