Thank you for the days...

Barbara Kiser reports on the 2008 Development and Climate Days event held in Poznan, Poland.

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Insight by 
Barbara Kiser
10 December 2008

Amid the debates swirling round this conference with cyclonic intensity is one very big question: how can the world’s most vulnerable countries adapt to climate change with such a serious shortfall in targeted funding? Oxfam estimates the task as demanding US$50 billion a year — some US$49 billion more than what’s actually available.

Adaptation necessarily figured large at IIED’s Development and Climate (D&C) Days, cohosted by IISD, SEI and the Ring.

A record 600 people from 72 countries rolled into this two-day event, where the latest thinking on hot issues from adaptation monitoring to gender and climate change could be accessed, along with a hugely popular film festival. Held a stone’s throw from the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP), it was a different planet in some ways, tightly focused on the fundamental issues round climate and the poor.

Despite the excellent patisserie on offer, this was an event that laid bare some bitter realities. Most of the films pulled no punches. And as Jeff Tollefson reports in his Nature blog, Bernaditas Muller, a lead negotiator for the Philippines, stated categorically at one presentation that adaptation funding from the North is a ‘debt owed’, not charity.

It’s clear that a reframing exercise is sorely needed.

In need of fresh air and fresh perspectives, I strode through the porridgey gloom of a Poznan dusk to take a swift look at its central square. In this elegant 13th-century space, now a patchwork of architectural styles, I stared at a row of melting ice sculptures — angels, heraldic shields and unidentifiable lumps. No escape, then, from ominous reminders of a shifting climate... But I had read how the buildings in this square had been destroyed and rebuilt repeatedly. It was a better metaphor: the delays and frustrations, and the constant threat of COP-out, were just the undercurrent. Damage limitation is still possible.

After all, California, famous for gas-guzzling SUVs, had emerged with other states and Canadian provinces as seriously committed to mitigation. On the other side of the world, Bangladesh is making strides through effective disaster preparedness and notable successes in community adaptation.

I left Poznan two days ago — although not quite as scheduled. A protest by Plane Stupid, the broadbased climate activist network, closed the runway at Stansted airport and I missed my flight. I was forced to take two to get home. As someone said, irony pops up when you least expect it.