A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
I’ve just arrived at the annual UN climate change talks. Here, governments from around the world come to try and work out a solution to the massive problem of climate change. (Though some of them seem to come to actually slow down progress!)
Three things struck me almost as soon as I got to Poland – and they’re all examples that governments should make a note of if they want to help protect people around the world from the devastating effects of climate change.
1. They move frighteningly fast
Maybe it was just my taxi driver, but he drove like there was nothing more urgent than getting us Oxfam staff to our hotel to get started – with all the swerving, braking and hurtling, I was a little nervous I wouldn’t make it alive! Unfortunately, the only frightening thing about the UN climate negotiations’ speed is they are moving too slowly to avoid dangerous climate change. (There’s a fair bit of swerving and braking to avoid progress too.) With emissions needing to peak by 2015 for a safe future, we urgently need countries – especially developed countries – to show how they’re going to reduce their emissions; and to promise how much money they’ll give to help the fight against climate change.
2. They keep it clean
One thing you can’t help noticing in Warsaw is just how clean it is – there’s barely a graffito or a stray piece of litter to be seen. If only governments worked to keep our energy as clean as this city’s streets, climate change would be much less of a threat. In fact, dirty energy is the single biggest driver of climate change. Unchecked, it will wreck the climate. Governments must start investing in clean energy now. (Ironically, the Polish government is using these talks as a platform to sell the false solution of ‘clean coal’ – Poland makes a lot of money from the sale of coal. To protect people from the effects of climate change, it’s really important that world leaders invest in safe, clean energy – not fossil fuels.)
3. They love good food
Poland isn’t exactly renowned for its cuisine, but I’ve discovered some lovely cafes – selling some exquisite snacks – from which to write these blogs. Of course, all this is a tenuous excuse for me to talk about climate change and food – because Oxfam knows it’s important to draw attention to the powerful relationship between the two. Climate change means floods and droughts that devastate harvests. It means crops fail. And less food being available means prices rise – so people who spend most of their income on food can now afford less food. Climate change means millions of poor people trapped by chronic hunger.
We can’t let this happen. Speed, food, and cleanliness are the three things governments and the UN climate negotiations could learn from host country, Poland.
The Oxfam team will be here for two weeks of talks, keeping you updated and informed about the process, and explaining why and how Oxfam is working to stop climate change and ensure people have enough to eat always – by making sure the right governments make the right commitments (on finance and emissions); that poor people get a fair deal; and that the world cleans up its energy.
You can follow us here on the blog, or on Twitter: @OxfamAtCOP.