Turn the page on poverty

In a year of non-stop climate disasters, COP 23 offers scant support

With the United Nations’ climate conference drawing to a close, it’s clear there’s been very little progress on how to help people affected by climate change, despite record-breaking hurricanes and catastrophic floods dominating headlines this year.

The biggest disappointment was the successful push by rich countries against negotiating financial support for poor countries to deal with “loss and damage,” instead pushing the issue to a one-off workshop next year.

Raijeli Nicole, regional director for Oxfam in the Pacific said: “Hurricanes ravaged the Caribbean, floods destroyed thousands of homes and schools in South Asia, drought brought devastation to millions in East Africa. We’re no longer talking about the future; people are already fighting for their lives against disasters intensified by climate change. We needed progress on how to support these communities, not schedule an appointment for a round of empty rhetoric.”

The Paris Agreement doesn’t mandate finance for loss and damage in the same way it does for emission reductions and climate adaptation; many hoped that the first COP chaired by a small island nation would make progress on this glaring gap.

A recent Oxfam report highlighted the ruthless inequality of climate change: poor communities are five times more likely to be displaced by extreme weather than rich ones.

“For the most part, rich countries showed up to Bonn empty-handed,” said Nicole. “Instead, we got a tepid agreement that they’ll report back next year on progress towards their $100 billion promise. President Macron's international climate summit next month in Paris will offer another moment for countries to unveil new financial pledges.”

The summit launched next year’s “Talanoa Dialogue.” This will be the first opportunity since the Paris Agreement was adopted two years ago for countries to increase their emission cuts. Without drastic reductions, the world is on course for a catastrophic 3 degrees Celsius of warming.

“We now have a process in place, but this process will only work if governments come to the table next year in true ‘talanoa’ spirit—with respect, honesty, and good faith,” said Nicole. “Governments must be ready to show how they’ll clean up their emissions. No excuses.”

There were some glimmers of hope. Negotiators broke a five-year long stalemate around agriculture, opening the door to actual action on this vital area, especially at a time when hunger is again rising. The COP also took long-overdue steps to boost the voices of women and indigenous people and make the negotiations more inclusive.

“These are tangible accomplishments that the Fijian leadership of the COP and the civil society that pushed for them can be proud of,” said Nicole.

Finally, the summit showed that the Trump administration’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement is almost universally reviled and has left them completely isolated.

“From activists to governors and business leaders, we saw the real face of American climate activism here in Bonn. The world has left Trump behind, sitting alone on a throne of coal,” said Nicole.

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