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Bonn talks: Civil society operatives reiterate call for urgent climate action

As the Bonn climate talks came to a close on Thursday, May 10, 2018, civil society and non-party stakeholder groups have reiterated their call for urgent climate action.

Tolanoa Dialogue - Rakiraki
Participants at the Rakiraki Room, one of the sessions of the Talanoa Dialogue

The groups demand that governments follow-up the Paris Agreement with increased urgent action to prevent average global warming from rising 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

At an action event at the Bonn climate change talks in advance of the closing session of the Talanoa Dialogue, groups highlighted that Parties must reinforce the Paris Agreement goal and commit to enhanced action as a matter of survival for vulnerable countries.

“Perception on climate change has changed over the years,” said Olivia Adhiambo, Policy and Advocacy Manager at the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance. “Though we may differ on what action to take, the consensus across the world is that the climate has changed, and that someone somewhere has caused the problem. Climate change is no longer an isolated scientific and environmental issue, it has dimensions in all human development indicators.”

Adhiambo says PACJA believes that climate change is a poverty issue because it has exacerbated poverty in the world; an equity issue because it disproportionately affects the poor and vulnerable countries and sectors of the society, and a justice issue because it was caused by rich people and the poor are mostly affected. For the last nine days, delegates have been negotiating the various technical issues under the UNFCCC technical and implementation bodies, the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA).

Key among the issues discussed include climate finance, a key enabler to the implementation of the Paris Agreement, importance of Agriculture to developing country parties in terms of adaptation, the finalisation of the Paris Rule book for implementation, and increasing climate ambition through the Talanoa Dialogue regarding emission cuts.

This is in view of the fact that the current collective pledges made under the Paris Agreement, are not enough to meet the target of limiting global temperature rise to below 1.5oC.

In fact, according to the analysis, even a full implementation of current unconditional and conditional Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) makes a temperature increase of at least 3oC by 2100 very likely.

“In a world that is already warmer by about 1ºC, people and communities around the world are already facing serious threats to their human rights,” said Sebastien Duyck, Senior Attorney, Centre for International Environmental Law, during a climate action event organsied by both the north and south civil society groups.  In line with a human rights approach, Duyck said the survival of the most exposed to the impacts of climate-related natural disasters is already at risk while the growing temperature undermines the rights to food, water and livelihood of millions.

“These human rights impacts will only grow in magnitude with the increase of temperatures – undermining the ability of the most vulnerable States to protect their own people. Keeping the increase of temperatures below 1.5ºC is a necessity to protect human rights,” he added. The gender face of climate change impacts is not a debatable issue anymore.

There is consensus that women are at the frontline of climate change impacts, and Luu Thi Thu Giang, Climate Change Specialist, CARE International, was categorical about this matter.

“Today climate change impacts already hit many poor people in developing countries, like in my own country Vietnam,” she said. “Climate change impacts women and men differently. Often, it is poor and marginalised women and girls who are most affected.”

However, they are essential agents of change to build resilience against climate change impacts and to achieve the rapid shift to renewable energies necessary for limiting climate disruption to 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. Gender equality and climate action must go hand in hand.”

According to available climate science data, the impacts of climate change are already being felt, especially in developing countries. One way in which this is happening is through destruction to sensitive ecosystems that support millions of people’s livelihoods.

And Sandeep Chamling Rai, Senior Advisor for Global Climate Adaptation Policy, at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF,) believes the best way to protect against the already suffering millions of people, is to keep global temperature rise as low as possible.

“As the earth’s temperature rises, so does the threat of permanent loss of ecologically sensitive places and species,” he said. “Biodiversity loss at the scale we could be seeing over the coming decades will cause profound changes to the sensitive ecosystems that sustain the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people, mainly in vulnerable countries. The best way to protect against this is to keep global temperature rise as low as possible.”

Meanwhile, it is worth noting that the sustainability of urban cities has emerged as an important aspect of the climate discussions considering the role cities play in environmental management and protection. Therefore, the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI)’s Local Governments for Sustainability is leading the agenda for sustainable cities.

The aim is to help the ICLEI Network of up 1,500 councils to become sustainable, low-carbon, resilient, eco-mobile, bio-diverse, resource-efficient and productive, through green economic and smart infrastructure, impacting over 25% of the global urban population.

And Yunus Arikan, Head of Global Policy and Advocacy, ICLEI said: “Failure to meet the 1.5-degree goal will hurt inhabitants in all human settlements, from poles to islands and from coastal zones to dry lands, in particular the urban poor. Climate neutrality is the backbone of the success of Paris Agreement, and it cannot be achieved without climate neutral cities and regions.”

In its efforts to promote sustainable cities, through the Talanoa Dialogues in more than 50 cities and regions, ICLEI is working with local, regional and national governments to seize the opportunity of the Urban World to turn the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal into a reality.

It is without question that the vulnerable people are at the centre of climate talks, mainly because they are suffering for something that they have not caused. And Mohamed Adow, International Climate Lead, Christian Aid, believes that keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees for the world’s most vulnerable people is not just a “nice to have”, but rather essential to ensure they maintain and improve their way of life.

“The world warms at different rates and in Africa where I am from, a global average rise of 2 degrees equates to much more extreme temperatures,” he said. “For low-lying island states, a 2-degree rise will mean being wiped from the map as sea level rise threatens to wash them away.   If rich countries are to be believed when it talks about solidarity with the poor then they need make sure we’re on track for a world that these people can live in.”

The message from civil society groups is loud and clear – urgent and ambitious climate action to keep the planet safe. However, while the clear picture of what has been achieve at the Bonn talks is yet to be established, UNFCCC Executive Secretary indicated a positive outlook during a media round table on Monday.

“The reports I am getting so far, are positive, including on the Talanoa Dialogue,” Espinosa said. “As you know the discussions about how to capture and derive from the Talanoa dialogue, general conclusions, is only starting now, it’s only a new process, it’s the first phase which happened yesterday, and delegations are starting now to think about what they would like to see as the outcome of the dialogue.”

Courtesy: PAMACC News Agency

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