Survival of poor, vulnerable countries hinges on low temperature target

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Ministers and senior leaders from the world’s vulnerable countries say a low temperature target is the best bet in protecting the lives of millions of people, especially those from poorer, small nations, whose survival is threatened by climate change.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), an informal grouping of 43 developing nations and small island states highly vulnerable to climate change, said the official global target of a 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise agreed in the climate talks by world leaders from 196 countries in December in Paris, remains disastrous for the planet.

The group, which represents over one billion people from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific, instead insist on a long-term goal for 1.5 degrees Celsius or lower.

They said that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius significantly reduces risks and impacts compared with a 2-degree rise.

The 2-degree Celsius temperature limit includes anticipating consequences of increased risk of sea level rise, more extreme weather events, impacts on human health and natural systems such as coral reefs and ice sheets.

“We fought hard for the 1.5 degrees goal as it defines global ambition and global action. But given the already observed impacts of climate change on human rights, health, ecosystems, food and livelihood, we strongly feel that a 2 degrees Celsius limit is unacceptable for developing countries, especially the island states as they are most affected,” said Emmanuel De Guzman, Vice-Chair of the Philippine Climate Change Commission and head of the Philippine delegation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations.

De Guzman told the InterAksyon that, to meet the 1.5 degrees goal advocacy, countries must re-assess and re-submit climate action plans under the Paris Agreement by 2020.

Over the weekend, ministers and leaders of the CVF held a forum in the Philippines to strengthen their efforts in international and public diplomacy, leadership for climate action and push for action on the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal advocacy.

On August 15, the Philippine formally turns over the CVF presidency to Ethiopia after leading the group for nearly 2 years.

Shiferaw Teklemariam Menbacho, Ethiopia’s Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change said most countries look up to the Philippines for its climate leadership.


“It has done great achievements as president of the CVF in making sure that the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal advocacy of climate-vulnerable countries made a global agenda, human rights approach, as well as in terms of resource mobilization for climate mitigation and adaptation, and in recognizing the importance of moving towards a low-carbon economy,” Menbacho told the InterAksyon.

He added that, in the next round of climate talks in Marrakech in Morocco by November this year, the 1.5 temperature rise goal must be translated into action.

“Most vulnerable countries’ survival is critical and we want to make sure that climate diplomacy and the leadership of the governments responds to the challenges ahead as well as take action on the climate impacts we are experiencing. The CVF now wants to make sure that the Paris agreement is translated into action,” Menbacho said.

Although he said that, while most CVF member countries have now ratified the Paris Agreement, more and more nations, especially those most at risk are now ready to ratify the agreement.

Climate scientists warned that even 2 degrees of warming remains dangerous for the planet. Present day global warming is already at approximately 1 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

According to Mary Jane Mace from Climate Analytics, a nonprofit Germany-based climate science and policy institute, the 1.5 degrees limit is “technically and economically feasible to achieve” but urgent emission reductions are needed, requiring political will and engagement.

“The advocacy of the CVF member states of the 1.5 degrees goal is very helpful having adopted in the Paris agreement. Science now shows we do need it. The 1.5 degrees limit is possible, desirable in terms of economic and political perspective,” Mace told the CVF member states where she discussed Climate Analytics’ study on the importance of 1.5 degrees limit in the context of climate impacts.

Vanuatu’s Minister Silas Melve said his country continues to be at risk and pushing for the 1.5 degrees goal is important for their survival.

“We should remain vigilant. We support the Paris Agreement because we worked hard on it considering that we have been strongly pushing our goals to ensure our survival as we are very vulnerable to the effects of climate change,” Melve told the InterAksyon. ” We now have to work hard to develop our climate adaptation programs as well as access funds to help us cope.”

Maldives Minister of State for Environment and Energy Abdullahi Majeed fears that even with the 1.5 degrees limit, Maldives and other low-lying islands will continue to suffer from the impacts brought about by sea level rise, cyclones and extreme weather events.

“We don’t want the developed countries to see us as a bunch of beggars. It is not our choice but it is the circumstances. So we do not need just resources to fund our climate adaptation projects but we need capacity building, technical capacity, technology access,” Majeed explained.


Human rights issue
Humanizing the impacts of climate change makes the case stronger for taking action and for people to understand the issue better, said Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations Cecilia Rebong.

“For government officials and for the international community to understand what climate change is, we need to discuss the effects to the lives of the people, thereby bringing attention the rights to livelihood, housing, health, food security, and migration and displacement. Those countries responsible on creating climate change must understand that vulnerable countries suffer,” Rebong told InterAksyon. “We must protect the fundamental rights of our people.”

To broaden the discussion on climate change and the human rights concerns, Rebong said the United Nations also started to focus on the sectors of agriculture, education, gender, tourism and water.

Renato Redentor Constantino, executive director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (iCSC), said the CVF is leaning “very clearly on climate justice and human rights” of countless of millions in terms of livelihood, shelter, food security.

“If the temperature rise breaches the 1.5 degrees threshold, everything about climate change is redefined as being vulnerable,” Constantino said. “In Marrakech, the CVF will likely focus on finance that matches the 1.5 degrees goal, the national development plans. So we are hopeful that the world’s vulnerable countries will be vocal, visible and consolidated.”

Constantino added that “action is possible with the demands of other countries to do more in aspects of human rights.”

“I am quite confident that for instance in the Philippines, this new administration will find a lot of reason to support climate action in view of countless of millions of people facing greater risk. The vulnerable countries are actually looking at the Philippine leadership. The voice of the Philippines and the influence of the country should astound new government officials on how huge the role of the Philippines is in the climate talks,” Constantino stressed.


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