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December 05, 2012
Prospects Dim for Least Developed Nations at Climate Change Conference
    by Robert Kropp

Despite contributing little to climate change, the populations of the world's poorest countries face imminent loss and damage from its effects while developed economies plead poverty in delaying help.

Recent publications—a report from the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) and a letter from seven of the world's largest institutional investor networks to the governments of the world's largest economies—clarify that while investment in the global transition to a low-carbon economy is on the increase, the pace is nowhere near enough to avoid the effects of climate change.

Hurricane Sandy reminded many in the Northeastern US that some of the effects—volatile extreme weather events and rising sea levels, to name but two—are with us already, and some observers surmise that the storm might well be a tipping point in a national response to climate change.

Meanwhile—even as negotiators meet in Qatar in yet another demonstration of national self-interest, well over a billion of the world's most vulnerable people face imminent danger from climate change. While Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) "use relatively small amounts of fossil fuels and thus contribute little to the problem of climate change," according to a 2009 UN report, rising sea levels and other effects of climate change are likely to make environmental refugees out of hundreds of millions of their citizens.

In Qatar, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), Least Developed Countries, and the African Group stated their concerns directly: "Our countries are already experiencing more frequent and extreme weather events, such as storms, floods, and droughts that are increasingly difficult to manage because of climate change. Further delay, could mean our ability to adequately respond to them is lost entirely."

"We are gravely concerned that the negotiations have drifted away from conversations about short-term – pre-2020 – mitigation ambition," they stated in a press release.

The nations want climate negotiators from the world's developed economies to commit to pledges of $100 billion for climate change mitigation by 2020. But the European Union and the US have apparently backed away from commitments of $30 billion per year in aid between now and 2015.

At a press conference in Doha, AOSIS spokesman Ronald Jumeau said, "We're past the mitigation and adaptation eras. We're now right into the era of loss and damage. What's next after that? Destruction? Disappearance of some of our islands?"

"We're already into the era of re-location," Jumeau continued. "But after loss and damage there will be mass re-locations if we continue with this loss of ambition."

In a let ter to climate negotiators, a coalition of 41 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) wrote, "Governments must now also recognize that we are in a 'third era' of climate impacts and address and redress the permanent loss and damage that is resulting from unavoided and unavoidable climate impacts."

"Poor countries and communities least responsible for the global climate crisis are also the most vulnerable," the letter continued. "Given historic inaction by developed countries, we are heading towards the biggest social injustice of our time."


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