With climate change already causing 'loss and damage', worst hit say it deserves special treatment at UN talks
By Megan Rowling
BONN, Germany, June 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The world's poorest countries plan to push hard for a new global climate change deal, due in December, to address the losses and damage already being caused by worsening extreme weather and rising seas, which are hitting their people hard.
At U.N. climate talks, Giza Gaspar Martins, an Angolan government official who leads negotiations for the least developed countries, told journalists a science policy review published in Bonn had shown that an internationally agreed goal of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius "is too dangerous for too many of us".
Calling for the goal to be revised down to 1.5 degrees, he said "loss and damage" caused by climate change should get its own section in a new agreement rather than being dealt with under a proposed goal on adapting to climate shifts, as some developed countries would prefer.
"(Loss and damage) is when you can no longer adapt to any potential change - that reality is deserving of special consideration," he said.
Rows between rich and poor countries have blown up at climate negotiations in recent years over the response to loss and damage, especially the view that wealthy polluting nations should pay compensation to those suffering the worst impacts.
Developing nations won a battle to establish an international mechanism to address loss and damage at the Warsaw climate conference in 2013. It has been tasked with further research on related issues, including migration caused by climate extremes, but has yet to start work.
The least developed countries want to ensure loss and damage and the Warsaw mechanism are given a prominent place in any Paris deal.
The current draft text for the agreement includes a range of proposals - from no mention of the mechanism, to the creation of a compensation regime.
"SILENT PEOPLE PAY"
Harjeet Singh, climate change policy manager for ActionAid International, said that with the current 0.8 degrees of warming over pre-industrial levels, the world was already suffering big climate disasters, including drought in the Horn of Africa, strong cyclones in the Philippines and Vanuatu, and unprecedented floods and extreme heat in India.
"The question we should be asking ourselves is if even a 1.5 degree warmer world will be safe for us?" he said. "The impact ... is going to be several times more than we are seeing now."
Augustine Njamnshi of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) said people in his country, Cameroon, were living with loss and damage from climate change on a daily basis, including women farmers who lose their crops because of drought and cannot afford more seeds.
"These are the silent people who are paying for this crisis every blessed day," he said.
"If we (leave) Paris without having loss and damage (in the agreement), then Africa will be the loser, and many other developing countries and the poor people," he added.
John Knox, U.N. special rapporteur for human rights and the environment, warned in a statement on Wednesday that a 2 degree temperature increase would have "a grave effect on the enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, including rights to life and health".
Experts in Bonn said oil-rich Saudi Arabia had blocked a decision to take forward work on the scientific review of efforts to limit temperature rise, and the matter would be revisited in Paris.
"This debate about (lowering the goal to) 1.5 degrees is very crucial in the context of loss and damage," said Sven Harmeling, climate change advocacy coordinator with CARE International.
Outside the U.N. climate talks, many vulnerable, developing countries were becoming "very impatient", he added.
Earlier this week, representatives of Vanuatu - including its president - Kiribati, Tuvalu, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and the Philippines committed in a declaration on "climate justice" to bring a legal case that would investigate the human rights implications of climate change and hold accountable major companies that profit from fossil fuels.
"As the people most acutely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, we will not let the big polluters decide and assign our fate," they said in a statement.
"Our rights and ability to survive must not be dictated by the continued addiction to the burning of fossil fuels."
On Monday, Group of Seven leaders pledged to develop long-term low-carbon strategies and abandon fossil fuels by the end of the century.
(Reporting by Megan Rowling; editing by Alex Whiting)
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