COP17 talks ‘will help the poor and vulnerable’ – Daily News (SAPA, 5/12/2011)

Christiana Figueres

Christiana Figueres, UN Executive Secretary. Picture: Marilyn Bernard

Climate talks in Durban are on track to help poor and vulnerable nations deal with increasingly fierce heatwaves, storms and drought brought about by climate change, says the UN’s top climate official.

“I am pretty confident that we are going to come out of Durban at the end of next week with probably the strongest package to support adaptation that we have ever had,” Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), told AFP in an interview on Saturday.

Climate change initiatives fall into the two broad categories of “cut” and “cope”: cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that drive global warming, and coping with the impacts already hitting regions across the world.

How to allocate scarce climate resources across this divide is a keenly debated issue at the 12-day climate negotiations under the UNFCCC, which end on Friday.

Most developing countries would like to see more money going into projects that help small-scale farmers cope with climate-enhanced weather extremes, or assist coastal communities deal with amped-up storm surges and rising seas.

So far, however, the lion’s share of funds has gone to mitigation, the term used for schemes to reduce the amount of CO2 humans pump into the atmosphere.

About 95 percent of the roughly $97 billion (R782bn) channelled into climate-related finance each year is earmarked for mitigation, according to a report by Climate Policy Initiative, an international research centre based in San Francisco.

“The split between mitigation and adaptation contrasts with some of the rhetoric in global climate change negotiations, where many countries and commentators have remarked that climate finance should be split 50-50,” lead author Barbara Buchner notes in the study.

New initiatives on the table in Durban should help shift the balance in this direction, Figueres said.

Some are only preliminary steps, such as forming a working group to examine “loss and damage” that can be attributed to climate change and devising a programme that allows the most exposed nations to highlight targets for assistance.

All of these are to be piloted by an umbrella adaptation committee that exists on paper, but has yet to be set up.

More contentious is a Green Climate Fund, to be ramped up to $100bn a year by 2020 to help with both mitigation and adaptation in poorer nations. Again, the mix has yet to be defined.

For Figueres, the yardstick for progress in the UN talks as a whole is how well they serve this constituency.

“I firmly believe that the success of this process must be measured by its effect on the most vulnerable populations of the world, not those that are least vulnerable,” she said.

Earlier in the day, about 6 500 people, mostly activists from South Africa and other parts of the continent, marched through the streets of central Durban calling for “climate justice”. – Sapa-AFP




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