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Climate realities

Leaders at COP21 ‘must match words with action’ to protect the vulnerable from unavoidable devastation
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Three major civil society groups are demanding that the UN climate talks follow through on leaders’ calls for action to help the world’s most vulnerable people.

COP21 – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says failure is not an option – ‘the time for action is now’

Climate Vulnerable Declaration

The call follows the Climate Vulnerable Forum’s Declaration, issued on day one of COP21, to upscale national climate action.

The declaration links a broad coalition of 30 vulnerable countries across continents in the strongest call to date for full decarbonisation of the world economy, 100% renewable energy by 2050 and zero emissions by mid-century in order to keep the world on track for below 1.5 degrees of warming.

The reality of climate change

In a new report, Climate Reality in the 21st Century, released yesterday in Paris, ActionAid, CARE and WWF say that with global temperatures already at 1 degree above pre-industrial levels, the need for money and regulations to deal with climate devastation are more critical than ever before.

Loss and damage is now part of the reality of climate change. If the planet undergoes 2°-3°C of warming, which is a possibility with the current national climate pledges – known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) – on the table, the scale of loss and damage will be catastrophic.

‘Hopelessly inadequate’

As COP21 negotiations bed down to the detail, the groups warn that countries must now commit to a deal which properly addresses the unavoidable devastation of climate change and the loss of lives and livelihoods that will result.

‘For too long, reducing emissions and scaling up adaptation support has been hopelessly inadequate. This has resulted in worsening climate change impacts that exceed the ability of people and ecosystems to cope. World leaders have to pay attention when their people and the systems that sustain them are crying for help,’

Sandeep Chamling Rai, senior advisor on global adaptation policy, WWF Global Climate and Energy Initiative

Unavoidable loss and damage

The report says that current plans to mitigate and adapt to climate change (a more prominent focus of the climate negotiations) are insufficient, making it more and more difficult for vulnerable communities and ecosystems to adapt. This will lead to the unavoidable loss and damage of habitats around the world.

‘Many poor people hang on the precipice as waters rise and storms batter homes with alarming frequency.

‘World leaders gathered in Paris rightly acknowledge reaching a deal is about the survival of human life on our planet. Those same leaders desperately need to practise what they preach and include firm commitments to help poor communities already battling irreversible impacts.’

Harjeet Singh, ActionAid’s climate policy manager

Recognising impacts

The creation at the UN of the Warsaw International Mechanism in 2014 was an outright recognition of climate change hitting the most vulnerable people and ecosystems.

But the mechanism needs to be extended beyond its 2016 lifespan – which, according to the report, must be addressed in Paris.

Poor nations need new knowledge and skills, finance and material resources to deal with the new challenges of sea level rise, glacial melt and oceans turning acidic.

‘Governments have already taken first steps to solve their disagreements, but to ensure that they commit to long-term action, we need to see a robust measure to address loss and damage anchored into the new climate agreement.

‘Countries should take concrete actions and also further strengthen the existing Warsaw International Mechanism. The poorest and most vulnerable people in the world must not be left alone on the frontlines of worsening climate shocks.’

Sven Harmeling, CARE International’s climate change advocacy coordinator

Click here to read the full report, Loss and Damage: Climate Reality in the 21st Century.

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