While the developed nations may have shied away from a leadership role in the struggle to control global warming, an important call to action is being raised by some thirty developing countries that are considered most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. On November 13 and 14, ministers and representatives of members states of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) will be gathering in Dhaka, Bangladesh just ahead of the UN climate talks in Durban, demanding heightened awareness, accountability and support from the developed world in the face of the current and growing damages and suffering caused by climate change. And while the meeting is important enough that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will give the inaugural address, the work of the Forum has gone largely unnoticed in the developed world.
Current research suggests that global warming is now responsible for roughly 350,000 deaths every year, yet those nations that are responsible for the greatest amount of carbon emissions, and are best positioned to offer leadership, have been largely absent from the struggle against climate change. In the United States, only half of the population even believes that global warming exists (as opposed to the consensus of 97% of scientists).
Faced with inaction on the part of the global “leaders,” the world’s most vulnerable are speaking for themselves. As Dr. Dipu Moni, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, said about hosting the conference:
“Absence of a clear will and concrete steps to reduce emissions places our countries at the risk of peril. So, we must raise our voices as one and demand accountability for inaction. While doing so, we, as the most affected, ought not to simply wait for international support. We must manifest our firm resolve to act, to the extent possible, autonomously and pursue green growth paths in our endeavors.”
The countries involved are not just demanding leadership, they are providing it. At the founding conference in 2009, the member nations of the CVF committed themselves to working towards low-carbon and ultimately carbon-neutral economies, rather than follow a cheap-and-dirty path towards development. Understanding that a sustainable world is the responsibility of all, they seek a partnership with industrialized countries in pursuing independent green development through a combination of finance, capacity-building, and technology transfer.
The model they propose replaces the traditional project-oriented outlook with a systematic approach to climate change, addressing such issues as infrastructure construction, water management, and nutrition-smart practices in rural communities, thus providing a basis for a healthy and sustainable society.
The work of the Forum has been supported by DARA, an NGO based in Madrid dedicated to improving assistance to vulnerable communities suffering from disasters, conflict, and climate change. The former President of Costa Rica, and current DARA trustee, José María Figueres said:
“The CVF first spoke out in 2009, just prior to the UN climate conference at Copenhagen, when its leaders confronted us with one voice on the painful reality of our climate crisis. They also outlined a compelling commitment of their own to lead the low-carbon transition. We’ve seen only cautious global progress since that time; emissions are still rising nearly everywhere. Countries at the front-line increasingly suffer from the impacts of climate change. We should be paying close attention to the Forum’s message, because with this particular challenge the fate of the world is firmly tied to the fate of its most vulnerable groups.”
In conjunction with the Climate Vulnerable Forum, DARA developed the Climate Vulnerability Monitor 2010: The State of the Climate Crisis, a major new global report on the current and evolving impact of climate change on human society, which is co-published together with the Climate Vulnerable Forum and available on DARA’s website. www.daraint.org/cvm
About the Author:
Matthew McKinnon is Head of the Climate Vulnerability Initiative at DARA, an NGO committed to assisting vulnerable countries suffering from conflict, disasters and climate change. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org