As the weather worsens, Bonn leaves us high and dry

As temperatures hit a record 100 degrees Fahrenheit in Moscow last week, Russian President Dmitri A. Medvedev publicly blamed climate change for the unfolding crisis that has led to uncontrollable wildfires and the decimation of crops. In describing the emerging disaster he spoke of the need for a “wake-up call” for all heads of state to take urgent action on climate change.

Surprising, then, that last week’s UN climate negotiations in Bonn did little to open leaders’ eyes to the very real climate challenges the world, and some of it’s most vulnerable people, are facing. In fact, Oxfam warned at the close of the negotiations that there may have been a lowering of expectations ahead of the next UN climate summit in Cancun at the end of this year. So far, so worrying.

And if the devastating temperatures in Russia weren’t enough to send a jolt through even the sleepiest negotiators, you might think that the unprecedented floods in Pakistan would. Wrong. While we cannot attribute these devastating floods directly and solely to climate change, the trend is clear: as climate change gathers pace extreme weather events will become more frequent and more severe. These events are also consistent with predicted climate impacts for the region, evidenced by research that demonstrates the increasingly intense weather in the area.

Despite this, and the millions of people affected, the talks failed to move as far as they needed to go.

Some hope can be drawn from discussions related to the money needed to enable poor countries to adapt to climate change. Oxfam understands that rich countries’ contributions for this purpose will be made public soon – a key step to making the process far more publicly transparent than is currently the case. In addition, progress is being made on the establishment of a critical new fund that will ensure this money gets to those that need it most.

However, with the Cancun COP 16 meeting just around the corner, more concrete progress – that addresses the real challenges communities around the world are facing as a result of climate change – must be made.

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