Action stations: vulnerable countries and the talks

Day Four of the 2009 Development and Climate Days in Copenhagen focused on Mitigation, Finance and the Private Sector. Barbara Kiser describes what happened.

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Barbara Kiser
15 December 2009

‘What we need to do is stop talking,’ said President Nasheed of the Maldives. ‘For much of the past 14 years technicians, bureaucrats and others have tried to negotiate and find common ground on climate change. We should now sit down and try to make an agreement.’

The Maldivian president, with environment minister Batilda Burian of Tanzania and Charity Kaluki Ngilu, Kenya’s minister of water and irrigation, formed a dynamic high-level panel in this, the last of the Development and Climate (D&C) Days discussions.

Each of the speakers represented one of the countries most vulnerable to climate impacts. When asked by IIED Director Camilla Toulmin what they would like to see coming from the talks, water formed a common theme.

President Nasheed, who recently held an underwater cabinet meeting to boost awareness of climate impacts in low-lying islands like the Maldives, reminded the room that if a firm climate decision was not made soon, his 200-island nation faced catastrophe. The highest point on any of them is just 1.5 metres.

He also pledged that the Maldives would become carbon neutral in a decade.

Ngilu said that Kenya was seeing serious climate impacts, including rising sea levels at the coast, extreme weather events becoming more extreme, and drought leading to deforestation.

The COP was a good platform for the most vulnerable countries, she felt. She listed a number of necessary outcomes the talks would have to ensure for Kenya. These included support for adaptation and food security, and binding commitments on significant reduction of emissions by industrialised countries.

Water recycling and desalinisation were also key, she said. And a basket of support would be needed to cushion countries in the same plight. With other nations, Kenya was calling for adaptation funding amounting to 1.5 per cent of developed nations’ GDP.

Ngilu stressed that this was not a case of begging bowls. Along with other most vulnerable countries, Kenya came to the table with programmes to develop with partners, and mutual funding.

‘It is,’ she said, ‘in our collective interest to take care of the climate system.’

Batilda Burian said that the Tanzanian climate was changing, as noted in shifting weather patterns. The country has lost half its cattle — key to the livelihoods of its many pastoralists — and wildlife were also becoming affected.

The Hadzabe, indigenous hunter-gatherers who live in the Tanzanian bush, were suffering as their food sources disappeared.

Any outcomes from the negotiations had to be inclusive and just, she said.

In the final week of COP15 — when the world finally seems to be waking up to what climate vulnerability actually means — the last act of the talks is anything but clear. These countries, burdened by the ongoing effects of climate uncertainty, have ended up struggling with ‘climate talk uncertainty’, too.

Other events at Day 4 of D&C Days included sessions on moving to a low-carbon pathway, alternative financing for adaptation,and the role of the private sector in adaptation; and the nonstop Parallel Film Festival, ending with the feature film EarthKeepers.