After Copenhagen - what next for Practical Action?
The months before the vital Climate Change conference in Copenhagen (COP 15) had been full of careful negotiations and a sense of optimism. Around the world people had shown their commitment by joining in mass demonstrations, like The Wave, to send a message to the negotiators that action was needed.
However, COP15 was full of battles between developed and developing nations. With 194 nations, it was always going to be difficult to achieve unanimity but there were hopes that various issues, such as those on climate change adaptations could provide some positive outcomes. Adaption is important to protect the livelihoods and futures of those that are currently suffering from climate change, despite having contributed little to it, and are the least able to cope.
Practical Action played a leading role in the Climate Action Network’s (CAN) adaptation group as co-ordinator and as panellists in several side events within the UN conference venue and at the parallel Klimaforum, presenting Practical Action’s perspectives on climate change adaptation, climate-resilient agriculture and gender issues within climate change. Our engagement with various side events was very positively received, with contributions on the effects of climate change in Nepal and Zimbabwe. But NGOs had restricted access to the conference for most of the last week as the ministers and Heads of State arrived.
It was in those last few days things that began to fall apart – the endless wrangling resulted in deadlock. The final day culminated in an extraordinary and dramatic finale as the Copenhagen Accord was thrown into the ring by President Obama, along with China, India, South Africa and Brazil.
On the positive side the Accord recognised the importance of keeping global temperature rises below two degrees Celsius, provided a commitment by developed countries to give short term finance (2010-2012) of $30 billion, and set a long term goal of mobilising $100 billion per year by 2020 for adaptation and mitigation in developing countries.
But there were no commitments to reduce global emissions by 80 percent (below 1990 levels) that science says is needed by 2050. More worryingly the talks failed to agree any short-term emissions targets for 2020. Missing also were concrete commitments on “measurement, reporting, and verification. So what happens when the pledges aren’t enough to keep temperature rise below two degrees Celsius?
As a voluntary agreement, based on voluntary pledges, there is no legally binding commitment. So ultimately, the plight of the poorest and most vulnerable countries has not been addressed.
What’s Practical Action doing in 2010?
We’re now analysing the outcomes, deciding where to place our efforts and resources. We will be starting a new phase of work to raise awareness with the public to keep the issue of climate change high on the agenda. We want to ensure that the next government will see climate change as a priority and to adopt policies which are more ambitious to deal with the impacts of climate change - in the UK, at EU level and ideally at world level.
We will be assessing how our work within countries would be affected faced, as predicted, with temperature rises of 3 degrees by 2050 and 4 degrees by 2100; We will be looking at ways that communities can adapt to these changes, but there are future challenges that will include the issues of migration, environmental refugees, insurance and compensation.
Copenhagen was not the end of our climate change work; it was the start of a new effort to renew the call for a fair, ambitious, science-based deal for all, based on the principles of justice. Without it, development efforts will be thwarted and ultimately life on earth challenged.
See the work Practical Action is doing to help people adapt to climate change:
Rainwater harvesting in Zimbabwe
Coping with climate change in Nepal
Freak freeze conditions in Peru
Getting water home
Securing a future with livestock
Floating gardens in Bangladesh