Disappointed in Doha

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 12:23

After witnessing the devastating impacts of Hurricane Sandy in Cuba, Haiti and the United States, I was hoping to find developed countries, engaged in the climate negotiations in Doha, to be serious about addressing the ‘loss and damage’ caused by climate change.

But I’m being left disappointed in Doha, with developed countries still fiddling with the process.

Alarms are going off all over the world as flooding and drought become more regular but climate negotiators are still stuck in the conference centre discussing whether or not to react.

Rich countries rode the wave of the economic boom whilst they pumped out carbon dioxide into the atmosphere so now they must compensate for the loss and damage that poor communities and countries are already suffering as a result of climate change.

The dramatic flooding in the Philippines and Bangladesh, and major drought in Russia, Australia and the US in 2012 are stark reminders of what climate change will look like in future. A recent report by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that "extreme weather will be the new normal." 

Scientists have also warned us of slow onset climate impacts such as sea level rise, ocean acidification and desertification, and how these will combine with natural disasters with the result being loss of life and damage to livelihoods, ecosystems, biodiversity, culture, indigenous knowledge – much of which will be irreparable.

Due to past action and inaction by developed countries and the sheer severity of the problem, we have now entered a new era of ‘loss and damage’. To stop this, we need to immediately and drastically cut emissions, and help vulnerable countries and ecosystems adapt to new climate realities. Governments must now also recognise that we are in a ‘third era’ of climate impacts, and address the permanent loss and damage that is resulting from their inaction.

The issue of how to address loss and damage has been on the negotiating table since 1991, when the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) put forward the idea of an International Insurance Pool and an International Climate Fund.

Things didn’t progress much until a 2 year work programme on ‘loss and damage’ was agreed in Cancun in 2010 which was to inform the next course of action.

In Doha, negotiations have not been easy on this issue.

The US and EU are fiercely against providing compensation for climate affected people, while developing countries, led by AOSIS are pushing strongly for it.

ActionAid, along with CARE and WWF, launched a new report: Tackling the Limits to Adaptation, at the summit, which points to both the moral and legal duty of developed countries with high emissions to take immediate action.

Rapid and drastic emissions reductions are urgently needed to keep global temperature rises below 1.5 degrees.

Secondly, measures to support vulnerable communities to protect their lives, incomes and assets from climate impacts adaptation must be urgently up-scaled – which requires rich countries to step forward with more money.

But even with these measures, there will still be unavoidable impacts that will have to be tackled as they arise.That’s why we’re calling for an international mechanism on compensation and rehabilitation to be established, a process to be agreed which shows how this mechanism will work, and setting of a programme for further work in this area as new problems develop in countries.

Government ministers have now arrived at the talks in Doha and we, along with over 40 civil society organisations and networks from all over the world, have signed an open letter urging them to take urgent action to address loss and damage at this year’s UN climate talks.

We need these talks to start delivering for those people already living with climate change.