Postcard from Bangkok

This is a guest blog from Oxfam NZ’s executive director Barry Coates, in Bangkok for the latest round of negotiations in the run-up to Copenhagen. Barry sets the scene:

Tcktcktck. The clock counts down to the deadline for climate change negotiations. Not to achieve an agreement is unthinkable. It was good last week to hear the speeches of heads of state at the UN meeting in New York saying how committed they are to a deal. But the key question is how. It is not easy to negotiate a hugely important global deal amongst 192 countries. And especially since climate science demands that there be a dramatic transformation of economic activity worldwide.

That’s the scene setting for UN negotiations on climate change that started yesterday in Bangkok. There are 15 days of negotiations before the Copenhagen conference and hundreds of pages of densely typed documents. The challenge? Distill it all down to about 30 pages, agree on some of the key issues and avoid a massive greenwash.

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Oxfam: poor countries need funds to adapt

Climate change is already having disproportionate effects on the populations of many poor developing countries, a situation which will only get worse as the global temperature rises. Such countries do not have the resources to develop the adaptation measures they are going to need. Nicholas Stern devoted considerable attention to this question in The Global Deal, where he called for funding from the rich countries additional to their normal aid commitments (such as they are) to assist with the adaptation measures the poor developing countries will have to put in place.

Oxfam has now entered the fray with a report Beyond Aid: Ensuring Adaptation to Climate Change Works for the Poor, insisting that a small proportion of industrial nations’ GDP be devoted to investment in adaptation in poorer countries.  0.1 percent is the proportion they think necessary.  And it must be additional, not sneakily transferred from existing aid assistance.  

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Nepal: warming in the high Himalaya

NepalOxfam climate change reports keep coming.  This time it’s Nepal, a country about which New Zealanders who share Edmund Hillary’s values will care.  Oxfam spoke to people in fourteen rural communities across three ecological zones in that country.  What those people had to say is remarkably consistent with the current climate change projections.  But it’s not because they know what those projections are.  These are mainly poor people, often not well educated, and unlikely to be aware of the IPCC reports. Here are a few of the statements:

“There has been no rain this winter, and the monsoon doesn’t arrive on time any more. Four or five years ago we grew enough rice and wheat to eat for five months, now it is not enough for one month. Before we had lots of green vegetables, fruits and sugarcane, but now we can grow very little, only where there is water close by.”

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A strong voice from Kiribati

A short item in today’s Herald reports the visit to New Zealand under Oxfam’s auspices of Pelenise Alofe Pilitati. I followed up with a call to Oxfam who provided helpful extra material about their visitor. As Chairperson of the Church Education Director’s Association in Kiribati she is acutely aware of the impact climate change is having on the future prospects and outlook of young people. “The future of Kiribati is in our hands – we work very hard each year to support and help students to be successful. We want our children to love their country and love to serve their people. But what is the future of our children when our country is being threatened by global warming?”

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