Day Two and the focus shifts from the G8 (which in the end met as a group for only several hours) to an ever larger group of world leaders – including all the big producers of green house gases, north and south. Climate change has received more attention in l'Aquila than at any previous summit. And with Obama in the White House the logjam that has blocked even the most modest progress has been broken. For the first time ever, G8 leaders and then today representatives of the major economies (and emitters) have acknowledged climate change must be curbed before average global temperatures rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above their level of 1900. It's a major admission of a stark reality but there's no reason to pop open the champagne. As relieved as we are to have this hurdle behind us, the next steps leading up to a global agreement in Copenhagen remain littered with pitfalls. While agreement was reached to cut emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 there is no clear plan how we get from here to there – and some of the countries that signed on to the agreement already seem to be back-pedalling – including Canada according to reports in the Toronto Star.
It's easy to get lost in the details about targets and base years and carbon capture. And it's easy to be put off by the jockeying of the northern countries to shift the blame and burden to the global South. But at the end of the day, the cruel reality is that climate change is already wreacking havoc with the world's poor. We see it in the sharp increase in violent weather - hurricanes, cyclones, droughts, floods, mudslides. We see it in the increasing number of hours women and girls must spend daily in fetching water – walking on average six kilometres, balancing 20 litres and more of water on their heads, taking precious time away from families, from working their fields, from school, from leisure and putting themselves in vulnerable positions as they walk through fields and forests in the search for fresh water. We see it in the increasing numbers of people who are forced to migrate in search of food, pasture and peace in conflicts made worse by the competition for scarce resources. It is this cruel reality that makes the call for funding to support adaptation so compelling and so urgent. G8 leaders and others jockeying for geo-economic and geo-political advantage seem miss this crucial point. Lives are at stake and ever more of them are teetering on the brink. Let's keep up our efforts to reach out to those most in need and to ensure climate justice for all. Recent progress makes it clear that we are making a difference. But it's also clear that now is the time to redouble our efforts.