The poor pay the price of a warming planet

The poor pay the price of a warming planet
Aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan: Rebuilding lives requires much more than just emergency aid.

About a year ago, as negotiators met at an annual United Nations climate change conference in Qatar's capital Doha, Typhoon Bopha struck the Philippines. Over 1,000 people were killed and tens of thousands were left homeless.

This week, the UN climate change conference met in Warsaw, not long after Super Typhoon Haiyan - reportedly one of the most powerful on record - hit the Philippines. An estimated 10,000 people were killed.

The extent to which these extreme storms were related to global warming is not easy to predict or quantify. But it is clear they will cost money and lives.

Industrialised countries respond with aid when disaster strikes; the international community has thus far pledged more than US$54 million (S$67 million) in emergency assistance to the Philippines.

But emergency relief after a disaster is a temporary Band-Aid around the deeper wounds caused by climate change. It is poorer countries that are more vulnerable to the aftermath of disasters.

And yet countries whose development contributed to global warming aren't taking the tough measures needed to reduce carbon emissions.

At Warsaw on Monday, Mr Naderev Sano, the Philippines' climate change commissioner, told delegates from 194 countries: "We have to ask ourselves - can we ever attain the ultimate objective of the Convention (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), which is to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system?

"And if we have failed to meet the objective… we have to confront the issue of loss and damage. Loss and damage is a reality today across the world."

Last month, the UN's top climate change official Christiana Figueres said as much as US$1 trillion would likely be needed to help poorer nations develop resilience to climate change, and shift to less fossil-fuel-intensive growth paths.

The intensity of Haiyan should impart a sense of urgency to talks at the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Warsaw now taking place. But most delegates come to the COP19 as reluctant guests of an annual reunion that ends on a barely cordial note.

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