Climate change will increase global poverty and eventually reverse human development if governments fail to take major steps now toward a fair and adequate climate change deal, international agency Oxfam has warned.
In a new report called ‘Climate, Poverty, and Justice, Oxfam found wide-spread awareness that climate change is already a grim and worsening reality for poor people. Negotiations underway in Poznan, Poland must focus on the most vital areas now in order to set up a deal to be signed within a year to keep global warming below 2°C and help the poorest people to cope. This includes:
- Agreement that global carbon emissions must start falling by 2015 and be cut by at least 80 per cent by 2050 from 1990 levels;
- Agreement that countries must reduce their emissions in line with their respective historic responsibility for causing climate change and their capacity to tackle it (this means rich countries must cut first and furthest, and that developing countries must not be unfairly burdened);
- Agreement to set up a framework of funding from rich countries to help developing countries to adapt to climate impacts of at least $50 billion a year.
Bert Maerten, who is leading Oxfam’s campaign at Poznan, said: "We have the knowledge, resources and technology to tackle climate change and avert worst-case scenarios if we choose to do so. What we lack is the political will, and progress so far has been wholly inadequate.
‘However, if all developed countries show bold leadership now in Poznan, it could set the stage for an adequate deal in Copenhagen next year," he said.
Climate change is already impacting millions of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, who have also been severely hit recently by food and oil price hikes, and are set to pay further from the collapse of financial markets.
The post-2012 agreement must massively scale up adaptation implementation in developing countries and limit global warming to levels where human development and mass poverty reduction can remain a viable goal. ‘Poor and vulnerable people are in no shape to absorb more set-backs, Maerten said.
Global emissions have been rising faster in recent years than even worst-case scenario climate modelling has tracked.
"This ‘big picture’ will happen gradually over time, which is why we must move now to tackle the problem. We’re already seeing seasonal weather patterns becoming more unreliable, causing flooding, erosion and drought. People have an amazing capacity to cope with what nature throws at them but the most vulnerable people only have to fail once to fall into poverty with no way out," Maerten said.
"Governments must not forget they are negotiating over the lives and livelihoods of millions of people," he said. "Any level of global warming that would inevitably make large land areas uninhabitable, destroy the livelihoods of whole societies, lead to the loss of island nations and leave populations no other option but to migrate, is not acceptable."
Oxfam found the cost of tackling climate change are not prohibitive, estimating them to be around one per cent of global GDP per year, compared to the costs of doing nothing, which is about 20 times higher, according to estimates.
However, Oxfam is very concerned that among the key negotiating states, there are wildly diverging positions on key topics such as emissions targets, adaptation financing and effort sharing.
"We need to see the same political urgency and leadership now to push for a good climate change deal as we did in the face of the global financial crisis," Maerten said.