Copenhagen - The world's wealthy nations have a long way to go on the key negotiating element of climate change adaptation at Copenhagen, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) warned yesterday "Climate change adaptation mechanisms and measures and especially finance must be a key part of any successful deal reached at Copenhagen, but it is an issue starved of attention, commitments and funds," said Kim Carstensen, leader of WWF global climate initiative.
"With climate impacts already severely impacting those countries least able to cope with them, we have the example of wealthy countries who have made commitments on adaptation support and finance in the past but consistently failed to fulfil their promises.
WWF yesterday presented an outline of what adaptation measures should be included in a new climate treaty, together with case studies of its work on climate change adaptation around the globe.
Key findings include the fundamental role of supporting functioning natural landscapes and ecosystems for securing freshwater supplies in the face of longer and more severe droughts and in providing flood and storm protection in the face of the more frequent and severe extreme weather events that are already and will increasingly impact vulnerable communities.
The global environment organisation also stressed that limiting climate change impacts through cutting emissions and deforestation and adapting to climate impacts should not be viewed - or negotiated - separately.
“Although we have masses of political declarations from world leaders, agreeing that they will keep global warming below two degrees, the actual emissions reduction offers now on the table at Copenhagen have us on track to a three degree or more world,” Carstensen said.
“Adaptation in a three degree world includes the costs of moving huge numbers of people out of harm’s way, or starvation’s way or, in the case of many islands, low lying coasts and heavily populated deltas, out of the sea’s way.”
WWF maintains that adaptation requires secure, transparent and accountable funding with new money rather than cosmetic reshuffling of existing aid packages. This should provide immediate near term support for highly vulnerable countries to immediately start implementing essential adaptation measures.
Also needed is international “insurance” funding to provide financial aid to countries at risk of being overwhelmed by climate change impacts or coping with disaster emergencies. WWF is also supporting calls from many of the worlds most vulnerable countries calls for seeking a multilateral mechanism to compensate for long term loss and damage such as the loss of entire small island nation states through sea level rise – a risk at just 1.5 degrees of average global warming.
“While there are some limited offers for short term adaptation funding on the table, there is little longer term vision or commitment,” said Carstensen. “We need to ensure that Copenhagen does not become the venue where getting some initial pledged money for adaptation takes precedence over setting up a secure international framework for adaptation.”
WWF’s adaptation work reflects the global to local nature of the organisation and covers helping to establish adaptation policy and capacity at national levels down to working with communities to improve the resilience of local environments to climate change impacts and extreme weather events.
In the Himalayas, the watershed for more than one billion people, WWF is helping to research glacial melt, identify potential dangerous glacial lakes and in Bhutan, is helping to drain a high risk glacial lake. The program also includes commissioning climate vulnerability assessments, providing community information and trialling ways to collaborate with farmers and villagers to safeguard their environment, food and water supplies and livelihoods.
WWF supporters and partners in its climate adaptation work include banking giant HSBC and the UK Department for International Development.
“These cutting edge examples of in-country climate change adaptation in practice are showing again and again that it is the environment that absorbs the main impacts of climate change and a more resilient environment that best protects communities from climate impacts,” said Pablo Herrera, Director of Conservation and Sustainable Development of Argentina’s WWF affiliate Fundación Vida Silvestre, who has been analysing the global on the ground adaptation work.
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