Our climate talks 'cheat sheet'

Despite being responsible for a tiny fraction of historic carbon emissions, it is poor countries that are feeling the effects of climate change. Countries like Peru, where the glaciers communities depend on for agriculture, industry and electricity are disappearing at an alarming rate.

On the flip side, the current UN climate negotiations towards emissions reductions beyond 2012 have proceeded at a glacial pace. Far from the rapid progress that was needed after last year’s conference in Bali, little has been achieved.

Government ministers this week in Poznan have been asked by the Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer to discuss six questions in a round table. Here is a “cheat sheet” for the ministers with the (simplified) questions and Oxfam’s suggested answers.

1. What cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are needed?

We need to listen to the scientific evidence and keep global temperature from rising to avoid climate chaos. Rich countries must agree to cut emissions by at least 25-40% by 2020 in order to stay below 2°C warming. There would be catastrophic impacts above that, with almost two billion people likely to be affected by water shortages, global agriculture undermined, and hunger likely to kill up to three million more people every year.

2. What can developing countries do to contribute?

Developing countries can do a lot, and in fact many of them already are. But rich countries have caused this problem and they must deliver on their promises of funding and clean technology to help developing countries do more. Under any objective framework of fairness, the lion’s share of emissions reductions and finance and technology obligations fall on industrialized countries for at least the next three decades.

3. How can vulnerable countries prepare for climate change and adapt to it?

People have always adapted to natural variability in the climate, but human induced climate change will create unprecedented climate stress for many of the world’s most vulnerable communities. Early action must be taken to reduce their vulnerabilities and build their resilience to these new and heightened risks. We know a lot about how to prepare for natural disasters and build community resilience. It is time to deliver. Poznan must agree to start up the new Adaptation Fund and now deliver new money, especially for the Least Developed Countries. Now, not later.

4. How can we make clean low-carbon technologies available to developing countries?

Developing countries have already made interesting proposals to address this, but rich nations have not responded. Companies need to be involved, but governments must put in place strong regulation to ensure that there are real benefits in terms of clean and sustainable development.

5. How can we generate the funding needed to make this happen?

Rich nations need to make commitments in Poznan to kick start this process. They agree here to start immediately after Copenhagen 2009 with at least a 2% sharing of proceeds from emissions trading to support the Adaptation Fund. Then funding needs to scale up from there.

6. What kinds of funding mechanisms do we need?

The new Adaptation Fund has a good balance in its governance system and rich countries should fund it by instituting a polluter pays regime that delivers dependable flows of financing. This precedent should inform development of a comprehensive arrangement for a financial mechanism under the Convention. We can develop new sources of funding by using already existing mechanisms, such as auctioning emissions that rich countries are allowed or levying airline and shipping fuels. World leaders were able to find trillions of dollars for the financial crisis; the amounts being asked for to combat climate change are a fraction of that. If we don’t act on climate change, we will soon not need a financial system.

If the ministers could answers to those questions, the UN climate talks could move forward faster than the glaciers melting around the world – and in the process save lives and livelihoods. It is not too late to salvage an outcome from Poznan.

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