New greenhouse gas emissions pact should consider humanitarian suffering – UN

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) said that the successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol, with nations expected to wrap up negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark, this December, must take a practical approach to help alleviate the suffering of vulnerable populations caused by extreme weather and environmental degradation.“The scale of the potential humanitarian challenge presented by climate change in the future is huge,” said John Holmes, the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), one of the UN bodies involved in the IASC.“This is a defining moment to ensure that the challenge is not insurmountable and human suffering is minimised,” added Mr. Holmes, who is also the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.More than 20 million people have been displaced by climate-related sudden-onset natural disasters in 2008 alone, according to a new study by OCHA and the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. The total number of people affected by natural disasters has risen sharply over the past 10 years, with an average of 211 million people directly affected each year, nearly five times the number impacted by conflict in the same period. Extreme and slow-onset climate events – such as floods, storms, droughts, rising sea levels and desertification – are impacting more and more people each year, with the most vulnerable including women and children, those already struggling with poverty, insecurity, hunger, poor health and environmental decline. Climate change is also expected to dramatically affect patterns of migration and population movement, with many millions to be displaced by prolonged droughts, repeated floods or storms, according to an IASC news release.The Committee noted that the Copenhagen agreement has potential to avert or reduce many of the humanitarian consequences of climate change over the next decade, but adapting to these climatic shocks will mean focusing on prevention and preparation by strengthening national and local resources to cope with future disasters.The UN talks under way in Bonn entered their second week today, with countries set to start making more detailed proposals on an initial round of comments on a proposed draft for the climate change deal.“We are getting down to the nitty gritty of the negotiations,” said Yvo de Boer, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 8 June 2009A group of 18 of key United Nations and partner aid agencies attending climate change talks in Bonn today called for the humanitarian impacts of global warming to be addressed in a new greenhouse gas emissions agreement to be negotiated later this year. read more